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Making the MVP case for the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer

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Fresh off winning the NL Cy Young, Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer appears poised for another — but that’s not the only hardware he’s in the running for.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to stop you right there.

“Pitchers shouldn’t win the MVP,” you’ll say.

You’re sort of right, as pitchers do indeed have their own honor that is handed out at the end of every year. A Cy Young award is certainly an esteemed honor that only the best arms in the game ever receive. Max Scherzer is in the clear frontrunner for this year’s award, there’s no question about it.

The thing is, Scherzer in the midst of a year for the ages, and that deserves a little more recognition.

In 17 starts this season, Scherzer is (10-5) with a 1.94 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 0.771 WHIP and .159 opponents batting average to go along with 163 strikeouts, 26 walks and 12 home runs allowed in 120.2 innings pitched. He leads the National League in ERA, FIP, WHIP, BAA, complete games, strikeouts, hits per nine innings and strikeouts per nine innings. There’s very little debate that he’s been the best starting pitcher in baseball this season.

In averaging over seven innings a start, Scherzer gives the Nats more than a chance to win every time he takes the mound. It may only be once every five days, but that doesn’t take away from the value he’s provided this team.

With how dominant the Nats’ offense has been, none of the stars in their lineup really stand out from the rest. Their bullpen has been among the worst in the league, necessitating starters that will consistently go deep into games. As good as Scherzer is, he’s especially valuable to the Nationals with the team that they have surrounding him.

“The guy’s different man,” Joe Maddon said after his start against the Cubs, as quoted by The Washington Post. “He’s just a freak.”

Just two pitchers have won the MVP award since 1993. Clayton Kershaw did it in the NL in 2014, finishing the year (21-3) with a 1.77 ERA and 239 strikeouts. In 2011, Justin Verlander won AL honors with a record of (24-5) to go along with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts.

Right now, Scherzer is on pace to finish the year with a sub-2.00 ERA and over 300 strikeouts. He would be just the seventh pitcher in MLB history to accomplish that feat and the first since Pedro Martinez in 1997. In today’s game, that doesn’t even seem possible.

Those numbers would put Scherzer right on par with Kershaw and Verlander — if not a step above them. With all due respect to Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper, no one stands out among the pack like Scherzer.

It’s time to start looking at him like the player he is: the most valuable player in the majors.