Nationals

Breaking down the science of Max Scherzer's pitches

Nationals

Simply put, Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer has been one of the best pitchers in the world for years.

Scherzer's résumé speaks for itself. All-Star? Seven times. Cy Young? Three times. World Series champion? Check. 

But what makes Scherzer -- even at age 36 -- so dominant? John Brenkus, host of Intel's Soul and Science and former Sport Science host, believes it has to do with the pitcher's release point.

"The way Scherzer delivers the ball, you cannot discern whether it's a fastball or a breaking ball," Brenkus said. "He releases it from the same angle."

To further expand on his point, Brenkus compared Scherzer's unique delivery to a Serena Williams' serve.

"The reason she is so dominant is where she's going to place it," Brenkus said.

It's the same thing with Scherzer.

The Nats' ace has five different pitches in his arsenal: four-seam fastball, changeup, cutter, curveball and his signature slider.

For all five, Scherzer has almost an identical release point.

According to Brenkus, it takes .4 seconds for a 90 mph fastball to cross home plate. For hitters, it takes at least .2 seconds to identify the pitch's location and for the brain to tell the body's muscles to start moving.

Scherzer throws much harder than that; his fastball has averaged 94.7 mph thus far in 2020. His slider and change-up are about 10 mph slower, with the former coming in at 85.5 mph and the latter at 85.2 mph, per MLB's advanced statistics.

 

When you combine Scherzer's pitch variety with his pristine mechanics, it's extremely difficult for hitters to pick up what pitch the 36-year-old is throwing, let alone hit the baseball.

That, according to Brenkus, is what makes Scherzer so great.

"Scherzer is a master of disguise," Brenkus said. "For someone like Scherzer and then you start throwing in his mechanics, being so great and always throwing from the same slot, now you're really in trouble. That's really the difference between him and somebody else who might release the ball from a different angle, depending on the pitch."

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