Max Scherzer's combination of efficiency, dominance unmatched

Max Scherzer's 20-strikeout game was remarkable for its efficiency.

Scherzer threw only 23 balls in his nine innings for the Washington Nationals against his former team, the Detroit Tigers, on Wednesday night.

That was by far the fewest among the five games in which a pitcher struck out 20 within nine innings. The previous low was 32 by Randy Johnson.

Scherzer had almost as many swings against pitches out of the strike zone (19) as he had balls.

But this level of efficiency is nothing new for Scherzer. The three best starts of his career encompass his two no-hitters and his 20-strikeout game. In those three, he combined for 47 strikeouts and no walks.

The Expos/Nationals franchise has existed since 1969. Scherzer has been on the team since the start of last season. He holds three of the top four spots on the team’s single-game strikeout list (Bill Gullickson has the other -- he struck out 18 as a rookie in 1980).

According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Scherzer’s 20 strikeouts are the most by any pitcher against his former team. Rube Waddell (1908 against the Athletics) and Roger Clemens (1997 against the Red Sox) each had 16.

Scherzer struck out 11 hitters with his fastball, five with his slider and four with his changeup. Fourteen of his 20 strikeouts were swinging. His 33 missed swings are tied with Jeremy Bonderman for the second most by any pitcher in the past 15 seasons. Clayton Kershaw had 35 for the Dodgers last season. Eighteen of Scherzer's 33 swings and misses came with his fastball, tied for his third most in a game with the pitch since 2009.

Amazingly, this was the third 20-strikeout game that Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has been a part of. He was the opposing catcher in 20-strikeout games by both Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood.