There’s a common belief among baseball fans and players alike that umpires give more calls to better players, specifically favoring all-star pitchers on borderline pitches. That’s not the case for Max Scherzer, an all-star for three straight seasons and the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2013.
Among the 118 pitchers who have thrown at least 1,500 pitches this season, here is how Washington’s top-of-the-rotation hurler ranks in called strike percentage on those borderline calls:
- 101st on the strike zone’s two lateral edges (65.8 percent called strikes)
- 116th on the bottom edge (39.7 percent)
- 117th just below the zone (2.8 percent)
His called strike rate on the four corners of the strike zone? Dead last:
Scherzer may not be getting calls and faltering in the NL Cy Young race, but he is clearly still among the best pitchers in the game.
The Nationals’ ace ranks in the top 10 among qualified MLB pitchers in a whole host of categories, including WHIP, WAR, strikeouts, innings pitched, shutouts, defense-independent ERA and OPS against. His 8.43 K/BB ratio is head and shoulders above the other qualified pitchers, the average between the eighty-nine of them is just 3.35.
Not only is Scherzer’s K/BB ratio the best among qualified pitchers this year, but it is essentially double that of his previous career high set in 2013.
In fact, in six measures of pitcher plate discipline, Scherzer is on pace to set a personal record.
So how is Washington’s ace mowing down hitters and preventing free bases despite the tough circumstances? He’s simply been minimizing the umpire’s impact on his game.
Second, Scherzer has induced a swing on 54.9 percent of all his pitches this year, also the best rate among qualified pitchers in the MLB. That’s certainly an effective way to limit the plate umpires’ effects.
Combining these last two facts (Scherzer lives in the strike zone and gets lots of swings) with the third best in-the-zone whiff-per-swing rate makes it easier to comprehend his dominance in the face of adversity. It doesn’t hurt that Scherzer also ranks seventh in overall whiff-per-swing rate and third in whiff-per-pitch percentage this season.
Mad Max has a right to be mad about plenty of borderline calls this year, but when you’re this good at what you do, I suppose you don’t need help from the umpires at all.
Adam got his start with the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective and can be found on Twitter @AdamGilfix.