At the moment, the ace of the Detroit Tigers’ staff is not the ace of the Detroit Tigers’ staff. Max Scherzer is hotter than Justin Verlander. Verlander has the reputation and the responsibility, but Scherzer is 9-0.Having two aces, as any poker player will tell you, is better than one, and the Tigers could win the American League pennant after securing the AL Central Division title because of depth in their rotation. Of Verlander, much is expected. Of Scherzer, much has been obtained and no one can say he was expected to be 9-0 more than two months into the season.
That kind of record is a nice indicator that as long as the 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-hander stays healthy he is going to have a pretty good season. There are no guarantees from one start to the other, but it can be said that Scherzer is the author of a trend. The Tigers have been around a long time and they have featured some pretty special starting pitchers. Among them, including Verlander, are Hal Newhouser, Jack Morris, Denny McLain, Frank Lary, and a cross-section of others with considerable talent.
However, the last time a Detroit pitcher began a season with a 9-0 mark it was a fella name of Vern Kennedy in 1938.
Scherzer is not homegrown. He was part of a major trade that brought in personnel that has already aided the Tigers in winning a pennant last year. Then with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was part of a three-team deal that also brought Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Daniel Schlereth to Detroit. Curtis Granderson went to the Yankees and Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson landed with the Diamondbacks.
There were some pretty good players in that deal, but the Tigers got the best of it all around in terms of depth combined with quality.
It is quite convenient to have a hurler in the rotation who never loses. They call that a stopper. Scherzer is 28 years old and he may still be improving. His lifetime record is 61-42. He has shown flashes of great skill in recent seasons–among his achievements was a 15-strikeout game. But right now this is not a mere flash, it’s the gosh-darn Aurora Borealis lighting up the entire sky.
Besides the 9-0 record Scherzer has 106 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings spread over 13 starts. His earned run average is 3.19. He should surely be an All-Star.
One great motivator for Scherzer is part of his personal back story. His younger brother Alex, a tremendous baseball fan, committed suicide and Scherzer dedicates every victory to him. While such attributes are laudable, an intangible like that cannot alone account for Scherzer’s unbeaten skein this year.
To go undefeated a pitcher has to be sharp, in command, confident and have great tools. But he also has to be a little bit lucky. Otherwise the very best from the past, a Cy Young, Bob Feller or Sandy Koufax might have finished a season 25-0. That just doesn’t happen. There are always off days and those days will come for Scherzer before the summer is over, but for now he is weaving enough magic on his own to keep piling up those W’s.
The Tigers have shown they have the goods to win the division title again this year. Scherzer has been a major factor in the solid start. He is not going to finish 18-0 or something like that, but by posting what will likely be his finest year Scherzer may be permanently elevating himself into the status of a team ace.