Max Scherzer wrapped up his 2020 campaign with a six-inning, 109-pitch outing against the New York Mets in the nation’s capital, giving up six hits, two walks, and three earned runs in a 4-3 win which left him (5-4) in 12 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 23 walks (3.07 BB/9), 92 Ks (12.30 K/9), and a .260/.319/.424 line against in 67 1⁄3 IP this season.
“I’m glad he finished up strong and he feels good about himself going into the winter, and now he gets to rest for a little bit and then get after it and get ready for 2021,” Scherzer’s manager, Davey Martinez, said after the next-to-last game of the year on Saturday night in Nationals Park.
Scherzer, for his part, said he wished the season wasn’t ending when it did.
Max Scherzer, Filthy 89mph Cutter. pic.twitter.com/bRZUESMqdQ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 26, 2020
“My body feels like it’s September, but my arm feels like it’s May,” the 36-year-old right-hander told reporters following his final outing of the year.
“Max, is just Max,” Martinez added on Sunday afternoon.
“He’s an unbelievable competitor. Yesterday he came in after the game and said, ‘I don’t want the season to be over. I want to play another 100 games.’ And I told him, ‘Well, unfortunately, you better save that for 2021. Cause it’s done and I want you to rest. It’s been trying times for us. So just take this extra month and rest and get ready for 2021, and let’s go get to them playoffs and win another championship.’”
With a win in his final outing, Scherzer finished his 11th straight season with a record over .500 on the year.
“Those are results and the results are to me a part of the process,” the now-36-year-old said.
“You look at the process of how you’re getting there. At the end of the day, reflect upon the season, the only thing I’m really disappointed in is that my walks are higher than usual. But at the end of the day I was still able to pitch pretty darn well, and find a way to navigate through and work with both catchers here. So, there are some things that I need to improve upon, but at the end of the day, my overall process of how I’m going about it I think is why the results are there.”
Max Scherzer, 96mph Dart. pic.twitter.com/ncscpnl2ih— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 20, 2020
Scherzer’s 3.07 BB/9 were the highest he’s posted since his third season in the majors back in 2010.
Overall, looking at his season, he said, he’ll judge it somewhat differently than he would a full campaign of starts.
“You have to,” Scherzer explained. “You want to be a 200 inning pitcher. That’s when you really, truly understand what you’ve done over a season to do that.
“Over 12 starts, it’s not quite the same, even though you get a pretty good grasp of what you’re doing well and what you’re not.
“You can kind of look at the extremes of what’s going on to see if there’s any trends going on. But some games you’re going to have the ball hit right at somebody, and the other games the ball is going to drop in and that can affect a win or loss or just how the game is played. Over the course of 33 starts, some of that just evens out.
“I think that’s kind of what I want to focus on, where the extremes are going on of how teams and batters are approaching me.”
Max Scherzer, Pretty 85mph Changeup (release/slow). pic.twitter.com/JH6HyLrI9V— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 20, 2020
Hitters put up a .264 AVG on Scherzer’s fastball this season, up from .223 in a full season in 2019, a .328 AVG on his changeup, up from .240, and a .471 AVG on his curve, up from .290 last season, while their average against his cutter (.188) was down (from .262), and his slider (.154 in 2020 vs .172 in 2019) was fairly steady.
Asked how, specifically, opposing teams’ approach against him changed this season, Scherzer said that’s something he doesn’t see any value in discussing.
“Those are things I don’t like to talk publicly about,” he said. “I’m not going to reveal my secrets of everything that I see and do about how different hitters are hitting.
“A lot of it is just trying to not necessarily be in the scouting reports, per se, but your instincts when you’re in the game.
“When you see a certain type of swing, a certain type of foul ball, to what’s your next pitch in that next situation.
“I had some learning experiences this year where there was times I felt like my sequence was off, where something was happening and I was throwing the wrong pitch because of the previous pitch, and so I think if I identify more of those things and understand how my stuff is playing now I can avoid some of those longer at bats and home runs.”
Max Scherzer, 85mph Changeup (Swing/Miss/Bend the knee) and 86mph Slider (Swinging K), Individual Pitches + Overlay.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 7, 2020
Good luck. pic.twitter.com/wB8P2DgivH
Scherzer’s 1.34 HR/9 (10 in 67 1⁄3 IP) was the highest HR/9 he’s had in his career, tied with the 1.34 HR/9 he gave up in 2010, though, again, 2020’s was a shortened season.
Going into the offseason, even after having not thrown nearly as many innings as he has in his previous big league campaigns, Scherzer said he will not treat it much differently this winter.
He will, “... just keep my arm in shape and just treat it like a normal offseason.”
“As for my body of work,” he said offering an overall assessment on his 2020 campaign, “I feel like I did get better in some ways. Really feel like my cutter was better this year, made some adjustments on that coming into this year and I really feel like we’ve seen some benefits from that, and was able to execute it this year on a whole pretty well. There [were] times where my curveball I felt like was also — was better as well, it was sharper as well.
“Just some things with execution. I feel like my pitch counts are getting out of control.
“Sometimes I’m not able to go deep into games and guys are fouling me off, and some of those kind of nuanced details of how teams are attacking me now.
“I’m going to have to go through the offseason and really try to evaluate — and look at these at bats — of how guys are approaching me, how they’re attacking me, what’s working, what’s not in certain situations, so that next year, when I come back I can pitch more efficiently from the get-go and not have to try to wait till my 12th start before I finally feel good.
“That’s always the challenge every single year, but that’s the fun part of this, that you have to go back and reinvent yourself, because the rest of the league is going to be finding ways to attack me, to be able to do everything they can to beat me, so you’ve got to match that type of mentality back at them.”