Max Scherzer: About Last Night (August 14)

In high school I hit exactly one home run. I was a freshman, and the pitcher soft tossed one down near my ankles, and I golfed that pitch down the left field line for what amounted to the single most exhilarating batting experience of my teenage life. So what, you may ask. Well, it was pretty much in the same area as the pitch Matt Duffy drove over the fence to tie the game 1-1 in the first. It was a visceral experience for me. I went all Marcel Proust and had a flood of memories of a cool, Spring breeze and the sound of traffic in the distance. Kids laughing. Coaches spitting tobacco juice.

No. None of that really happened. I thought, man, Max Scherzer (11-9) probably would like to have that pitch back. I’m sure he’d like to have a lot of pitches back last night. Well, maybe not all that many.

He was only out there three innings.

I’d imagine that Doug Fister never thought a move to the bullpen would mean being all Samwise Gamgee and having a second starter for the day (get it, the whole second breakfast thing?). Scherzer was hit, hit hard, and by the end of the day the best you could say about the afternoon is that he didn’t have to face Duffy a third time. Duffy sort of owned Scherzer on Friday evening with the home run and a long double to centerfield that even Michael Taylor couldn’t intimidate into a single. A lot of pitches were hit like that. Hunter Pence drove one over in center that was essentially gift wrapped.

Sometimes the ball moves. Sometimes it just spins lazily.

Perhaps things turn out differently if Justin Maxwell’s and Gregor Blanco’s doubles in the second both go a few inches right. They were both that close to foul balls, and perhaps a four run inning drops to one or none and it’s a different ballgame. Scherzer collects himself, figures out where his pitches are going—or not, whatever—and lasts into the sixth or seventh. Bryce Harper hits his 30th, drives in four, and the Nationals even out the series. Hoorah! All is right in the world. Perhaps instead it prolongs the inevitable, and the Giants eventually get to Scherzer in the third or fourth or fifth.

This hasn’t been a stellar month of August for Scherzer. He’s allowed 13 earned runs in fifteen innings, and while FIP is a little more kind than his actual ERA in that time, due to an extremely high strikeout rate, and the truth of the matter is that he’s been leaving too many pitches over the plate and batters are making him pay. In August, batters are hitting .297/.358/.645 with a BABIP of .378! Think about it this way: in June, you know, when he was throwing no-hitters and one-hitters and near perfect games, batters hit .180 against him and in the first half of the season their average was .242. Maybe there isn’t any fatigue. Maybe everything is just fine, and he’s having a tough stretch.

You figure a guy with his pedigree will figure things out.

On the night, on this night, he pitched three innings (his shortest outing since 09/18/2012 where he eventually had an MRI on his shoulder though he returned five days later) and allowed six earned runs on seven hits while striking out three. He’s now allowed five home runs in his last two starts and probably hates the West.

Below I’ve listed the particulars for yesterday’s game.

Pitches by Type:

##  Pitch Type Count    %
##    Changeup    10 17.2
##   Curveball     4 6.90
##    Fourseam    29 50.0
##      Slider    15 25.9

Pitch Type by Inning

##           1  2 3
## Changeup  3  5 2
## Curveball 1  1 2
## Fourseam  9 16 4
## Slider    7  7 1

Pitches by Outcome:

##                           Changeup Curveball Fourseam Slider
## Ball                             3         2        5      1
## Ball In Dirt                     2         0        0      4
## Called Strike                    0         1        4      2
## Foul                             1         0        9      0
## Foul Bunt                        0         0        1      0
## Hit By Pitch                     0         0        0      1
## In play, no out                  0         0        2      0
## In play, out(s)                  1         1        2      2
## In play, run(s)                  1         0        4      0
## Swinging Strike                  2         0        2      4
## Swinging Strike (Blocked)        0         0        0      1

Events by Final Pitch of At-Bat

##              Changeup Curveball Fourseam Slider
## Double              1         0        3      0
## Groundout           1         1        0      2
## Hit By Pitch        0         0        0      1
## Home Run            0         0        2      0
## Lineout             0         0        1      0
## Sac Bunt            0         0        1      0
## Single              0         0        1      0
## Strikeout           1         0        1      1

Pitches by Zone Location

##  Zone % Out of Zone % O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##   53.45         46.55     17.19     35.55

Note: Zone % is the number of pitches thrown that were considered in the strike zone; Out of Zone is the number of pitches thrown out of the strike zone; and O-Swing % and Z-Swing % relate to those pitches out of the zone and in the zone that were swung at by batters.

Calculations: I calculated the strike zone based upon the formula provided by Mike Fast in a post for Baseball Prospectus. O-Swing % = Swings at Pitches Out of the Zone / Total Pitches Out of the Zone, and Z-Swing % = Swings at Pitches In the Zone / Total Pitches In the Zone. Fangraphs has a great explanation regarding plate discipline, and I encourage you to read about it if you get a chance. After enjoying my site first, of course.

Pitch Types by Zone Location

##  Pitch Type In Zone Out of Zone O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##    Changeup       3           7     0.286     0.667
##   Curveball       0           4     0.250       NaN
##    Fourseam      23           6     0.167     0.609
##      Slider       5          10     0.400     0.600

Strikeouts by Description

##                 Changeup Fourseam Slider
## Swinging Strike        1        1      1

Strikeouts by Batter

##       Batter Name Strikeout(s)
##  Brandon  Crawford            1
##      Buster  Posey            1
##      Hunter  Pence            1

Pitches Velocities & Movement:

##  Pitch Type  Min Mean  Max Mean Hor Mean Vert CRT Mean Hor CRT Mean Vert
##    Changeup 83.8 84.6 86.2   -9.138     1.456       -8.410        0.1188
##   Curveball 78.6 80.2 81.4    2.985    -3.073        3.723        -4.305
##    Fourseam 91.6 94.4 96.1   -8.688     7.126       -7.891         6.086
##      Slider 83.6 86.7 88.4  -0.7240     1.713       0.2760        0.3731

Note: Horizontal movement denotes average distance, in inches, from point of release to home plate (+ moves away from a right-handed batter) while vertical movement is average distance, in inches, from release point to home plate. As measured from the back point of home plate, the x-axis (horizontal) runs to the catcher’s right, the y-axis points at the pitcher, and the z-axis (vertical) runs upward.

Note 2: The corrected horizontal and vertical are based upon a paper by Alan M. Nathan from the University of Illinois nd account for the elimination of both gravity and drag. The corrected averages more accurately reflect the true movement of the baseball.

Average (MPH) Velocity for Pitches by Starters Last Night:

2015-08-15_Max Scherzer_BoxPlot

Below are the pitch locations by both batter stance (left or right) and by pitch type.

Pitch Location by Stance:

2015-08-15_Max Scherzer_Stance

Pitch Location by Pitch Type:

2015-08-15_Max Scherzer_Pitches

Pitch Locations by Batter:

2015-08-15_Max Scherzer_Batters

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