You would think a pitcher who won the Cy Young would try to replicate their performance from their award-winning season, but it appears Max Scherzer plans to add to his arsenal in 2014.
Scherzer featured a curveball against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, racking up five strikeouts and two hits in 4.2 scoreless innings. It’s a pitch that could elevate his game to an even higher level than his Cy Young season in 2013. Scherzer flirted with a curveball for the first time in 2013, throwing the pitch just over six percent of the time. He’s been working on the pitch in the offseason, and it’s showing.
It should nicely compliment his slider, which has been his best strikeout pitch. His curveball and slider are similar at the start, but break to different parts of the plate at different velocities. The two pitches could be a deadly combination for hitters if he develops even an average curveball.
Scherzer turns 30-years old just after the All Star break, and a typical concern for someone his age might be a dip in fastball velocity. He has been very consistent in that category, averaging between 93.1 and 94.5 mph since 2008, but saw a slight drop from 2012 to 2013. His fastball was a key pitch for him last year, but it was made even better because of his breaking pitches.
In the past, Scherzer relied much more on his fastball to get by, but he is gradually expanding his arsenal. Even if he were to deal with a dip in velocity, Scherzer has figured out how to use his off-speed pitches effectively. He’s showing signs of returning to the same form from last season, but he’s bringing one more pitch in the mix.