Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
"So Jesse, how have things been going lately?"
"It's been weird."
"What's been weird?"
How about EVERYTHING?
Are you kidding me? This last week has been bonkers.
Tim Tebow plays for the Patriots now, John Oliver is hosting The Daily Show, Kanye and Kim still haven't named their baby. Oh yeah, and Max Scherzer has more wins than Justin Verlander.
Wait ... what?
Correction: I sold Scherzer a little bit short. The Tigers righthander actually has more wins than ANYONE this season.
By beating the Orioles on Monday night, the 28-year-old improved to 10-0. He hasn't dropped a decision since September 23 of last year, a span of 18 starts in a row without losing.
Want to know the last Tigers pitcher to start the year 10-0? It was George Mullin in 1909. To put that into perspective, know that Babe Ruth entered the league as a rookie in 1914.
Monday's outing, a six-inning, one-run affair, marked the fifth time this year that Scherzer has reached double-digit strikeouts. Verlander has only done that twice this season.
Scherzer isn't just pitching better than Verlander. He's mopping the floor with him.
You name it. ERA, WHIP, opponents batting average, strikeouts, innings pitched: Scherzer's been better. Take a look.
Wins: Scherzer 10, Verlander 8
Losses: Scherzer 0, Verlander 4
ERA: Scherzer 3.08, Verlander 3.41
WHIP: Scherzer 0.91, Verlander 1.30
Innings pitched: Scherzer 96 1/3, Verlander 87
Strikeouts: Scherzer 116, Verlander 101
Walks: Scherzer 24, Verlander 28
AVG against: Scherzer .189, Verlander .253
He's even throwing harder than Verlander. Scherzer's average fastball this season is 93.1 mph. Verlander's is just 92.6.
The only place where Scherzer isn't beating Verlander? The wallet.
Scherzer makes far more than the average human ($6.725 million per season), but his annual salary is only about a third of what Verlander makes ($20.1 million in 2013).
But in fantasy, we don't judge you by the size of your paycheck.
Or do we?
On average, fantasy owners drafted Verlander and his stack of hundreds ninth overall in this year's draft. Scherzer's average draft position was 85.8.
That's pretty understandable though, right? Last year, Scherzer was good (16-7, 3.74 ERA, 231 K's) but he wasn't "Verlander good" (17-8, 2.64, 239 K's).
This year things have been different. Verlander has regressed while Scherzer seems to get better with each start.
Scherzer's success in 2013 can mostly be attributed to improvements in two key areas: efficiency and pitch selection.
Let's start with efficiency. Last season, Scherzer had trouble keeping his pitch count down (17.5 pitches per inning) and usually wasn't able to pitch deep into games (5.9 innings per start).
By getting ahead of hitters, Scherzer has averaged 15.3 pitches per inning and 6.9 innings per start in 2013. He's on pace to throw 229 1/3 innings, far more than the 187 2/3 he logged last season.
When Scherzer entered the league with Arizona, almost three quarters of his pitches were fastballs (72.5 percent fastballs in 2008). This season, he's throwing heaters only 56.5 percent of the time.
Scherzer is keeping hitters guessing by mixing in more changeups (21.6 percent), sliders (14.1) and for the first time in his career, he's using a curve ball (7.7).
Stats tell part of the story, but not all of it. For the rest of it, just watch the replay of last night's game. And while you're doing that, pay special attention to the fifth inning.
With two on, nobody out and the Tigers clinging to a 3-1 lead, third baseman Manny Machado (a .322 hitter this season) stepped to the plate for Baltimore.
The old Scherzer might have crumbled in a situation like this. Instead, the fearless righthander went right at Machado, eventually finishing him off with a slider in the dirt.
Next up was Nick Markakis. After working a 3-2 count, Scherzer finally froze him with a 96 mph fastball on the outside corner.
An error loaded the bases for Chris Davis, a power-hitting fiend who had already homered off Scherzer earlier in the game. On the seventh pitch of the at bat, Scherzer got Davis to whiff on a 97 mph fastball.
Strike three. Inning over.
Is it too late to name the baby Max Kardashian West?