Category: Max Scherzer

The Yankees need to sign Max Scherzer to improve their rotation

Max Scherzer pitching during the 2013 season.

Max Scherzer pitching during the 2013 season.

The current rotation for the Yankees, after the recent departures of Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy, would be Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Adam Warren and David Phelps. Ivan Nova will slot into the rotation likely in June when he is recovered from the Tommy John surgery he had on his right elbow last April.

This is a rotation with health question marks and unproven pitchers at the four and five spots, which means that the Yankees need to overpay Max Scherzer in order to have a better season than they did in 2014. Scherzer will not turn 31 until the end of July and is coming off of two consecutive All-Star seasons.

He has only thrown more than 200 innings twice in his career (2013 & 2014), which proves that he probably will not breakdown as early as a pitcher like Jon Lester, who has done so six times. Scherzer and Lester are both 30, but Lester has made 252 starts while Scherzer has made only 198. Lester has already signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs, and James Shields, who is the other marquee free agent, is not worth signing because he is 32 and has made 285 starts.

Scherzer reportedly wants a six-to-seven year contract that could reach $200 million, which would be the second highest total contract ever given to a starting pitcher after the one Clayton Kershaw signed, but the Yankees need to listen to his agent, Scott Boras, because he will be able to be counted on to be an ace for the next three-four years. Scherzer won the Cy Young in 2013 and has had ERAs of 2.90 and 3.15 in each of the last two seasons. Also, he has averaged 32 starts, 197 innings and 209 strikeouts in the last six seasons.

He needs to be given this contract because he is a strikeout pitcher who doesn’t allow many homers or walks as he hasn’t allowed more than 18 homers, walked more than 63 batters or struck out fewer than 240 batters in the previous two seasons.

Scherzer has also done very well in some of the new sabermetric stats. He WHIP, which is walks plus hits divided by innings pitched, has been an outstanding 1.175 and 0.970 during the last two seasons. Scherzer’s FIP, which measures a pitchers effectiveness at preventing walks, homers and hit by pitches and causing strikeouts, was seventh in league in 2013 and 11th last season. He had the third highest strikeouts per nine innings in MLB with 10.29 and had the seventh best Wins Above Replacement (WAR) among starters.

Scherzer, who will be starting his eighth season and seventh complete season after making his debut in 2008 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, has not had any significant injuries during his career with the Diamondbacks and Tigers. Tanaka and Pineda, who pitched very well when healthy last season, both had their seasons interrupted by injuries.

Tanaka should be relied on next year and was an All-Star in his rookie season after posting stats of 140 strikeouts, a 2.77 ERA, 14 wins, 1.056 WHIP and only 21 walks in 136 innings. However, he missed about 11 starts after his start against the Cleveland Indians on July 8 because of elbow inflammation. An MRI revealed that he had a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. He will be a bit of an unknown until he can stay healthy the whole season, but according to Brendan Kuty, Joe Girardi said he is expecting Tanaka to “make his 32 starts” in 2014.

Pineda, who is an imposing pitcher with a 6’7″, 265 pound frame, had an outstanding 1.89 ERA and 59 strikeouts in only 13 starts. His strikeout to walk ratio was remarkable since he only walked seven batters, and his 0.8 walks per nine innings proves how effective he was. His curveball, slider and fastball combo make him very difficult to hit.

However, after being an All-Star with the Mariners in 2011 and being traded to the Yankees in January of 2012, Pineda has had tendinitis in his right shoulder and then an anterior labral tear in his right shoulder that caused him to miss the 2012 season. He began the 2013 season on the 60-day DL as he was still recovering from the shoulder surgery he had as a result of the labral tear in his right shoulder. He was activated in July and pitched six games in the minors.

He pitched his first game for the Yankees on April 5, 2014 and had his first of many dominating performances. However, while pitching in a simulated game while serving his 10-game suspension for pine tar usage, he suffered a Grade 1 strain of his Teres Major muscle below his right shoulder. This injury forced him to the miss the months of May, June and July.

Tanaka and Pineda proved to be very effective when not injured last season, but their health question marks combined with Sabathia’s decline and the fact that Warren is best suited for the bullpen proves that Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman need to give Scherzer the contract that he is looking for. If Pineda and Tanaka can stay healthy and only miss about five or six starts combined they would form an imposing top three in the rotation with Scherzer. The Yankees are already counting on Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran having better seasons than they did in 2014, which makes improving the rotation even more important towards making and advancing in the playoffs in 2015.

>Offense falls flat but Liriano is intriguing


Francisco Liriano pitched the first no hitter of the season for the Twins on Tuesday.  He was an intriguing pitcher for the Yankees to acquire after Cliff Lee went to the Phillies and Andy Pettitte retired, and now his name comes to the forefront again.  
Against the Tigers, on May 4th the Yankees lost a game where Max Scherzer flat out dominated and they were not able to play small ball in order to score any runs in the 4-0 loss.  It was only the second two game losing streak of the season.  Freddy Garcia allowed one run in the second, and three in the third, but bounced back to pitch effectively for the next four innings.  For his last two starts Garcia has pitched more like the average pitcher that he has been the last two years, and less like the excellent pitcher that he was with the Mariners early in his career.
The offense needs to figure out how to put some runs together because they only scored two runs when they faced a mediocre Brad Penny, and then got shutout against Scherzer.  They are a little too reliant on the home run, having scored the highest percentage of their runs in the league off the long ball.  However, it is likely that they will be able to capitalize during a matinee game when they face Rick Porcello, to close out the series against the Tigers.  He has pitched better recently after a sluggish start to the season but he has struggled to live up to expectations.  The Yankees are only hitting .255 collectively against Porcello in a limited number of at bats.  The Yankees should be able to put some runs on the board off a young pitcher still trying to find himself.
Bartolo Colon is pitching brilliantly to start the season but his history with injuries suggests that this might not be able to last the whole season.  Since Phil Hughes will be out recovering from his shoulder inflammation injury for six to eight weeks, and possibly longer, it will be necessary for the Yankees to explore all options for a pitching upgrade.  Even though Colon did not pitch at all last season it seems like he will be more reliable than Garcia because of his command and confidence on the mound.  Colon has not shown any signs of slowing down, continuing to show stellar control during his first start in May where he did not allow a single walk, so it seems like he might be trusted to stay in the rotation the whole season.
The no-hitter by Liriano was by far his best start of the season since he now has an ERA of 6.61 with more walks than strikeouts.  However when healthy he has proven that he has the ability to dominate American League hitters like he did last season and in 2006, when he was an All-Star.  He is a slight injury risk so the Yankees should wait until the middle of July to see if he is able to stay healthy and pitching effectively.  Liriano is only 27, so he is entering the prime of his career and there is a chance that the injury bug is behind him.
Garcia could be effective as a long man out of the bullpen if the Yankees do acquire Liriano after the trade deadline.  If the Yankees can get his services without having to give up the stars of their minor league system in Miguel Montero, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances or Andrew Brackman they should make the deal.  If forced to give up one of the “Killer B’s” I would give up Brackman since he seems to have the least potential for excellence.  If they have to include Ivan Nova then they can call up somebody like Hector Noesi to take his spot.  The Twins might be encouraged to make a deal like this, for Nova and a position player because they would not want to lose Liriano for nothing.  A rotation of Sebathia, Liriano, Burnett, Hughes and potentially Banuelos next season would be very effective.   
A factor in the Yankees favor is that Scherzer is from Morristown, New Jersey, which is not far from the Bronx, so even though the game is in Detroit, he will likely have a lot of nerves facing his hometown team.