Home > Washington Nationals, weird numbers > Max Scherzer: 20 Ks in dominant, efficient fashion

Max Scherzer: 20 Ks in dominant, efficient fashion

What Max Scherzer did on Wednesday night, striking out 20 Detroit Tigers, was better than a no-hitter, and he’s thrown two of them. Way more rare, way more about his true abilities than the abilities of the men behind him. And just way more sexy.


It is. If you’re a batter, the name of the game is to hit the ball. Major league hitters ultimately failed to do that against Scherzer 20 times tonight. Sorry to dumb it down, but when something happens that has occurred only four previous times in the past century, reducing the accomplishment to its lowest form somehow makes it seem that much more special.

Of course, Scherzer joins the company of Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens, the other pitchers to strike out 20 in no more than nine innings (Clemens pulled it off twice). Coincidentally enough, there were no walks in any of these five outings.

But Scherzer did a couple of things that even Johnson and Wood did not. Scherzer completed his game with a ground out from James McCann (Nationals fans so very much wanted to see Anthony Rendon throw that ball away, even if it would have meant postponing the win). His 20th K was the second out of the ninth, so only Scherzer and 1986 Clemens can say they got to 20 strikeouts in less than nine innings pitched.

Also, Max was remarkably efficient. He entered the ninth with 106 pitches. When he gave up a homer to J.D. Martinez to begin that frame and when Victor Martinez singled with one out, people on Twitter started wondering how long Dusty Baker would stick with him. First of all, it’s Dusty Baker, so if Max’s elbow is still attached, no moves were going to be made.

Secondly, this wasn’t uncharted territory for Scherzer in terms of his pitch count. This wasn’t Ross Stripling or Adam Conley. Scherzer threw 116 pitches in a game earlier this year. He reached 119 twice last season. Even in a one-run game, Scherzer would have needed to let at least one more batter reach base before Dusty had come with the hook.

But back to that pitch efficiency. Wood, Johnson and Clemens all topped the 120 mark in their performances. Clemens threw 151 pitches when he did it in 1996 (also against Detroit). How did Scherzer keep his total manageable? He threw only 23 balls, and nine of his strikeouts took three pitches. In the gif below, you can really see how Scherzer utilized his changeup to achieve an incredible amount of quick strikeouts.



My favorite fact of the night came in a tweet from Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron

Scherzer struck out 20 batters in nine innings AND broke xFIP. That is indeed sexy.

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  1. May 12, 2016 at 9:33 am

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