Though the value of pitcher victories have been greatly reduced as advanced stats have become more prominent, reaching 20 wins in a season is still a very significant and special achievement for a starting pitcher.
For Detroit Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer getting there in Detroit's 12-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Friday night probably felt particularly sweet, not only because it's his first time winning 20 games, but because it took him five attempts to finally reach the milestone.
Scherzer started his remarkable season by winning each of his first 13 decisions. That represented the best start to a season record wise since Roger Clemens started 14-0 in 1986, and was worthy of a selection to start the All-Star game opposite New York Mets ace Matt Harvey.
After suffering his first defeat at the hands of the Texas Rangers on July 13, Scherzer went on to win his next six decisions, improving to 19-1 on Aug. 24. At that point 20 wins seemed like a lock, but Scherzer struggled over his next four starts going 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA.
Scherzer would be the first to tell you his performance on Friday night wasn't up to his standards. In six innings, he allowed three runs on six hits to a struggling White Sox squad. Not a terrible outing by any stretch, either, but as has often been the case when Scherzer hasn't been at his sharpest on the mound, his offense picked up the slack and made life easier.
But don't allow the fact that his offense has bailed him out a few times fool you into believing Scherzer isn't deserving of the AL Cy Young award. Win No. 20 will just be the cherry on top of his already impressive resume. He entered Friday night leading the league WHIP and ranking fifth in ERA. He was also second in strikeouts while ranking fourth in K/BB ratio.
No matter how you look at them, the numbers add up to a Cy Young win for Scherzer. The 20 wins just give us a nice round number to focus on.