Clearing the bases: How good is Scherzer?

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
8:00
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First base: Mr Enigmatic. Is Max Scherzer a good pitcher? A mediocre pitcher? A potentially great pitcher? Last October, in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, we saw how good Scherzer can be when he pitched six scoreless innings, using an explosive, moving fastball to throttle the Yankees. And there he was two starts later in the American League Championship Series against the Rangers, getting knocked out in the third inning. One reason so many people predicted the Tigers to run away with the AL Central is they penciled in improvement for Scherzer and Rick Porcello. I wasn't quite so sure; both have maddeningly inconsistent in their young careers and it's been mostly bad Scherzer in 2012. The punchless Mariners roughed him up Tuesday for 10 hits and five runs in five innings, bumping his ERA to 8.24. Frankly, I can't figure him out. He has a nice 23/6 strikeout-to-walk but has allowed 30 hits in 19.2 innings. Unlucky on balls in play? Sure, probably. Mix in a little Miggy Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta as well. But it was similar last season, when he posted a 4.43 ERA: Good ratios, but too many hits and too many home runs (29). Coming on the heels of Porcello's one-inning stinker, the Detroit rotation after Justin Verlander remains a work in progress.

Second base: Narveson out for season. Tough day for pitchers, as Michael Pineda will get another opinion on his shoulder and Mike Pelfrey went on the disabled list with elbow inflammation and possibly worse. Brewers starter Chris Narveson, however, is done for the season after it was announced he'll undergo rotator cuff surgery. Narveson was a solid fifth last season, but Marco Estrada is a nice replacement -- maybe even a step up. A fastball/curve/changeup guy, the Nationals originally drafted Estrada but never quite believed in him since his fastball is 90-91, and the Brewers picked him up on waivers in 2010. He pitched well last season, including a 3.70 ERA in seven spot starts, and threw well last week with five innings of one-run ball, with nine strikeouts and no walks against the Rockies. He isn't flashy, but he throws strikes and should be solid. We talk a lot about the need for rotation depth. Estrada will end up being a key to the Brewers' season.

Third base: CarGo-es deep. The Rockies lost 5-4 to the Pirates as the bullpen blew a lead in the eighth inning but the good news was Carlos Gonzalez finally hit his first two home runs, improving his triple-slash line to .278/.328/.500 (he raised his average 38 points and his slugging percentage 140 points in one night). Nice, but the Rockies will need more ... like 2010 more, when Gonzalez led the National League with a .336 average, slugged .598 and finished third in the MVP vote. That season was built on a .384 average on balls in play, third-best in the majors. His BABIP returned to more normal levels last season and his numbers fell. Gonzalez did start out slow last April (.228, one homer) before heating up in May and June, only to come down with a wrist injury in July that he aggravated again in September. Hopefully this is a sign the wrist is completely healthy and he'll start heating up.

Tweet of the night. A's rookie lefty Tom Milone improved to 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA with eight shutout innings against the White Sox.

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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