This article is part of our Scouting Pitchers series.
Statistics through 5/17/09
Let's take a look at this young right-hander. While not technically a rookie, Scherzer is in his first full season as a major league starter after starting and relieving in 2008. With ace Brandon Webb on the DL, Scherzer has the second-best arm on their staff, so Arizona will lean on him for innings.
Arizona took Scherzer with the 11th overall pick in 2006 from the University of Missouri. After holding out and pitching briefly with an independent league team in 2007, he agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks and started his pro career in the California League. Scherzer threw 90 innings between Class A and Double-A in 2007, going 6-4, 3.28.
Arizona shuffled him between Triple-A Tucson and their major league bullpen and rotation in 2008. Scherzer had success at both levels, striking out 145 in just 109 innings. He missed a month in the middle of the year to shoulder stiffness and pitched well in the Arizona Fall League (3.38 ERA in 24 innings). The Diamondbacks assigned him there to work on his slider and change-up in anticipation of keeping him in the rotation.
Scherzer had a cortisone shot in his shoulder in January and has gradually worked through the stiffness. After shutting out the Braves through six innings on May 16, he has a 1-3 record and a 3.35 ERA.
Max Scherzer: (G/F 0.96) Rating: %Thrown: Fastball 65 65 Curveball N/A Slider 65 20 Changeup 55 15 Control 50 Delivery 45 Composure 50
Scherzer has good stuff, starting with a 91-95 mph four-seam fastball and a mid-80's slider. His fastball runs but does not sink, and has better armside than gloveside movement. Scherzer still can work left-handers inside with it effectively. It has some late hop, and he can throw it in hitters' counts. He puts hitters in defensive counts with the fastball before dropping his slider on them or making them climb the ladder on the fastball.
The run on Scherzer's fastball can work for or against him. Left-handers commit to it only to watch it move steadily outside. When he is on, Scherzer controls this movement and uses it to his advantage. When he is not, Scherzer loses command of his fastball up and away to left-handers or inside to righties. Disciplined teams try to wait him out, but if he has his control that doesn't work.
Scherzer's slider has average movement and above-average velocity. He can throw it for strikes, although it backs up on him now and then. He can use his 83-85 mph changeup for ground balls when he throws it for strikes. On May 10, Scherzer got Nick Johnson off-balance twice with the change – not the easiest hitter to fool. Scherzer pitches by the book at this point: hard in, soft away.
Scherzer relies on his arm and upper body in his delivery, and one can see why he has had shoulder trouble. His arm drags behind, although good arm speed helps compensate. Scherzer could distribute the stress more evenly if he stayed closer to the ground and brought his arm through earlier. He does throw across his body a little as well. Pitchers whose arms come through late often have trouble keeping the ball down and finding a consistent release point. Scherzer seems to make a conscious effort not to elevate the ball unless it is his intention. Scherzer has been a flyball pitcher to this point in his career, and this figures to continue. Batters usually pop up his fastball, and he's still working on controlling his overall repertoire and learning the league.
Scherzer's mound presence is just average. He works quickly and is a strong competitor, but seems to rush the game. He can be rattled by the long ball and could improve his feel for pitching. He needs to become more efficient, as few pitchers who throw 18.4 pitches per inning are effective.
I see Scherzer as a Kelvim Escobar type: a very good pitcher for 175 innings a year. He's questionable for a consistent 200 innings given his current inefficiency and average command. Scherzer could stay healthy and work his secondary pitches more seamlessly into his game, but I'd advise a limited investment.
Radar Love - May fastballs:
93-99: Matt Lindstrom against the Dodgers on May 16.
94-98: Leo Nunez against the Dodgers on May 16.
93-97: David Aardsma closing out his former Red Sox on May 15. Aardsma takes over as Seattle's closer for now after Brandon Morrow's struggles.
92-96: Josh Johnson in Milwaukee on May 14.
91-96: Andrew Miller against the Dodgers on May 16.
90-93: Kyle Davies versus the Orioles on May 16.
89-90: John Lackey's two pitches at Ian Kinslerbefore he was ejected.
86-89: Rich Hill against the Royals on May 16.
83-87: Doug Davis against the Braves on May 15.
83-86: The ageless Trevor Hoffman, who has yet to allow a run this year, against Florida on May 14.
Next week: AL East: Philip Hughes
Article first appeared 5/19/09