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2013 Pod Projections: Max Scherzer

It’s been over a week since I shared my last Pod Projection, so let’s get back on the saddle. Easily tallying the second highest number of votes was Max Scherzer. Clearly, Scherzer set your heart aflutter when he posted that 2.69 ERA in the second half. Funny, it was just the luck pendulum swinging the other way, rather than any change in skills, as his xFIP was very similar in each half. On to the projection we go.

2013 Pod Projection Index:
Hitter Introduction
Carlos Gomez
Mark Trumbo
Brett Lawrie
Jason Heyward
Desmond Jennings

Pitcher Introduction
Kris Medlen
Jeff Samardzija

IP: 195

Surprisingly, Scherzer has yet to throw more than 196 innings in his career. This projection wasn’t too difficult given his consistency in the category. However, he did fail to reach 190 innings last year.

GB%/LD%/FB%: 40%/20%/40%

An inflated line drive rate last season took away some ground balls. The projection is essentially his career average, as he has been extraordinarily consistent in his batted ball rates.

HR/FB%: 10.5%

For whatever reason, he sports a career mark of about 11%. He has thrown a bit more than 800 innings over his career, and three of those have come in Detroit, whose home park has only slightly boosted home runs, according to our park factors. It is a large enough sample to not automatically project a league average mark, but I still have to assume some regression and a drop from his career rate.

BABIP: .310

This is another area that Scherzer has oddly had trouble with. He allows more fly balls than the average starter and a slightly higher IFFB%, so it’s a head-scratcher why his career BABIP marks sits at .312, and only once settling in around league average. His career LD% is a smidge high, but doesn’t seem inflated enough to provide the explanation. That said, like HR/FB, it is clear that something is likely going on here and with the awful Tigers infield defense, it is unlikely to be corrected.

BB/9: 2.9

This is what he posted last season and just below his 3.0 career average. His F-Strike% has been quite consistent since 2009, but his walk rate has bounced between 2.6 and 3.3. The two extremes seem like flukes, so a 2.9 feels more his true talent level.

K/9: 9.4

This is where Scherzer really took a leap last season. His average fastball velocity suddenly jumped by 1.1 miles per hour and that was likely behind the spike in whiff rate (from 7.2% to 10.1%) he enjoyed when throwing the pitch. But, how much of that velocity gain will he hold onto this year? Even if he sustained all of it, you have to assume some regression in his strikeout rate to begin with. His SwStk% ranked third in baseball last year, so there was definitely some serious skill behind that huge K/9. None of the projection systems expect him to come anywhere close to a repeat here, so the projection assumes he takes a step back, but still posts a rate well above previous marks because of that rise in velocity, which may or not be maintained.

Below is my final projected pitching line, along with a smattering of other projection systems for comparison.

Pod 195 14 3.56 1.22 204 9.4 2.9 40%/20%/40% 0.310 10.5%
Steamer 178 14 3.51 1.21 176 8.9 2.8 ?? 0.286 ??
Bill James 191 12 3.72 1.26 198 9.3 2.8 ?? 0.317 ??
Oliver 195 13 3.55 1.26 200 9.2 2.8 ?? 0.313 ??
Fans (28) 197 16 3.48 1.19 217 9.9 2.7 ?? 0.310 ??
ZiPS 186.2 13 3.95 1.27 196 9.5 2.8 ?? 0.323 ??