Inside the Numbers: Max Scherzer finally gets another W

washington nationalsMax Scherzer hadn’t won since May 11, a 5-2 victory for Washington at the L.A. Dodgers, his only W in a span of nine starts in which he’d had a 3.24 ERA and struck out 74 in 58.1 innings, but also had only bad luck.

He gave up more than three earned runs just once in that span, in a 9-3 loss at Miami on April 20, and had four games in which he gave up zero, one or two earned runs and got a no-decision.

The problems: a little lack of run support, with Washington averaging three runs per game, and a lot of bad relief pitching.

To wit: the pen had a 10.38 ERA in those nine Scherzer starts, surrendering 25 earned runs over 21.2 innings.

Ugh, indeed.

That’s why you saw Scherzer grunting off the suggestion from manager Davey Martinez that he come out of the game with two outs in the eighth inning of the Nats’ 4-1 win at Cincinnati on Sunday.

Scherzer had thrown 117 pitches to that stage, with a runner on second, and the dangerous Joey Votto coming to the plate.

After grunting off Martinez, Scherzer got Votto looking on three pitches – a 77-mph curveball, a 94-mph four-seam fastball, and a 96-mph four-seamer that hit the outside corner for strike three.

That would be it for the day for Scherzer, with closer Sean Doolittle able to get the ball clean in the ninth, and putting the Reds down in order for his 12th save.

The win has Scherzer at a very pedestrian 3-5 in the win-loss column, but he hasn’t pitched 3-5 baseball to this point.

His 3.0 WAR is fourth in MLB among pitchers and tied for 10th among all players.

That’s a 3.0 WAR for a guy whose team is 3-10 in his 13 starts. Suggesting that a replacement-level pitcher is, yep, 0-13 in those starts.

Ugh, again.

But, hey, maybe things are starting to turn around. The win at Cincy closed a quick 4-1 road trip for Washington, which has won seven of its last 10, and sits seven games back of Philadelphia in the NL East.

A quick glance at the run-differential numbers suggests that the NL East race could tighten. The Phillies are 33-26, but their +21 run differential would have them more like four games over right now, meaning they’re overplaying their hand a bit right now.

Also doing that: second-place Atlanta, which is 32-27 in the win-loss column, but just +8 in run differential, basically a game or two over .500.

The Nats are 26-33 with a -20 run differential, which should translate to four games under .500, but, as we’ve seen, a bad bullpen will help you underperform.

Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin can’t go 120 pitches every fifth day to paper over that inefficiency, and, no, neither can signing Fernando Rodney to a minor-league deal.

Things, for the moment, are moving in the right direction, but a lot more moving needs to happen.

Story by Chris Graham

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