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Max Scherzer: The Best Pitcher in the Majors?

By Andrew Goodman

Yesterday, Max Scherzer recorded his tenth win, improving to 10-0 for the season. This is no easy task. No other pitcher has started the season 10-0 since 1997, when Yankees Pitcher Roger Clemens accomplished the same feat, but Clemens may have had some 'help' that Scherzer definitely does not. Scherzer became only the second Detroit Tiger in the team's history, and the Tigers have been around for over 100 years! The only other Tiger to start the season 10-0 was George Mullin, who did it 104 years ago in 1909. That year, Mullin finished the season 29-8, a record that is insurmountable for pitchers today to reach, since there is now a 5-man rotation. However, Scherzer has won 10 of the 14 games he has started. If he somehow maintains this pace, based on the 32 games he started last year, he would end the season with about 23 wins, the most by any pitcher since his teammate Justin Verlander won 24 games in 2011 and before that since Randy Johnson won 24 games for the Diamondbacks in 2002 (Curt Schilling won 23 for the Diamondbacks that year as well). So how does Scherzer match up against the best from around the league?

As of today, Scherzer is tied with Adam Wainwright for the most wins this season. So let's see how Scherzer stacks up against St. Louis's hard-slinging right hander:

Adam Wainwright

Wins: 10 Losses: 3

Strikouts: 97 Walks: 9

ERA: 2.18

WHIP: 1.01

Innings Pitched: 103.0

Opponent's Batting Average: .247

Home Runs Allowed: 2

Complete Games: 3 (2 Shutouts)

Each of the two pitchers have 10 wins, but Scherzer's record is flawless, with zero losses compared to Wainwright's three. Scherzer has struck out more batters than Wainwright in less innings, but has also allowed more runs, resulting in an ERA of 3.08. Scherzer has the edge when it comes to WHIP (0.91) and opponent's batting average (.189), but has not completed a game this year. Scherzer has allowed four times as many home runs as Wainwright and almost three times as many walks.

Each of the two pitchers clearly have their strengths and weaknesses. Scherzer is a power pitcher who tops out his fastball in the high 90s, whereas Wainwright relies on his curveball as his out pitch. More fastballs usually lead to more home runs, so it's no surprise that Scherzer has allowed more bombs than Wainwright. What is slightly surprising is that Wainwright, who as previously mentioned relies on his curveball, has allowed almost one third the number of walks Scherzer has allowed. The added home runs explain Scherzer's higher ERA, but with a WHIP under 1.00 and opposing batters hitting under .200, I'm going to have to give the edge to Scherzer.

The only pitcher in the majors right now with more strikeouts that Scherzer is Yu Darvish. Maybe he's better than Detroit's star? Let's take a look:

Yu Darvish

Wins: 7 Losses: 2

Strikouts: 127 Walks: 29

ERA: 2.64

WHIP: 0.94

Innings Pitched: 95.1

Opponent's Batting Average: .181

Home Runs Allowed: 9

Complete Games: 0

Here is where things get a little tricky. Scherzer has a better record than Darvish, but is arguably on a much better team. Darvish has more strikeouts in less innings, but also more walks. His WHIP is just three points higher than Scherzer's making the two more or less equal, but batters are hitting nine points lower against Darvish. Darvish has allowed one more home run than Scherzer, as he too is a pitcher who relies on his fastball. Scherzer definitely has better velocity on his fastball, as Darvish tops out in the mid-90s, but at the end of the day, I'd rather have Darvish on the mound pitching for my team than Scherzer. Darvish has better numbers and pitches for a team that faces Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton 16 times a year. However, I wouldn't say Scherzer is far behind.

Clay Buchholz leads the majors with an ERA of 1.71. Like Darvish, he too is undefeated. Is the Red Sox starter better than Scherzer?

Clay Buchholz

Wins: 9 Losses: 0

Strikeouts: 81 Walks: 29

ERA: 1.71

WHIP: 1.02

Innings Pitched: 84.1

Opponent's Batting Average: .195

Home Runs Allowed: 2

Complete Games: 1 (1 Shutout)

Buchholz has one less win than Scherzer, but also two less starts. He has less strikeouts and more walks, but relies on his cutter rather than his fastball, a pitch that gives the pitcher less control. He's pitched less innings than Scherzer, but is injured, which explains the fewer number of games played and innings pitched. Buchholz has allowed only one quarter the number of homers allowed by Scherzer and has a complete game shutout under his belt and almost threw his second career no hitter, taking the Rays into the eighth inning hitless. Who would I rather have on my team? I'd take Scherzer for the long run, because he has been more consistent in the last few seasons. However, in a must-win situation this year, I would take a healthy Clay Buchholz.

There are some who are going to read this post and say things like "What about Clayton Kershaw?" or "What about Matt Harvey?" Sadly, they don't have the win-loss record to compete with Scherzer. That doesn't make them any less of a pitcher, but to be considered the best, you have to produce wins.

So is Scherzer the best pitcher in the majors? I'm going to go ahead and say "No." His ERA ranks 27th in the majors and that is just way too important of a stat to let go. In my opinion, Yu Darvish is the best pitcher in the majors as of today, but that can change later in the season. One thing goes without saying though – I wouldn't want to be in the batter's box with any of these guys on the mound.

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