Whether you want to admit it or not, at some point as a sports fan you've spent an exorbitant amount of time arguing about where a player ranks, and "best pitcher in baseball" has without a doubt been one of the most heated of these conversations.
Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and Justin Verlander are the names you tend to see thrown around the most, and many feel a strong finish over the last few years has catapulted Scherzer to the top.
"All decade long, it felt like Clayton Kershaw was the pitcher of the decade, and Justin Verlander, but I think if you add up all the numbers and look at how dominant Scherzer was, that he probably stole that crown at the very end," New York Times National Baseball writer Tyler Kepner said on the Nationals Talk podcast.
Okay, so let's nerd out and take a look at those very numbers. It's an adventure we'll take together, so hold on.
We'll start with regular season only. Entire decade totals first, then just from 2015 to 2019, Scherzer's time in Washington:
Kershaw (2,179, 1,019)
Okay, that's a lot, I get it. Your head hurts. So does mine. There are tons more stats we can use but let's stick to those four so no one passes out.
Over the last decade of regular season games, Kershaw takes the top spot in ERA and WHIP, with Scherzer in strikeouts and wins. From just 2015 to 2019 as a National, Scherzer is on top of the same categories. So nothing changes the ranks there.
Now let's look at postseason only (hide your eyes Clayton):
Yes I know, win totals are misleading because that pitcher's team has to first make the postseason for them to even add to those stats, and a pitcher only accounts for one start every few days, and maybe some relief here or there. Also, the whole total strikeout thing can be misleading too depending on who played more games. I did that for consistency. There's more, don't worry.
Based on win percentage in the postseason, Verlander sits at the top over the last decade (.591) while Kershaw comes in dead last with just nine wins to his ten losses. Since 2015, Scherzer's .600 win percentage is the best.
What about strikeouts per nine innings? Okay. Scherzer wins that both for the entire decade and over the last five seasons.
What's all this tell us? Scherzer was clearly pitching his best as a National. All three have been fantastic during the regular season, while Verlander and Scherzer are the superior hurlers during the postseason.
Kershaw has been horrible during that time of year, and Nats fans saw that first hand. So let's take Kershaw out of the equation.
We're down to Verlander or Scherzer.
Both have won a World Series, but Verlander's team cheated, so we throw that out. Scherzer has three Cy Youngs to Verlander's two, but Verlander did win the AL MVP Award back in 2011.
Scherzer has a better regular season and postseason win percentage since he became a National, more strikeouts per nine innings in the regular season and postseason, and a lower ERA in both the regular and postseason as well over that time.
Oh, the only category of these Verlander tops Scherzer in for the entire decade of regular season games is ERA (3.10 to 3.12) by the way.
Wrap all that up in a bow...and Scherzer clearly wins "best pitcher of the decade".
That's science. Disagree?
Well, that's what Twitter is for.
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