Winning to the Max

When the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Max Scherzer with their number one pick in the 2006 Amateur First Year Draft there were high expectations for the power pitcher; there were also more than a fair share of concerns. Max came highly regarded with the potential to become one of the game’s most dominating pitchers. Those positives were offset by the concern that Scherzer may not be able to shoulder the load over the course of an entire season. During his first professional season the questions remained and the Diamondbacks organization were unclear whether Max would be groomed to be a starting pitcher or if he would become a dominating closer. To their credit Arizona maintained a disciplined workload for Scherzer and tried to build up arm strength and conditioning to try and curtail potential injury.

In only the second year after being drafted Max Scherzer made his major league debut and in the process showed everyone why he warranted a first round draft pick. His fastball seems to come alive jumping to the plate with late movement. This coupled with the fact that it is flying some 95 miles an hour shows why everyone has such high expectations for Max. Even with the initial success that he had Max hasn’t had things just handed to him. His style of pitching is that of a power pitcher. By nature those types of pitchers throw a tremendous amount of pitches which can in turn lead to bad things happening when hitters get that many looks at your stuff.

Max worked hard during the 2008 season and although he threw very well he did not meet with much success. His starts rarely went over 5 innings before pitch count became an issue. This in turn overtaxed the bullpen which has not necessarily been a strength for the Diamondbacks. As the 2008 season end Max Scherzer found himself winless as a major league pitcher. Even with his lack of results from a wins perspective the team felt confident in naming Max as the number 5 starter going into 2009. As a number 5 starter he would be carefully monitored from an inning and pitch count perspective to be brought along slowly.

As this season began Max started off on the disabled list due to some shoulder fatigue he felt early in Spring Training. He remained behind to get into shape and add additional strength in his arm. When he was finally ready the Diamondbacks brought him up but his outings in 2009 were very similar to those in 2008. He never went past the sixth inning and his pitch count was almost always close to 100 pitches. It almost appeared as though he did not trust his stuff or the defense behind him. Rather than pitching to contact and letting the fielders take care of getting the outs he looks as though he is trying to strike out ever batter he faces. This could become problematic if it continues as it will mean that every 5 days the bullpen will be called upon for an extended period.

It was beginning to look as though Max was never going to get that first major league win. It was not that he was pitching badly, it was just that he was leaving the game early or taxing himself with the extra pitches thrown to get out of each inning. Tonight looked like another typical Scherzer start; he got out of innings but not before throwing 20-30 pitches. Were it not for an orthodox double play coming to his rescue Max may not have lasted through the fifth inning. This last game though something amazing happened. Max actually got some run support which in itself is a Festivus miracle. Rather than clinging to a 1 run lead or worse leaving in a tie game; Max instead left after six innings with a lead. Not just any lead, a good lead. The team seemed to come alive at the plate and when catcher Chris Snyder belted a grand slam in the ninth inning it sealed the deal. Max Scherzer finally had his first major league win. With his stuff this should be the first of many wins he will be able to celebrate this year and for years to come. Congratulations Max, let’s see if you can do it again about 5 days from now.

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