Max Scherzer, as Dusty Baker stated often this season, is usually good to go to around 115 pitches per start if necessary, provided he didn’t overextend himself in a previous turn in the rotation or struggle through particularly long or trying inning in that start.
He topped 115 pitches in six starts in 2016 and averaged 105 pitches over his 34 starts with the Washington Nationals this past season.
After Scherzer earned his second Cy Young Award last week, the 32-year-old right-hander talked to reporters on a conference call about the final 15 pitches in each outing being the most important pitches he throws.
“I always believe that the majority of your starts your last fifteen pitches dictate the outcome of the game” Scherzer explained.
For pitches 1-25 through his 34 starts in 2016, Scherzer held opposing hitters to a combined .201/.298/.358 line.
On pitches 26-50, hitters had a .199/.249/.330 line over the course of the season.
On pitches 51-75, Scherzer gave up a .153/.193/.297 line, and on pitches 76-100, hitters put up a .245/.276/.485 line against him.
He gave up 12 of the 31 home runs he allowed this season on pitches 76-100.
In the 22 starts he went 101+ pitches, hitters had a .185/.254/.315 line against the Nationals’ ace.
“When you’re pitching in the sixth and seventh inning,” Scherzer explained, “how you perform in those innings truly matters in what’s going to go on with the rest of the ballgame and how you set up the bullpen and whatnot.
“It’s a mentality, you have to work for it, you have to do everything you can to pitch deep into a ballgame, and for me I really take pride in pitching at my best in those last 15 pitches, which is typically the seventh inning. Does that separate me? I don’t know, that’s up to somebody else, but I know personally I pride myself on being able to pitch my best after the 100th pitch of the game.”
His ability to do so routinely played a role in Baker’s decision to send Scherzer back out for the seventh inning of Game 5 of the Nationals’ NLDS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers back in October.
Scherzer started the inning at 98 pitches, with a 1-0 lead, and gave up a game-tying, opposite field home run by LA’s Joc Pederson on pitch No. 99.
Baker was asked if he considered going to the bullpen before he sent Scherzer out for the seventh.
“No, I didn't think about pulling him then,” he told reporters. “I mean, we've never seen [Pederson] hit the ball out in left field since we've played him.”
“Max said he was still good,” Baker continued. “We were hoping to get another inning out of him.
“No, it's easy to say after the fact. If somebody had told me and Max that the guy was going to hit an opposite-field home run, we'd have taken him out then. But how do you take out your -- a guy in a 1-0 game. Max is capable of going 100-some-odd pitches.”
“I gave as good an effort as I’ve ever given in my life to put everything I’ve got on every single pitch,” Scherzer said, “and the pitch I got beat on, I hit my spot.
“He put a better swing on it... I mean, I executed my pitch, he just made a great swing on it.”