The Tigers don’t need Max Scherzer to be Justin Verlander. In fact, they don’t even need him to be Doug Fister — who recently hasn’t even been Doug Fister himself as he was uncharacteristically bombed by the Texas Rangers.
The Tigers just need Max Scherzer to be Max Scherzer — an adequate pitcher who can give them six or seven innings while allowing a couple of runs. He’s expected to keep his team in games, not be a superstar. After a sub-par 2011 and a slow start to the 2012 season, he’s starting to get there.
Scherzer had a horrendous start to the season. However, after allowing five runs on 10 hits in a 7-4 loss against the Seattle Mariners earlier in the season, Scherzer has seen his ERA lower from 8.24 to 4.98. He’s allowed three or less runs in nine of his 11 starts since and he’s giving the Tigers a chance and they’ve rewarded him with seven wins so far (just one fewer than JV).
Scherzer came to Detroit with high expectations in a deal that cost the Tigers fan-favorite Curtis Granderson. His extremely erratic performance has made Sherzer anything but a favorite among the fanbase.
The 2011 playoffs were a perfect example of his inconsistency. Scherzer pitched six innings of shutout ball in the Game Five clincher against the New York Yankees, but was rocked for six runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Rangers in the ALCS.
Scherzer has shown flashes of his raw pitching talent — he’s second in MLB with 11.36 K’s per nine innings — but he has lacked the ability to rebound from adversity on the field, often allowing a two-run inning to landslide into a six-run inning — this is a trait that plagued Justin Verlander early in his career. Verlander has grown and perhaps Scherzer is right behind him (finally). He’s showing a difficult time putting batters away — causing elevated pitch counts — but he’s starting to battle through it, going six innings or more in his last four starts — a stat that used to be expected, but in today’s game is celebrated.
As Scherzer deals with family tragedy off the field (death of his brother), he’s starting to pitch his best baseball — another clear indication that he’s showing an improved ability to focus on the mound. He’s pitched well then regressed in the past and he may again this season, but one thing is for certain — the Tigers need Max Scherzer if they want to climb to the top of the standings where most feel they belong.