The first year of Max Scherzer's 7-year/$210M deal with the Washington Nationals (which actually paid him $10M in 2015) ended with the 31-year-old right-hander (14-12) with a 2.79 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 34 walks (1.34 BB/9) and 276 Ks (10.86 K/9) in 33 starts and 228 ⅔ innings pitched, over which he was worth a career-high 6.4 fWAR.
Scherzer joined a short list of pitchers which includes Johnny Vander Meer, Allie Reynolds, Virgil Trucks and Nolan Ryan who threw two no-hitters in a single major league campaign. He was the first of the pitchers on that list to avoid walking any batters in those no-hitters and his 17 strikeouts in the second no-no tied Ryan for the MLB record for strikeouts in a no-hitter.
His 7.6 SO/BB ratio led the majors in 2015 and ranked 13th in MLB history (at least since 1914). His 17 Ks vs the Mets in his second no-hitter set a Nationals' single-game record for strikeouts.
His 276 total K's on the year ranked second in Major League Baseball and broke the Nats' single-season record as well.
After the second of his two no-hitters, Scherzer was asked about ending a disappointing season on a high note.
"It's been a disappointing season for our team," he said. "There's no doubt about that and that's why this is bittersweet. We wish we were playing longer in October but we're not.
"From a season standpoint, we were able to accomplish some good things together but it wasn't good enough.
"You always go back, when you don't accomplish your goals, you always reflect on how you can be better and there's ways I can be a better pitcher.
"I do think I was a better pitcher in 2015 than I was in '14. I feel like I'm able to do more things with the baseball and sequence guys different and I just feel like all my pitches are better, but I still have room for improvement.
"I gave up a bunch of home runs there in the second-half and that's something I've got to improve upon in 2016. So I definitely have some things to work on myself and that's what's exciting about baseball. You're always getting better. You're always finding new ways to do stuff and that's what's exciting for next year."
When he spoke to reporters again in December, Scherzer said he had spent time thinking about his home run issues in the second-half. After allowing 10 home runs in 132 IP (0.68 HR/9) in the first half of the season, he gave up 17 HRs in 96 ⅔ IP (1.58 HR/9) following the All-Star break.
"I've really thought long and hard about why -- really in that second half -- different reasons why I was able to give up so many home runs and I don't want to sit here and tell you those answers, because it's all in theory, I've got to go out there and actually do it to see if I'm right or wrong," Scherzer said.
"But it's something I took seriously and really thought about different things I can do differently and how I can pitch differently, against the same hitters and things I need to work on. Those are things, even in October I was thinking about those things."
Scherzer said he watched closely as the Nationals went about hiring a new manager this winter, parting ways with Matt Williams and bringing veteran skipper Dusty Baker on.
"You're watching from afar, but you really just let the process play out and see what guy they select," Scherzer said.
"I wasn't in the interview process, so, but that's the thing, I trust Mike Rizzo to make good decisions and obviously I feel like he made a good one given the amount of feedback I've heard from other players that have played for him."
What did he hear about Baker?
"How funny he is," Scherzer said. "How he keeps everybody loose in the clubhouse. Just his personality, so it's things like that that guys just love playing for him. Love what he does for the ball club. Guys who were in the 90s, 2000's, everybody loved Dusty."
Scherzer also paid close attention to the roster additions, which at that point were limited to a few bullpen arms, and liked what he saw.
"I've seen them obviously pitch against us throughout the years with Oliver Perez and Shawn Kelley," he said, "so obviously they've got a lot of talent and I think those guys are going to be able to help us accomplish what what we need to down in those late innings, so it's good to see Rizzo go out there and be able to get those type of players."
He was also asked if he had any advice for Stephen Strasburg, who's headed for free agency after this season unless he and the Nationals work out an extension.
Scherzer went through the process in 2014 and last winter it worked out fairly well for him.
"It's all about winning," he said. "When you come to the park and you walk through those doors and you come into the clubhouse, your only thought at that point in time has to be about winning and what it takes to do that, because there's times off the field where there's decisions you're making that you have to understand that you're living with and that can be some pressure, but that all has to completely subside when you walk through the clubhouse. When you walk through that clubhouse it's about winning, and if it's not then you need to go."
And when Scherzer walks into the clubhouse in Viera in nine days for the start of his second Spring Training with the Nats, what will be different?
"The comfort level changes, that's about it," Scherzer explained. "I'm going to have to do the same things I did last year, but I just have now more of a rapport with everybody. I feel more comfortable with everybody, I'm able to joke with everybody a little bit harsher now, but nothing's going to change, per se."