Scherzer’s 2018 season is on par with Kershaw’s in 2014 and superior to Justin Verlander’s AL MVP year in 2011. For example, Scherzer is striking out 39 percent of batters faced this season while walking six percent, giving him a K-BB% rate of 33 percent. A pitcher’s K-BB% is preferred to other strikeout and walk ratios such as strikeouts per nine innings or strikeout-to-walk ratio because of its greater predictive value in assessing a pitcher’s talent.
Scherzer’s 195 ERA+ is also close to Kershaw’s and well above Verlander’s during their respective MVP campaigns. ERA+ compares pitching performance (as judged by ERA) to the league average. So when you see Scherzer has an ERA+ of 195, that means the league’s ERA is 95 percent higher than Scherzer’s 2.09.
|Justin Verlander (2011)||AL||2.40||172||26%||6%||20%|
|Clayton Kershaw (2014)||NL||1.77||197||32%||4%||28%|
|Max Scherzer (2018)||NL||2.09||195||39%||6%||33%|
In addition, Scherzer leads the league in wins above replacement with 4.6 fWAR in 2018. And that includes almost a full win more than New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom (3.8 fWAR) and more value than Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (3.5 fWAR), the top batter in the NL.
Leading the league in fWAR is significant: The past six NL MVP winners have all led the league in fWAR and so have nine of the past 10, the lone outlier being Ryan Braun’s 2011 campaign. Kershaw led the league in fWAR in 2014 (8.1 fWAR), the year he was named NL MVP. I chose fWAR because it uses Fielding Independent Pitching to calculate WAR for pitchers — making it defense independent.