August 13, 2022

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Scherzer Q&A: His intensity, analytics, Mets' start, Miggy

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In a recent sit-down with MLB.com at Citi Field, Mets pitcher Max Scherzer answered questions on subjects ranging from analytics to Miguel Cabrera.

MLB.com: When I watch you pitch, you are intense and it’s fierce. Where did you get the intensity?

Max Scherzer: I don’t know. I always had it. I always enjoyed competing, playing and going as hard as [I] can. I thought it really came out when I was younger in other sports with other coaches. For me, I point to high school basketball playing for Coach [Rick] Kirby. I get to say his name again. I’m so happy about that. I get to say it, my favorite coach, Kirby. He was my high school basketball coach [at Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Mo.].

MLB.com: Why is he your favorite coach?

Scherzer: The way we played basketball. The intensity we played at, the defense we played, the team we had, that was … if you like how I pitch on the mound, you should have seen how I played some basketball.

MLB.com: Because every time I see you, Max, it’s like you are in another world. It’s like you are so focused on the field.

Scherzer: That’s where I tune out everything. I’m completely locked into my job. My job is to pitch. So I don’t let anything bring me up or bring me down. I’m not going to let the [opposing] offense … affect my job. … [I] go out there and attack the other team. That works for me. Leave me alone. I’ll do my thing and once I come out, trust me, I’ll be pulling for everybody and I’ll have fun with everybody else.

MLB.com: You are a member of the Mets. Describe what it is like to live in the Big Apple?

Scherzer: This is wild. Having played in New York so many times in my career and now to be on the home side of this, this is pretty cool to have the New York fan base behind you instead of against you. I love when you have moments like that. For me, that’s the most exciting part to have the fans support you.

MLB.com: Compare living in New York to D.C., Detroit, Los Angeles and Arizona?

Scherzer: Every city has its own characteristics and own energy. You can’t compare any city to any city. Everybody has their own attitude. I feel like I know New York pretty well. I played against New York so much during my career. I definitely know, with the Mets, all you need to know about is 1986.

MLB.com: I’m sure you want to change it. That was their last championship.

MLB.com: You are into analytics. What is the one stat you look at carefully and why?

Scherzer: You have to take every stat with a grain of salt. Baseball is not just about numbers. It’s not just about analytics. There is a lot of feel to this. You can look at every analytic, pitch metric, it doesn’t take away from what actually happens on the field. For me, you have to have a blend between what I call reality and then what’s going on with the analytics. You have to be able to merge the two together. 

But if there is a number I want to pride myself on, it’s first-pitch strikes. I love throwing strike one. You show me that number and the people that lead [in that statistic], that’s right in my DNA.       

MLB.com: Can the eye test work? 

Scherzer: Oh yeah, 100 percent. I would lead with the eye test. Your eyes are reality.

MLB.com: You never had a major injury. Why?

Scherzer: Knock on wood. I’m not going to jinx it.

MLB.com: But what have you done to stay healthy?

Scherzer: Everything – training, mechanics, weight room. Everything you do in the offseason, inseason, everything adds up.

MLB.com: What advice would you give young pitchers? It seems like young pitchers are always getting Tommy John surgery.

Scherzer: That’s a complicated question. Just how guys are developed now is the reason why we see more injuries in younger arms — from mechanics to pitch counts to everything. I feel everybody gets wrapped up in someone’s pitch count. It’s never the pitch count. It’s the amount of rest you get after your workload. So you can throw 100 pitches, 110, 120. All those numbers are fine. It’s not the number that day, it’s how much rest you get behind it. To me, I feel sometimes … by pulling pitchers early, 80 pitches to try to protect their arm, I don’t think that necessarily protects their arm because you are not pushing them to the limit and building a foundation underneath them. To develop that foundation takes time and you have to push the limit and then you need to rest. It’s the recovery [that’s key to health]. If you can consistently push your pitch counts and then get rest behind it, that’s how you build a foundation.

Another reason I’ve been able to display durability in my career is because I thought I was built right . When I was 19 21, 22, I was exposed to high pitch counts, but I also had the rest behind it to be able to it. I feel like that model has served me well.

MLB.com: The Mets are off to a good start and I know it’s early. How good are they?

Scherzer: It’s a good start. That all it means. It’s a really long season, so we have to continue to play great baseball a lot longer if we want to accomplish our goals.

MLB.com: What has been impressive so far?

Scherzer: How well we have played as a team — good pitching, timely hitting, good defense. We have a good bullpen. Everybody has had a hand in our [great start]. It’s not just one guy. It’s not just once facet of our game. I feel it’s the whole clubhouse having good contributions everywhere. That’s what it takes to win.

MLB.com: What is it like to play for Buck Showalter?

Scherzer: This has been a lot of fun, having Buck be on your side. He is relentlessly prepared. He’s locked in. He also has a good sense of humor, too. This is Jim Leyland 2.0, for me.

MLB.com: You have accomplished a lot over the years. What is the one thing you are most proud of?

Scherzer: Winning the World Series [in 2019 with Washington]. The best feeling I ever had. Everyone dreams to be in that position. Ever since you were a little kid, you dream of winning the World Series. To be on a team that goes out and does it, that’s just an absolute, lifelong dream to have that moment. I’m so happy to have that moment.

MLB.com: How much do you have left in the tank? What goals do you have? I know you want to win another World Series.

Scherzer: That’s it [about winning the World Series]. I have my blinders up and I just go forward. I don’t try to get caught up with any other accomplishments. I’m not here for [personal] results. For me, I focus on the process, what it takes to go out there and make my starts. The only goal I set is win the World Series. Trust me, that’s the best one and the only one you need.

MLB.com: Do you realize what you have accomplished?

Scherzer: I understand that. I don’t like to think about it in those terms. There will be a time I will take the blinders off and we can talk about that. But, to me, it’s more fun to keep the blinders up, ignore some of that stuff, have fun with it, if you need to. It’s about what I’m doing in my next start. What means more, what I do in five days or what I did last year? To me, it’s what happens in five days. That’s what keeps me motivated. That’s what keeps me wanting to compete. What’s going to happen next.

MLB.com: I’m going to mention some names. Tell me what comes to mind: Let’s start with Miguel Cabrera.

Scherzer: Ah, best right-handed hitter ever. His ability to do everything at the plate — to be able to hit for power to all fields, to be able to understand what a pitcher is going to do to you. He is able to drive in runs, get hits and more important is to be able to play through injuries. I don’t think people give Miggy enough credit for what he did for Detroit and for our clubhouse there. He played through devastating injuries to stay on the field to try to help us win. People kind of overlook what it takes to man up and take the field. He did that. His drive to be great, not only when he had his Triple Crown season, he came back the next year and he was better. I never seen that before. That was really powerful to be a part of — to watch the best hitter on earth get better. That goes to show you, there are no limits. It’s only in your head.

Scherzer: Mr. National. He was a teammate I played the most years with. Great teammate, great guy, a champion. I really enjoyed him.

MLB.com: Dusty Baker. He is close to winning his 2,000th victory as a manager.

Scherzer: Dusty was great. I loved his mind, his instincts. He has a great knowledge of the game, great history of the game. He played with so many different players. I really, really enjoyed picking his mind.

Scherzer: A great architect of designing a team from top to bottom and putting together a winner.

Scherzer: Great power hitter. He understands what he does well. He can really do damage at the plate.

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