Monday night, Detroit Tigers starter Max Scherzer improved to 10-0 with a win over the Baltimore Orioles. In doing so, Scherzer became the first Tigers’ pitcher to begin the season 10-0 in 104 years.
The All-Star Game (in its current form) didn’t exist 104 years ago. If it did, a 10-0 record – or any undefeated record – would merit a starting pitcher nod. Hell, even 5-10 years ago, a gaudy record would be enough for a starter to get the ball for the Midsummer’s Classic. It might even be enough this year considering the fact that the American League will be managed by Jim Leyland who is both a) Scherzer’s manager and b) a crusty devotee to old school baseball logic.
Wins and losses, as we’ve finally agreed in recent years aren’t a solid way to valuate for pitchers. Scherzer himself admitted as much in the Detroit Free Press:
“To be 10-0 is great. But at the same time, wins and losses is a fluky stat. Sometimes, when you play with a good offensive team, you can run into one of these streaks.”
Nearing the midpoint the 2013 season and the All-Star Game at Citi Field less than a month away, it figures the American League starter for the game, depending on where individual team’s rotations land leading up to the game, will come down to either Scherzer, Texas’ Yu Darvish, Boston’s Clay Buchholz and, possibly, Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma. Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, Anibal Sanchez and James Shields (even with a 2-6 record) are each putting together fine seasons, if a slight notch below this quartet.
Let’s take a quick look at the merits for the aforementioned four starters.
Scherzer (10-0, 3.08 ERA, 0.91 WHIP):
Working in favor of the Missouri-native is that his peripherals are almost as good as his spotless record with 10.84 Ks-per-9 and a 4.83 strikeout-to-walk rate. Batters are hitting just .189 off him, which would be the 32nd-best rate all-time if the season ended today. Scherzer is also pitching with a heavy heart following his younger brother’s suicide during the 2012 season. It doesn’t have a bearing on his All-Star status, but is worth noting.
Darvish (7-2, 2.64, 0.94):
Darvish leads baseball with 127 strikeouts — eight better than Scherzer. Through 92 innings his .181 Batting Average Against rates eighth-best in baseball history. The Japanese righty is allowing a paltry 5.75 hits per 9. Should he keep this up over the summer it could finish as, statistically, one of the better seasons since the turn of the century, although far below Pedro Martinez’s simply unreal year in 2000.
The status of the Boston righty is up in the air with a neck issue that could land him on the DL as early as today. As it stands he leads baseball in ERA. He’s second in WAR for pitchers trailing only the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. The Red Sox are an AL-best 13 games over .500 as of Tuesday morning, with Buchholz a big reason for it which should work in his favor toward determining a All-Star Game starter.
Iwakuma (7-2, 2.06, 0.89):
Who? Fantasy baseball players know all about Iwakuma. Casual baseball fans, considering he plays on a sub-.500 team in the obscurity of the Pacific Northwest, not so much. The Japanese righty has a 5.29 K/BB ratio and his WAR (3.9) is actually a tenth of a point higher than his teammate, King Felix and fourth in baseball. Iwakuma is a unlikely to start the All-Star Game, but if other guys are unavailable due to when they pitched before the game, the Japanese righty could get the call and it wouldn’t be a total shocker or undeserving. We can discount wins, but a 7-2 record on the 31-40 Mariners is noteworthy.
There’s another longshot to get the ball from Leyland in the bottom of the first on July 16 in Queens – Mariano Rivera. Expect columnists, if they haven’t already, to start banging the drum for the Yankees’ closer to start the game since he’s both a New York legend and retiring following the conclusion of the season.
[Photos via Getty]