Most people with any sort of knowledge of baseball have come around to the idea that win totals are not necessarily the greatest measuring stick when it comes to determining the caliber of a starting pitcher.
Yes, if a pitcher holds the opposing team to few or no runs, it gives his team a greater shot at winning. He still needs his teammates to score some runs though, and those runs need to come before the seventh inning for the pitcher to get credited with the win in many cases. So when judging the talent of a starting pitcher, it’s best to look at win totals with a grain of salt.
Due to the fact that win totals are so arbitrary, it surprises me that everywhere I look, I see Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers ranked as a top-10 pitcher. There is no denying that Scherzer had an outstanding 2013 season. He finished second among starting pitchers — behind only Clayton Kershaw — on ESPN’s player rater, but a large portion of his value came from his 21-3 record and the career-best ratios he posted — ones which I think are unsustainable.
I believe Scherzer is going to have a fine 2014 season, I’ve seen him ranked as high as fourth among starting pitchers though and if you draft him as such, prepare to be disappointed.
Last season, Scherzer benefited greatly from a .259 BABIP (eighth-lowest in MLB) and an extremely low 7.6 percent HR/FB rate (12th-lowest). For his career, Scherzer has averaged a .302 BABIP and a 10.4 percent HR/FB rate, both right around the league average. Scherzer had luck on his side in 2013 and it lead to a career-best 2.90 ERA and a .97 WHIP last season.
I expect both his BABIP and HR/FB rate to regress back to his career averages and as a result, we should also see regression in both his ERA and WHIP.
Heading into 2014, I have Scherzer ranked as my no. 14 starting pitcher (right behind his divisional foe James Shields and right in front of his teammate Anibal Sanchez). I’m anticipating a fine season out of Scherzer in 2014. I have him projected to record 14 wins, 222 strikeouts, a 3.60 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP, but I don’t see him being a top-10 starting pitcher — and I certainly don’t see him repeating his performance from last season.
Avoid drafting Scherzer as your no. 1 starting pitcher.