Max Scherzer’s offseason has replication and variance. He won the National League Cy Young Award for the second consecutive season, so that was the same. Scherzer is still bothered by Game 5 of the National League Division Series. That, too, is a repeat of last year. He is also again preparing to meet a new coaching staff after the Washington Nationals fired their manager for the second time in Scherzer’s three seasons in the District.
It’s the personal changes that make this offseason different. Scherzer and his wife, Erica-May Scherzer, are expecting their first child any day. He also goes into the winter as healthy as he has been in more than a year after getting through finger, neck and hamstring problems.
“With all the injuries — there were more things going on than what the eye can see throughout the year,” Scherzer said recently. “Constantly dealing with nagging stuff. We actually addressed everything. By the end of the season, I actually felt great. Going into the offseason, I’m finally 100 percent. I feel like I’ve been battling for a year to get to 100 percent. I actually feel like I am 100 percent. I feel great. I wish we could roll the season out again right now.”
The postseason turmoil and subsequent dismissal of the coaching staff makes it easy to forget how Scherzer felt this time a year ago. He had developed a stress fracture in his right ring finger late in the 2016 season. It hampered his offseason preparation, stalled him in spring training and caused his first start to be put off until the fourth game of the regular season. The delay was modest and relieving. Scherzer thought the ailing finger could cause him to miss as much as the first month of the season. Instead, he altered his fastball grip in spring training, healed, and was ready in early April.
This offseason has no such limitation. Scherzer said he is throwing now. He will have a full offseason regimen to prepare for spring training in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he will get to know the new coaching staff. Most influential for him will be new manager Davey Martinez — whom he hadn’t met yet — and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist.
It was hard for Max Scherzer to grasp the elite company he joined when he was named the 2017 National League Cy Young Award winner on Wednesday night on MLB Network.
Scherzer won the award for the second year in a row, capturing his third career Cy Young, putting him in an exclusive group with some of the all-time greats. The Nationals right-hander is one of 10 pitchers to win three Cy Youngs.
How did Scherzer feel about joining the group?
“I don’t know, that’s why I’m drinking a lot of champagne tonight,” Scherzer said with a laugh. “At this moment, I’m on cloud nine.”
The award comes at a special time for Scherzer, who will soon be a first-time father. His wife, Erica, is due with the couple’s first child in a week, and Scherzer said he thought there was a chance he would be at the hospital when he found out the Cy Young results.
“Little Brooke is going to be coming on the way, so this is an exciting time for us,” Scherzer said. “We’re really pumped.”
Scherzer won the Cy Young by receiving 27 of the 30 first-place votes. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw finished second and Scherzer’s Nationals teammate, Stephen Strasburg, finished third.
Scherzer was even more dominant in 2017 than he was when he won the award in ’16. He finished with a career-best 2.51 ERA, along with a 0.90 WHIP and a 2.90 Fielding Independent Pitching mark.
In July, Scherzer started the All-Star Game for the NL. He led all NL pitchers with 268 strikeouts and had 7.3 Wins Above Replacement (per Baseball-Reference.com). His peers voted him as the NL’s Outstanding Pitcher in last week’s Players Choice Awards.
“Any time you win a Cy Young Award, it’s a special feeling, it’s a special moment,” Scherzer said. “There’s so many people that you have to thank for putting you in this position. … This one is special.”
Of the three Cy Young finalists, Scherzer was the only one to throw more than 200 innings. Both Strasburg and Kershaw missed time with injuries, so Scherzer’s stability was a major reason he had the edge over them.
However, Scherzer battled his own nagging injuries. He entered Spring Training unable to pitch because of a finger injury. He had a rare trip to the disabled list in August with an injured neck, then his postseason debut was pushed back due to a tweaked hamstring.