When Brandon Webb went down, so went most of the hope in Arizona for a competitive season. Already trailing the Dodgers in talent level by a healthy margin, the Diamondbacks needed a repeat season of greatness from Webb and Dan Haren to realistically have a chance of keeping pace. That clearly has not and will not happen this year and the Snakes have stumbled out to a 13-20 record that he seen 2009’s first managerial change.
Somewhat lost amongst that sad shuffle though is Max Scherzer‘s early season emergence as a replacement for Randy Johnson’s role as the third spoke in the Arizona rotational wheel of excellence. Arizona’s first round pick (11th overall, the pick after Tim Lincecum) in 2006, Scherzer was mightily impressive last season in his brief stint in the rotation, logging 48 strikeouts to just 14 walks over 37 innings.
Getting the chance to be a starter from the get go this season, Scherzer has continued to succeed with a 4.33 FIP coupled with a bounce back in his ground ball rate. While the strikeout rate has diminished, that comes as no surprise as it’s nigh impossible to maintain a 30% K rate in the Major Leagues as a starter. Scherzer’s rate of 20% so far this season is still very respectable and as long as he keeps the walks around the 10% or lower mark he should continue to be valuable.
Importantly for his future success, Scherzer’s rate of missing bats is down only a touch, further increasing his sample size and showing that he just might be able to stick at his current level of around 12%, a very impressive figure. That he has been able to generate those types of results while throwing fastballs around three-quarters of the time speaks to how effective his fastball is and how well it sets up his change and slider.
If Scherzer can keep it up, he’s going to be able to use this likely lost season for Arizona to build up his arm strength and be ready to help the Diamondbacks work back toward contention in 2010.
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