My thoughts on Max Scherzer’s $210-million deal with the Washington Nationals are simple: No pitcher is worth that much money, and certainly not for seven years, as the length of that deal is. You never know when pitchers’ arms break down, so a long-term deal is certainly a risk.
Then you look at Scherzer’s stats. In his Cy Young year in 2013, the Tigers gave him an average of 5.64 runs of support, and he finished 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA. Now, a 2.90 ERA is certainly respectable, and Comerica Park is no longer considered the pitchers’ park that it was when it originally opened. Having said that, though, a 2.90 ERA in Scherzer’s best year does not make him elite. It’s not like Bob Gibson or Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux in his best years. It’s not like Roger Clemens or Kevin Brown (whose record deal with the Dodgers back in 1999 turned out to be a bust). Those guys at least posted ERAs under 2.00 in their greatest years and were the dominant pitchers of their time. In the cases of Martinez, Maddux, and Clemens, they had their best years while pitching in hitter-friendly parks (and in Pedro’s case he also pitched at the height of the so-called Steroid Era).
True, Scherzer does strike out a lot of guys, fanning over 10 batters per nine innings in each of the last three years. But then you look at the American League, where he pitched for the last five years. In his own league, guys like Chris Sale and Felix Hernandez were arguably better pitchers than Max Scherzer was. Put Scherzer in a Mariners uniform in 2013, and how many games would he have won? (For the record, Hernandez went 12-10 with a 3.04 ERA with Seattle in 2013.)
And naturally, with the Scherzer signing, there’s some hype. For example, there’s talk about how Washington’s rotation might give up the fewest runs in NL history (something that owner Mark Lerner said during the news conference to announce the signing). There’s talk about them perhaps having one of the best rotations in baseball history. Again, that’s laughable. Well, let’s not forget how the Phillies’ 2011 rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt was talked about possibly being the best ever. That team didn’t even make the World Series. Their season ended with a 1-0 loss, with Halladay on the mound, in Game Five of the Division Series. Sure, you can assemble the “greatest” staff “in baseball history” but you still need to score runs. You still can’t count on everyone staying healthy. And you can’t count on Max Scherzer, a guy with a 2.90 ERA in his best year, as one of the elite. (Let’s not forget his two starts against Boston in the 2013 ALCS, where he left both outings after 108 and 110 pitches, respectively, and the Red Sox came back to win both games.)
At this point, it’s all hype and I’m definitely not buying in. Congratulations to Scherzer on getting that contract. I just don’t think he’s worth it.