Tha Sports Junkies 101

Kershaw and Scherzer Will Set the Stage for NLDS



The NLDS will kick off with a bang on Friday night as Clayton Kershaw faces off against Max Scherzer.

Major League Baseball’s postseason has gotten off to a rip-roaring start after just four games.  On Wednesday evening, Madison Bumgarner out-dueled Noah Syndergaard in a thrilling Wild Card game that will go down in history as one of the greatest win or go home games of all-time.  “MadBum” and “Thor” may have put on a potent pitching display, but they could end up being a warm-up in comparison to Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw in Game One of the NLDS.

Scherzer and Kershaw both made their big league debuts in 2008.  Kershaw’s rapid rise began in his second season, where he posted a 2.79 ERA while striking out 185 batters.  Just a 21 year-old at the time, the Dodgers southpaw was making a name for himself.  Two years later, Kershaw captured the first of his three Cy Young Awards.  He became the first pitcher to win a pitching triple crown since Jake Peavy in 2007, and Kershaw was the youngest to win since Dwight Gooden in 1985.  The six-time all-star has yet to see any decline since that insane 2011 season.  In 2013 and 2014, Kershaw recorded back-to-back seasons with a sub-2.00 earned run average, which resulted in two more Cy Young Awards and a Most Valuable Player designation in 2014.  Prior to injuring his back this season, Kershaw was on pace to win yet another Cy Young Award.  In his 21 starts this season, the lefty went 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA.

Max Scherzer‘s career did not instantly like Kershaw’s did, but the potential was always visible.  In 2009, Scherzer struck out 174 batters, but his ERA was 4.12.  “Mad Max” consistenly produced impressive strikeout totals, but he could never prevent opposing teams from scoring, mostly due to the exorbitant number of home runs that he allowed.  In 2013, though, Scherzer put it together and had a career-best season.  The Tigers righthander went 21-3 while striking out 240 hitters.  His ERA dropped from a 3.74 in 2012 to a 2.90 in 2013, and he surrendered five less home runs.  His terrific season culminated in with being named the American League Cy Young Award winner.  Since 2013, Scherzer has made the all-star team every year, and he is the now the ace of a powerful Washington Nationals ballclub.

The two prodigious hurlers have not crossed paths too often, but the similarities in the career statistics is remarkable.  Although Clayton Kershaw has a lower career ERA, Scherzer has pitched on a similar level to the three-time Cy Young Award winner.  Here is a year-by-year comparison in their strikeout totals.  Throughout their careers, the two starters have virtually matched each others numbers.  Kershaw has started 263 games; Scherzer has started 265.  Only one of the prominent pitchers can come out on top in this NLDS showdown, however.

Several of the Nationals have had some success against Kershaw over the years.  Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Anthony Rendon all have a batting average over .300 against Kershaw in the regular season.  So does Daniel Murphy, but his prowess against the southpaw goes beyond the traditional stamdards.  Last October, the former Mets’ second baseman took Kershaw deep twice in the NLDS, making him an x-factor in this series.  Unlike Murphy, 2015 MVP Bryce Harper has struggled against the Dodgers’ ace.  He has just one hit in fifteen career at-bats against Kershaw.  Harper has struck out ten times in those chances.  Kershaw is 10-2 with a 2.02 ERA against the Nationals in his career, so he certainly feels comfortable pitching against the National League East champs.

Max Scherzer’s years as Detroit Tiger have prevented him from facing many of the Dodgers‘ regulars on a regular basis.  Los Angeles does have two players with plenty of experience against Scherzer, though.  First baseman Adrian Gonzalez has only five knocks in 26 at-bats with a dismal .481 OPS against the Washington ace.  Josh Reddick, on the other hand, has handled the former Cy Young Award winner well.  While the sample size is relatively small, the outfielder is batting .455 in 11 at-bats against Scherzer.  It will be interesting to see how manager Dave Roberts assembles his lineup to overcome Scherzer.  Another player to watch for is Yasiel Puig.  He only has six at-bats against Scherzer, but he has two extra-base hits in his limited appearances versus “Mad Max”.

Friday’s slate of playoff games promises to be exciting, but the Dodgers and Nationals matchup just seems to feel extra special.  Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer are two of the best pitchers in the game, and their upcoming showdown will exceed all expectations in a pitcher’s duel for the ages.