ESPN.com’s Buster Olney posted the first of his annual series of stories ranking the top “positional and team unit[s]” in the majors this morning.
First up, Olney’s list of baseball’s best starting pitchers.
Two members of the Washington Nationals’ staff were included, with Max Scherzer ranked second overall and Stephen Strasburg included in the “Honorable Mentions” section.
Olney writes that Strasburg is, “... always dominant when he pitches but has had injury trouble.”
Scherzer, however, as a “long-time evaluator” quoted in the piece says, brings, “No-hit stuff almost every time out.”
His ability to pile up strikeouts over the last four seasons, while limiting the amount of hits he’s allowed, “... explains why it seems like every five days [Scherzer’s] a threat to create a lasting memory,” Olney writes.
He also notes, as Scherzer has, the issues the Nationals’ ace had with giving up home runs this season (an NL-leading 31 HRs allowed), but Olney also mentions that many were solo shots (18 of 31) and overall the veteran starter held opposing hitters to a combined .199/.254/.365 line, not to mention the fact that Scherzer put hitters away efficiently when he got ahead in the count this season:
Opponents against Scherzer after the count was 0-1 in 2016: .493 OPS
After 0-2: .348 OPS, with 149 strikeouts in 252 at-bats.
After 1-2: .359 OPS, with 154 strikeouts in 281 at-bats.
Scherzer talked this winter about the improvements he wants to make as he prepares for the third year of the 7-year/$210M deal he signed with the Nationals. He talked to reporters about the home runs issues in particular, after struggling to keep the ball in the yard late in 2015 and again last season.
“Look, that’s a problem, that’s one of my flaws,” Scherzer acknowledged.
“I’ve got to find a way to keep the ball in the ballpark. Just continue to find ways to — it comes down to location. I’ve got to find a way to keep locating the ball better so I don’t leave the ball over the middle of the plate and give up the bomb. That’s just to me what it comes down to, just locating the ball.”
He also said he was excited by the moves the Nationals have made this winter as they try to defend their NL East crown and go deeper in the postseason than they have in their previous playoff runs.
“You want to be a part of organizations that are trying to win and win at all costs,” Scherzer said.
“I think that’s what we’re trying to do and trying to make acquisitions that put us over the hump. I’m excited, that’s why I’m here.”