A few weeks ago, I took a look at 10 current active baseball players who I believe have the most to lose from a canceled 2020 season in terms of their Hall of Fame candidacies. Since we're still waiting around for baseball to happen, we're running through some extended looks at the cases. Today's selection is Max Scherzer.
With Scherzer, we'll be taking a different angle than every other player we've spotlighted. I've previously mentioned we're not covering players like Albert Pujols and Justin Verlander because they are already slam-dunk Hall of Famers who will get in with ease. Is the Nationals ace in the same boat?
That is to say: Would Scherzer be a Hall of Famer if he never threw another pitch?
In parts of 12 seasons, Scherzer is 170-89 with a 3.20 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 1.09 WHIP and 2,692 strikeouts in 2,290 innings. Given the 12 seasons and 170 wins, Scherzer would be a "peak" candidate. That is, he wasn't a compiler -- though the strikeouts are 24th all-time -- but instead an elite-level pitcher for enough years that he's more likely to take the Sandy Koufax route than the Don Sutton one.
Blank ink? Oh yes, we've got it here. Scherzer led the league in wins four times, innings twice, strikeouts three times, WHIP four times and pitcher WAR twice.
Hardware? Yes sir. Scherzer has three Cy Youngs. He's also finished second, third, fifth (twice) in separate seasons.
Signature moment? Two no-hitters seems to qualify.
Postseason performance? Yep. Scherzer is 7-5 with a 3.38 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 112 postseason innings. He won a ring last season.
Postseason mystique? Well, he started Game 7 last year and pitched well, despite barely being able to dress himself due to a back injury days before the winner-take-all game.
All of this feels like Scherzer is already a lock. But there is still the compiling component.
In looking at Scherzer's top 10 statistical similars, the top three are not Hall of Famers in Ron Guidry, Adam Wainwright and Roy Oswalt. Also in that top 10, however, are Hall of Famers Clayton Kershaw (yes, he's already in), Sandy Koufax and Roy Halladay. There's also Johan Santana, who I believe should've gotten a much stronger look as a peak candidate.
In JAWS, Scherzer is 59th among starting pitchers. He's decently below the average Hall of Fame pitcher, though that is skewed by the heavy workloads of pitchers from pre-1930. He sits above Hall of Famers like Red Ruffing, Jim Bunning, John Smoltz, Don Sutton, Early Wynn and, yes, Sandy Koufax.
Scherzer, though, trails non-Hall pitchers like Rick Reuschel, Kevin Brown and Luis Tiant. Again, though, Scherzer is a peak candidate. Reuschel doesn't have Scherzer's Cy Youngs or no-hitters or most of the stuff mentioned above.
The feeling is the shortened 2020 season -- or potential non-season -- might prevent Scherzer from hitting a milestone like 3,000 strikeouts. It'll surely hurt his climb in something like JAWS that would help his slam-dunk Hall status with many voters. But I feel like it shouldn't matter. I think Max Scherzer is already worthy of being a Hall of Famer.