Pondering a Max Scherzer fit with St. Louis Cardinals

Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on May 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on May 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals have been known for a certain pitching style over the years. Would the addition of Max Scherzer via trade fit that style?

For many years, the St. Louis Cardinals have been known as a pitch to contact team. Instead of pitching with the intent to strike the batter out, they pitch for the hitter to make contact and have the defense get the hitter out.

It can be rather frustrating if you’re wanting to see lots of strikeouts or no-hitters, but it’s fun if you like defense.

Adam Wainwright currently has a contact rate of 80.2%. The contact rate calculates total pitches where contact was made divided by total swings. He has a 30.7% CSW, which calculates total called strikes and whiffs divided by the number of pitches. This rate is considered a good average.

Carlos Martinez has a contact rate of 84.2% contact rate and a 23.8% CSW. Martinez career CSW is 27.3%, which is just below the league average. After Martinez last outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 2, It’s easy to see how his contact rate increased and lowered his CSW. Martinez faced 12 batters, giving up six hits, four walks and 10 earned runs. Martinez had a BABIP of .857. He did a smidge better Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians. He faced 20 batters over four innings, giving up five earned runs, a walk and a homer to Jose Ramirez. He did strike out seven.

Cardinals pitching has been bad and while the team is facing significant time without ace Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and possibly Kwang Hyun Kim, who returned to the injured list over the weekend with lower back issues, the team is struggling and needs immediate help.

Many names have been thrown out but the one that remains intriguing to Cardinals fans is Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer. He is a St. Louis native, played for Parkway Central in Chesterfield as well as at the University of Missouri and could be on the trade block as he is in the final year of a seven-year, $210 million contract.

Scherzer has given up 48 hits in 77 innings pitched this season. He’s given up 19 earned runs and 15 walks while striking out 104.  Scherzer’s contact rate is 66.4% and a 32.1% CSW, which is considered good. He is effective with his pitches and will pitch in a way to just go ahead and get the hitter out using his arm.

So, would Scherzer fit the pitch to contact model? Let’s be honest, he does not pitch to contact. He throws and he gets guys out. After 14 seasons, how would pitching to contact play into his overall effectiveness?  Is this why the Cardinals haven’t seriously pursued him in the past?

It’s not every day you get the chance of bringing in a local guy who is a seven-time All-Star and three time Cy Young Award recipient. It’s not even a certainty the Nationals would make Scherzer available.

From Scherzer’s style to what would need to be done to make the move, would bringing him in change everything for this organization? Would they change their entire model for pitching as Scherzer would certainly be influential over younger pitchers who see how effective he is at just getting hitters out. Most importantly, would it be worth it? Given the concerns, would Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak require some assurances that it wouldn’t be a rental situation. Would Scherzer even want to sign a short term contract to possibly end his career in his hometown? Possibly.

While it would be amazing to get a pitcher of the caliber of Scherzer, I don’t see Mozeliak breaking character by changing a teaching method that’s worked for years nor giving up a lot for a potential rental.

Even with the dire situation the Cardinals pitching staff finds itself in, a move like this has never been Mozeliak’s style. Moves will certainly be made to help the team.

I just don’t see Mozeliak pulling the trigger on a deal for Scherzer.

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