What’s Max Scherzer’s deal?

Last 18 innings for him, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 hbp, 26 strikeouts.  He didn’t throw a perfect game Sunday, but he almost did.  Anyway, looking at the list of perfect game pitchers in MLB history is kind of instructive.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Major_League_Baseball_perfect_games

No hitters and perfect games can be kind of fluky…. See Phillip Humber… but about half of those guys on that list are what we know as historically superlative ‘stuff’ pitchers. Koufax, Jim Bunning, Dennis Martinez, David Cone, Randy Johnson, Felix Hernandez.  The difficult to hit quality of their pitch in flight is / was truly penultimate.

Now, some guys with penultimate stuff are not on the perfect game list… Nolan Ryan, Bob Feller…they merely threw a buncha no hitters.  Also a mark of penultimate stuff.   And Scherzer is one of those penultimate stuff guys.  Right now, at 30, he’s in the prime physical moment of his career.  That’s what’s going on, with this peak moment such that his pitch is almost impossible to hit.  Like Koufax in 65 or Ryan in 72-74.

He sits at 95 as a starter.  Very fast.  And throws with a low-ish release, just above shoulder level.  Gets a lot of curl, ‘run’ to the right side, on his fastball.  (actually, comparable to Bob Gibson in the old days though Gibson’s motion looked more wild).  For hitters, you’re standing in the box there and you swear that running pitch curled off 10-12 inches from where it was supposed to go.  That’s the eyes playing tricks as a function of the batters parallax view to the pitching lane.  They measure that stuff these days, in reality fastballs break a few inches, curveballs maybe 7-8 inches.  Ya know, not ‘a foot and a half’ like you swear when you strike out.

You get less than .4 seconds to swing, so it’s hard to hit.  But there’s been pitchers with superficial Scherzer / Koufax / Ryan type stuff before, at least the speed.  Raw stuff is not so completely unique.  Yet most actually don’t pan out, don’t get on that run of established success. Why weren’t they so hard to hit?

I wonder if good pitchers… and this is would be applicable broadly to pitchers with generic pro speed and control ….don’t have a quality where that parallax perception of the pitch isn’t embellished / distorted for some kinesiological reason not yet understood.   Like their ball off the hand generates a sweetspot in rpms where the spin can’t be picked up such that the batter would be able to accurately discern its approach… and that this is functionally identical to the batter losing sight of the ball for a frame or two during that .4 second pitch time.

And that pitchers who have this attribute on their pitches are harder to hit, and succeed easier than guys who don’t but superficially throw just as hard.

Dunno.  If it comes to pass, and some sabermatrician or kinesiologist or scout ends up reading this as part of identifying the phenomenon a generation from now, please send a royalty.  Doesn’t have to be a huge one.

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