PITCHf/x Scouting Report: Max Scherzer

The Tigers will send right handed pitcher Max Scherzer to the mound for the rubber game of this matchup. The 27 year old was an 11th overall round pick in the 2006 draft by the Diamondbacks. After a successful minor league career, he started his first full season in 2009, before being traded to the Tigers in the three team Curtis Granderson deal for Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson. In his first year with Detroit, Scherzer posted a 3.50 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 8.46 K/9, and 3.22 BB/9 through 195.2 innings. He followed up his 2010 performance with a similar season in 2011, but his biggest performance was in game 2 of the ALDS, where he went 6 innings in Yankee Stadium, giving up only 2 hits and no runs. He went on to pitch terribly in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Rangers, ending the Tiger’s playoff hopes.

Pitch Repertoire

Scherzer throws four different pitches. His 93 mph four-seam fastbal  has slightly less “rising” action that your typical fastball, but also moves into a right handed hitter similar to a two-seam. The 83 mph changeup has a 10 mph difference between his four-seam, has much less drop, and has huge break into same side hitters harder. His other put-away pitch is his 83 mph slider, which has very similar downward break to the changeup, but moves to the other side of the plate. He also throws a 94 mph two-seam fastball infrequently. His overall selection is 60.7% four-seam, 20.3% changeup, 18.3% slider, and 0.8% two-seam.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

The graph above shows the release point for Scherzer being nearly 3.5 to 4 feet to the left of the mound and 5 to 6 feet above it. His release zone falls so far from the mound due to an arm slot that is somewhere between 3/4 and side arm. There is some speculation that the righty has dealt with elbow issues that led to the wide area of release, but what should be noted is where he releases different pitch types. The slider has the highest release point, and if a hitter sees the height of the pitch matching Scherzer’s height, they should be looking slider or changeup, and if lower they should be looking fastball or changeup. You can see his low arm slot in the picture to the right.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

In the two graphs above, the trajectory of each pitch is plotteed from the release point on the right to homeplate on the left. In the top picture, a bird’s eye view shows the horizontal break of the pitches. While the changeup and two-seam have the most break into right handed hitters, the four-seam also has some significant break. The horizontal movement of the slider away from right handed hitters is a big difference between the other three pitches. In the second image, you can see the vertical break from a 1st or third base side. As I stated above, the four-seam doesn’t have much “rising” action, and you can see how the trajectory matches up to the “sinking” two-seamer. Again, the changeup and slider have similar downward movement as well.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

Here we have the pitch type movement based on a catcher’s perspective. As expected, the four-seam has the most movement up and in to righties, with a -7.28 horizontal break and 7.80 vertical break. The two-seam maintains slightly less vertical movement at 6.32 inches, but also into same side hitters about 4 more inches at -11.29. On average, the changeup has similar horizontal movement to the two fastballs, at a -9.14 inches, but also drops to the no-spin x-axis at 0.01. The slider is the only pitch with movement away, and finds itself close to the origin at 0.71 inches vertically and 1.53 inches into lefties.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

This image graphs the speed versus spin angle. As inconsistent as Scherzer’s release point was, here we can see that it probably affects his spin angle due to the large spread of angles for the four-seam and changeup. Where the average four-seam sits around 200-220 degrees from a righty, his sat between 190-250 degrees. Likewise, the changeup spreads between 240 to 300 degrees, which gives him a wide variety of breaks. While the slider has the biggest spread across the entire graph, this is typical of most pitchers.

Where He Throws It

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

This graph shows his location of pitch types to right handed hitters. His four-seam is thrown mostly in the strikezone, but he particularly liked to throw up and in. As the changeup moves down and in, Scherzer threw the changeup down and in to jam hitters. Since the slider had opposite movement, down and away, he threw the pitch down and away to get hitters chasing. His selection to righties is 57% four-seam, 33% slider, 10% changeup, and 1% two-seam.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

Here we have his location to left handed hitters. Unlike his selection to righties, here we have Scherzer throwing his four-seam mostly away to lefties. Similarly, he threw the slider and changeup away, but kept the pitches lower. His selection to lefties was 64% four-seam, 29% changeup, 6% slider, and 1% two-seam.

