Nats’ Scherzer happy with consolation prize: Cy Young
Right-hander is 6th to win the award in both leagues
WASHINGTON — About a half-hour after the Washington Nationals’ season came to its gut-wrenching end, Max Scherzer’s eyes blazed with shock.
“It was a good pitch,” he said, reliving the pitch the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson hit out to tie the decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series, his last pitch of the 2016 season. “Right on the black.”
Scherzer then shook his head and turned to his locker, left to an offseason of wondering why his best stuff was not good enough when he needed it most. But it was good enough more often than not in 2016, so often that he was named the National League Cy Young Award winner Wednesday night, as voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Amonth after that loss, Scherzer sat with family and college friends on a boat in the British Virgin Islands, hollering with joy as he was sprayed with champagne, celebrating an impressive consolation prize. Scherzer became the sixth pitcher, and the first since Roger Clemens in 2004, to win baseball’s highest pitching honor in each league.
“For some reason, this just means so much more to me. It just verifies everything I try to go out there and set out to achieve,” said Scherzer, whose conference call with writers was choppier than most, since most conference calls are not conducted from the ocean. “Winning the second one confirms that everything I tried to do works.”
Scherzer is the first National to win the award, and the first Cy Young winner managed by Dusty Baker in his two decades spent managing four teams. Since the right-hander became the first $200 million man in Nationals history two winters ago, he has responded with two no-hitters, a 20-strikeout game and pitching’s most prestigious honor.
Scherzer, 32, beat out Chicago Cubs aces Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks in a decisive vote that does not include the postseason. He was named first on 25 of 30 ballots, with three second-place votes, one third and one fourth. Lester was second with one firstplace vote the vote; Hendricks, first on two ballots, finished third.
Though he was a late addition to the National League all-star team, and a late entry into the Cy Young race, Scherzer quietly stalked another elite season from start to finish. He led the National League in wins (20), innings pitched (2281⁄ strikeouts (284), WHIP (0.97) and strikeouts-towalks ratio (5.07). He finished second in batting average against (. 196) and seventh in ERA (2.96), and induced a higher percentage of swinging strikes than anyone else in baseball (15.3 percent, according to FanGraphs).
“For me, it’s a culmination of everything, from the coaching staff, to how they prepared, from what I was able to do with [Wilson] Ramos and [Jose] Lobaton, everybody together in unison,” Scherzer said. “Competing at the same level, doing what we need to do when I take the mound, to going out there and actually doing it.”
When he stumbled, he usually tripped over home runs — though after he allowed the14th-most homerunsper nine innings in the first half of the season, he had the 20th fewest home runs per nine in the second half, almost a home run fewer every two starts. By some cruel symmetry, his ultimate demise came by the home run, the only run the Dodgers scored against him in six-plus innings in Game 5.
“I know we didn’t win the World Series. That was my ultimate goal,” Scherzer said. “But being able to pick up this second Cy Young really means a lot to me, and I owe it to my teammates.”