Max Scherzer has made a significant adjustment from previous seasons that has fueled his dominance this year. Unfortunately for the Philadelphia Phillies, who face the Washington Nationals right-hander Friday night -- one of their weaknesses is directly opposing Scherzer’s strength.
Scherzer is throwing pitches in the strike zone at a very high rate. He has thrown a strike on 71 percent of his pitches this season, second to Phil Hughes. Fifty-six percent of Scherzer’s pitches have been in the strike zone, second-highest in the National League.
It's no surprise, then, that Scherzer leads the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio (8.8). It’s more than twice his rate from last season.
Hitters have not been successful against Scherzer’s pitches in the strike zone, even though, theoretically, those are the pitches they should be hitting.
Take a look at his batting average heat maps comparing his time with the Tigers to this season (image at top of post). Batters just aren’t getting hits when Scherzer pitches in the middle of the zone this year.
The Phillies have hit .173 (14-of-81) against Scherzer in three starts this season. Among their struggles are pitches in the zone.
The Phillies also are 25th in the majors in batting average, and their 244 runs rank last in the majors.
Deeper into games
Throwing strikes is helping Scherzer pitch deeper into games. He has averaged 7 1/3 innings per start, most in the major leagues. He has averaged 3.68 pitches per batter faced; it was 4.02 last season.
Scherzer has pitched complete games in his past two starts after he posted one in his first 210 career starts.
Phillies batters average 3.73 pitches per plate appearance, 25th in the major leagues.