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Max Scherzer's Brilliant Start With the Dodgers

When the Dodgers acquired Max Scherzer, I, along with many other fans (at least I would imagine), expected the Dodgers to be adding an ace-caliber pitcher to their roster who would save innings for the bullpen and give them at worst a quality start every time he took the mound.

Those are high expectations, but they felt reasonable for an aging ace like Max Scherzer who had a rising home run rate and had been dealing with some nagging injuries this season. Well Scherer, has, uh, blown past those expectations and some, thrusting himself into the National League Cy Young race and leading the Dodgers to a win in each of his seven starts.

Four of Scherzer's seven starts as a Dodger have been scoreless, and in the others he has still been nothing short of utterly dominant, as you can see in the chart below. Scherzer has slightly raised his strikeout rate (he's always struck out a ton of batters) and lowered his walk rate since coming to Los Angeles, but more importantly he's exponentially lowered his home run rate, serving up only 2 in his seven starts with the Dodgers, as opposed to the 18 he gave up in 19 starts with the Nationals. He's also been nails with men on, making things easier for the bullpen by getting out of his own jams and ensuring that he's going deep into each of his starts (aside from the rainout in Philadelphia and a tight hamstring against the Braves).

In looking at cumulative stats since his time with the Dodgers (his first start was his legendary August 4th debut against the Astros) he leads all qualified Major League starters in, well, just about every statistic you can find. In more traditional statistics, Scherzer leads all of baseball in ERA, WHIP, and BAA. In looking at some more advanced metrics:

Scherzer's 2.2 fWAR shows how no pitcher has been valuable to his team during that time span, and his minuscule 1.33 FIP and 2.29 xFIP demonstrate that the quality of his outings over that time span have been second to none in baseball. Both of his performances in these statistics are well into the range of "excellent," demonstrating that Scherzer is not a beneficiary of luck or particularly good defense; he's just absolutely shoving on the mound.


Furthermore, if you needed more evidence that Scherzer's not been getting lucky, his Baseball Savant "2021 MLB Percentile Rankings" demonstrate that he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball all season and, if they had a chart that showed only his time with the Dodgers, it would be even better than it looks here (this chart includes his 19 starts with Washington before he was traded to the Dodgers).

Such dominance for a 37 year old pitcher is fairly unprecedented in the game of baseball and could lead to a 4th Cy Young Award for Scherzer, perhaps making him one of the greatest trade deadline acquisitions of all time.

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