Max Scherzer plans to comb through the video this offseason and "reinvent himself" to combat opposing hitters after they changed their approach against him in 2020.
“I’m going to have to go through the offseason really trying to evaluate how…guys are approaching me and attacking me, what’s working, what’s not in certain situations so that next year when I come back, I can pitch more efficiently from the get-go and not have to try to wait until my 12th start before I finally feel good,” Scherzer said in a Zoom press conference after getting the win in his final start of the year Saturday.
“That’s the fun part of this, is that you gotta go back and reinvent yourself because the rest of the league’s gonna be finding ways to attack me to be able to do everything they can to beat me. So you gotta match that kind of mentality back at them.”
The 2020 season was a mixed bag for Scherzer. His 3.74 ERA and 1.381 WHIP were a step back from his Cy Young-caliber production of the past seven years, but he continued striking out batters at a prolific rate. Scherzer also made some history, passing Sandy Koufax for the fifth-most 10-strikeout games with 98 and Frank Tanana for the 23rd spot on the all-time strikeout list at 2,784.
In his final start Saturday, Scherzer outdueled Jacob deGrom with three runs allowed on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over six innings pitched. All three of the Mets’ runs came on a pair of homers, raising his total to 10 on the season. That put Scherzer’s HR/9 rate at 1.34, which will go down as the highest mark of his career.
“I feel like I did get better in some ways,” Scherzer said. “Really felt like my cutter was better this year. I made some adjustments on that coming into this year. I really feel like we’ve seen some benefits from that. I was able to execute it this year on a whole pretty well. There was times when my curveball I felt like it was also better as well. I thought it was sharper as well.”
Scherzer will also come away from 2020 with another victory: staying healthy. The 36-year-old avoided the injured list in a season when pitcher injuries were rampant—a sobering fact the Nationals have understood well with Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle and Tanner Rainey all finishing the year on the shelf. Scherzer took the ball for every one of his turns in the rotation this season, including the Nationals’ Opening Night game against Gerrit Cole and the Yankees.
The right-hander has one season remaining on the seven-year, $210 million free agent deal he signed with the Nationals prior to the 2015 season. He told NBC Sports Washington at spring training in February that it was up to the team to “drive those conversations.” If Scherzer is going to land a late-career extension similar to those of Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, the Nationals would need to begin negotiations within the next year before he hits free agency.
With Scherzer planning to treat this offseason like normal—cutting back on the heavy lifting while still keeping his arm in shape—his focus is now on 2021. But that doesn’t mean he’s calling 2020, and the Nationals’ disappointing finish, a wash.
“We all knew this was going to be 60 games, and short season you needed to get out to a good start immediately and we didn’t,” Scherzer said. “So yeah, this is a frustrating year to not be able to back it up considering how well we played from the second half on last year into the World Series and win it. Obviously, we weren’t able to replicate the success that we had last year into this year…everybody has a hand in it, everybody needs to reflect upon what they did and didn’t do well and try to make those adjustments going into next year.”