By Lindsay Zeck
The following is an excerpt from a section on Pitcher Repertoires in the 2020 Bill James Handbook, which is on sale now at ACTA Sports and wherever you buy your books.
Let’s talk about two pitchers, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals. Their career stats have been circulating this season for being nearly identical. Take a look:
It’s amazing to see the similarities in their career stats, but [in this section of the book] we can look at the pitches they threw this season to see if there are similarities here too.
Both threw fastballs 48% of the time, with Scherzer edging out Strasburg in velocity by one mile per hour (94.9 to 93.9). It’s in their secondary pitches this season that we begin to see a difference. Scherzer’s was the slider which he threw 21% of the time (it was his most effective pitch), whereas Strasburg threw that pitch less than one percent of the time.
His secondary pitch was a curveball that he threw 31% of the time with great effectiveness. Scherzer threw a curveball only nine percent of the time. Scherzer and Strasburg align again with their tertiary pitch, the changeup. They threw it 14% and 21% of the time, respectively.
They have both seen a steady decline in their fastball usage. Scherzer threw the heat 72% of the time during his rookie season. Strasburg’s usage peaked at 73% in 2011—right after his Tommy John surgery.
Speaking of Tommy John surgery—Scherzer is the only pitcher in the 2019 Nationals starting rotation not to have had it. Along with Strasburg, whose season ended abruptly in 2010, Patrick Corbin, Aníbal Sánchez, and sometimes starter Erick Fedde have all had the surgery. Corbin and Fedde both went under the knife in 2014.
Scherzer’s career numbers give him a good chance at Hall of Fame enshrinement. We’ll see if Strasburg can pitch well enough in his 30s to someday share a common bond with Scherzer there too.