Max Scherzer's 20-Strikeout Game Was More Impressive Than You Think
The baseball season is a 162-game, six-month marathon.
April is exciting because most teams outside of Atlanta think they have a shot to do something special. August and September are captivating as the playoff races come to a head.
The other three months are the dog days, where the interest levels of even the fairly committed baseball fan can waver. But one of the great things about baseball is: you never know when something great -- a 400-foot bomb, sweet diving catch or no-hitter -- is about to happen.
On a mundane mid-May night, Max Scherzer gave us one of those great moments, recording a historic 20-strikeout masterpiece in Washington’s 3-2 win over Detroit.
#THIS. To the Max.https://t.co/UVGmGUfhX1
— MLB (@MLB) May 12, 2016
An Elite Club
Johnson was the most recent to accomplish the feat, whiffing 20 Reds in 2001. Wood did it back in 1998, his rookie season. Amazingly, Clemens has two 20-strikeout games, and they came 10 years apart (1986 and 1996).
All four flamethrowers fanned exactly 20 hitters. Scherzer actually had a chance to break the record. With one out in the ninth, he sat down Justin Upton for his 20th strikeout. Three strikes to James McCann was all that stood between Scherzer and his own tier of history, but McCann grounded out to third.
In The (Strike) Zone
The most impressive thing about Scherzer’s outing -- other than, you know, the 20 punch outs -- was how efficient he was. Scherzer threw just 119 pitches, and he was able to do so by relentlessly pounding the zone.
There’s so much strike-throwing statistical gold here.
Of Scherzer’s 119 pitches, 96 went for strikes for a strike rate of 80.7 percent. He totaled 27 called strikes, 33 swinging strikes, 25 foul balls and 11 in play strikes. He didn’t walk a single batter, and he nearly had as many swings at pitches out of the zone (19) -- and strikeouts (20) -- as he did balls (23).
Scherzer used his full arsenal, getting 11 strikeouts with his heater, 5 with his slider and 4 by changeup. He never threw more than 16 pitches in an inning, and 9 of his strikeouts were 3-pitch at-bats.
Kudos to Victor Martinez, who was the only Detroit starter to avoid getting rung up. In fact, Martinez went 3-for-4, accounting for half of the Tigers’ hits. Opposite of kudos to Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Miguel Cabrera (!!!), Anthony Gose and McCann -- all of whom “achieved” a hat trick.
More Awesome Stats
Any time something of this magnitude happens, there are an incredible amount of really cool stats as a result. This was no exception. Here are some of the best tidbits from #BaseballTwitter.
The #Tigers struck out more times tonight than Tony Gwynn did in any season between 1991-1996. pic.twitter.com/mAFMiBWRiU
— Baseball Photos (@Baseball_Photos) May 12, 2016
Max Scherzer is the only pitcher in the history of the game to throw as many as 96 strikes in fewer than 125 pitches. Needed 119. Whoa.
— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) May 12, 2016
Post-game reports for Max Scherzer after his record-tying 20 K's: https://t.co/rUo02X2krd pic.twitter.com/f2R4VYwcbj
— Inside Edge (@InsideEdgeScout) May 12, 2016
Oh, Yeah, There Was a Game Going On
When something historic is happening, it overshadows everything else in the game, including the game itself. Seemingly forgotten in all this strikeout glory is Washington won a nail-biting, 3-2 game.
With everyone focused on Scherzer, who was sitting at 18 strikeouts, the Nationals entered the ninth up 3-1. J.D. Martinez led off the frame with a solo homer, pulling the Tigers within one. After a Cabrera strikeout, Victor Martinez punched a single to left, putting the tying run on first.
It made for a really odd set of circumstances. With Upton -- a slumping slugger but still a man with big-time power -- at the dish, Washington was one pitch away from winning the game (double play) or trailing (two-run tater), but Nationals’ fans didn’t want them to win the game quite yet.
Upton lifted a short foul ball down the first base line, with Nationals’ first baseman Ryan Zimmerman giving chase. As the ball was in the air, Washington’s TV commentators were openly rooting for Zimmerman not to make the play so that Scherzer could have a chance at a strikeout. Basically, Nats’ fans were rooting for Upton -- who, for his career, has hit 192 jacks and owns a .354 wOBA -- to stay alive.
Baseball so weird and so great.
Sure enough, Upton's foul ball landed in the seats, just out of Zimmerman’s reach, and Scherzer sat down Upton a pitch later for his 20th strikeout.
Send Us Out, Max
Max Scherzer sums it all up: "Strikeouts are sexy. And to be able to punch out 20, it's sexy."
— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) May 12, 2016