When He Throws It

Max Scherzer’s Pitch Selection Against Righties
Count Four-seam (R) Slider (R) Changeup (R) Two-seam (R)
3-0 100% 0% 0% 0%
3-1 91% 6% 2% 0%
2-0 88% 7% 4% 1%
2-1 75% 19% 7% 0%
1-0 60% 32% 8% 0%
0-0 67% 30% 4% 0%
1-1 58% 29% 13% 0%
0-1 56% 33% 10% 1%
3-2 78% 12% 9% 0%
2-2 55% 26% 20% 0%
1-2 57% 22% 21% 0%
0-2 63% 23% 14% 0%

Here we have Scherzer’s selection to righties based on count. Starting the hitter off, he throws mostly four-seamers, but 1/3rd of the time he’ll mix in a slider. As he falls behind in the count, he’ll increasing use his fastball to get strike one. As he gains a favorable count, he’ll continue to mix in his slider, but also mix in his changeup in place of the fastball. Since 2011, he’s had a whiff rate of 15% on the changeup to righties and 19% on the slider.

Max Scherzer’s Pitch Selection Against Lefties
Count Four-seam (L) Slider (L) Changeup (L) Two-seam (L)
3-0 100% 0% 0% 0%
3-1 92% 0% 8% 0%
2-0 90% 1% 9% 0%
2-1 68% 1% 31% 0%
1-0 67% 2% 30% 0%
0-0 72% 5% 23% 0%
1-1 62% 8% 29% 0%
0-1 59% 12% 28% 1%
3-2 77% 1% 23% 0%
2-2 58% 8% 34% 0%
1-2 60% 12% 28% 0%
0-2 70% 11% 19% 1%

Facing lefties, Scherzer throws very few sliders, and starts the count off throwing mostly four-seamers or changeups. Again, as he falls behind he’ll concentrate on the fastball, and as he falls behind he’ll throw more changeups and mix in a slider 10% of the time. Scherzer had less swing and miss success facing lefties, and his best pitch has been the changeup with a 12% whiff rate.

Results

As a four-seam pitcher with low rise, Scherzer has a mixed batted ball rate, 40% ground balls, 40% flyballs, and 20% linedrives. His strikeout numbers have decreased throughout his major league career, but he also lowered his BB/9 rate to 2.58 last year. On the the road, the pitcher has a 4.24 ERA compared to a 3.88 at home, but also maintains his SO/BB numbers. He also has a platoon split favorable to lefties, who hit him at a .268/.342/.431 compared to righties at .247/.306/.402.

Against The Yankees

In 3 regular season games against the Yankees, he’s held hitters to a .211/.273/.408 triple slash with a 9.9 K/9. His 2.84 ERA and 1.105 WHIP is overshadowed by 4 homeruns and a 4.91 ERA in Yankee Stadium. As I mentioned before, he pitched very well in the Bronx last post season, which could be in the minds of the team tomorrow.

Career Numbers Against Max Scherzer
Probable Yankee Lineup At Bats Triple Slash
Derek Jeter SS 9 .222/.300/.222
Curtis Granderson CF 11 .273/.333/.273
Alex Rodriguez 3B 8 .000/.000/.000
Robinson Cano 2B 8 .125/.125/.500
Mark Teixeira 1B 10 .300/.300/.700
Nick Swisher RF 6 .333/.500/.333
Raul Ibanez DH 0
Andruw Jones LF
5 .400/.571/.400
Russell Martin C 15 .200/.250/.267

Prediction

Scherzer is a pitcher who can pitch well, but runs into disastrous starts at times. So far in 2012, he’s had 2 very bad games against the Red Sox and Mariners, boosting his season ERA to 8.24. His FIP of 3.29 should remind you how dangerous he can be, so theres no sure thing tomorrow. It might be a copout, but my prediction is that he’ll either do very well or very bad against the Yankees tomorrow. Giving up so many flyballs in Yankee Stadium is never a good thing, but his recent success gives me some doubt.

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.