Detroit Tigers: Max Scherzer Still Wasn’t Worth Keeping


Detroit Tigers hitters were reminded of just how good Max Scherzer is on Wednesday when the former Tiger fanned 20 batters in a complete game. It was still the right move to let the right-hander leave.

The moment the Detroit Tigers let Max Scherzer walk, fans were up in arms claiming it was one of the worst decisions Dave Dombrowski ever made. As we all watched the Tigers fail in 2015, and Scherzer dominate with the Washington Nationals many fans liked to go on about how different things would’ve been had we kept Scherzer. That feeling returned last night as we all got to whiteness Max Scherzer make history at our expense. Despite all the “what if’s,” letting Max Scherzer go was still the better option for the team.

Based on last year’s results, many were convinced that Max Scherzer was the missing piece to a dreadful Tigers rotation. The Tigers’ pitching staff was one of their biggest problems throughout the season, posting a disastrous 4.64 ERA, and that was with David Price putting up ace like numbers before the trade deadline.

Meanwhile in Washington, Max Scherzer posted a career best 2.79 ERA and 276 strikeouts, not to mention throwing two no-hitters along the way. It would appear as though the pitcher could’ve been a saving grace for the Tigers’ pitching staff. But let’s look a little deeper into the numbers.

In the starting rotation, the Tigers did have a legitimate ace. Up until the trade deadline, David Price posted a 2.53 ERA. Everyone behind him was the problem. The other starting pitchers were Alfredo Simon, Anibal Sanchez, Shane Greene, and a different fifth starter just about every time around. 

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All of those starting pitchers posted an ERA north of four, which a team will get a team absolutely nowhere. After the trade deadline, Daniel Norris and Justin Verlander posted an ERA below four, but at that point in the season it was too late as the Tigers had traded away key players and were already far out of playoff contention.

Then there was the bullpen.

As is tradition, the bullpen was an absolute mess. Only three relievers, Joakim Soria, Alex Wilson, and Drew VerHagen, posted an ERA under three, meaning the bullpen helped contribute to the team’s ballooning ERA.

Although Max Scherzer would’ve brought the ERA down a bit and won a few more games, he wouldn’t have changed the fact that the starting pitching was shallow and the bullpen was absolutely atrocious.

The second element to look at is the financial standpoint.

In early 2014, Dave Dombrowski reportedly offered Max Scherzer a $144 million contract to stay with the Tigers, Scherzer declined the offer, choosing to test free agency. 

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You can call him a villain and a traitor all you want, but you really can’t blame someone who just won the Cy Young award, is approaching a walk year and is in his prime for wanting to see how much he can make–especially since he knew he could get more money on his next contract.

If the Tigers were going to hang on to him, they were going to have to shell out a significant amount of cash. Although he was worth the big contract last year, he will more than likely be a financial burden by the end of his contract.

Per ESPN’s Jayson Stark, Scherzer is guaranteed money through 2021, and the last three years of his contract he will be earning $35-million a year. Seeing how he’ll be 35 in 2019, chances are he won’t be pitching ace caliber stuff by then. It should be noted that even this season, despite his 20-strikeout game, his ERA is at 4.15.

Just remember, Justin Verlander signed his big extension after 2012 when he was putting up career numbers, and by coincidence he hasn’t been as good since. Some may pin point the Verlander contract as their ultimate ball and chain.

The same is happening with CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees. And that’s how most big pitching contracts end up. The two big free agent starters last offseason were Zack Greinke and David Price, and so far neither of them are living up to their new colossal contracts.

Great starting pitchers always hit their free agent and big contract years in their late 20’s or early 30’s, and although their numbers always warrant 200+ million dollar contracts, their age almost always comes back to bite whoever signed them.

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In light of watching the Tigers end up on the wrong side of history at the hands of one of their former pitchers, just remind yourself that letting him go wasn’t that bad of a decision. It can be tempting to live in the moment and wish we still had Max Scherzer, but remind yourself that in a few years you’ll probably be thanking the team for not having him.