Could Scherzer set the bar for Zimmermann?

Could Scherzer set the bar for Zimmermann?
January 15, 2014, 11:15 am
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146 players filed for arbitration in Major League Baseball on Tuesday, setting the stage for teams and players to exchange salary figures on Friday.

As expected, a notable group of ace starting pitchers filed for arbitration, including three former Cy Young winners in Clayton Kershaw, David Price and Max Scherzer. The next step, many presume, will be extensions for Kershaw and Scherzer, with a potential record-setting sum for the Dodgers’ lefty.

So where does that leave Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann? He also filed for arbitration and, though not likely to receive Kershaw money, could be in line for an extension himself.

Though Scherzer just won the Cy Young in the American League, as Kershaw did for the NL, Kershaw is expected to command a lot more. He has five consecutive seasons with an ERA under 3.00 and four straight with at least 200 innings pitched. No pitcher has been more consistently dominant since 2009 – his first full season – than Kershaw has. 

One report says the Dodgers will settle with Kershaw by Friday and the money could reach upwards of $300 million. That effectively sets Kershaw aside on his own, leaving Zimmermann and Scherzer as better comparisons.

Scherzer was better in 2013 than Zimmermann was, but is he worth more money? Here is a look at their numbers over the last three seasons with cumulative stats below. 

Max Scherzer

2011 – 15-9, 4.43 ERA, 33 GS, 195.0 IP, 96 ER, 174 SO, 1.349 WHIP, 3.11 SO/BB

2012 – 16-7, 3.74 ERA, 32 GS, 187.2 IP, 78 ER, 231 SO, 1.274 WHIP, 3.85 SO/BB

2013 – 21-3, 2.90 ERA, 32 GS, 214.1 IP, 69 ER, 240 SO, 0.970 WHIP, 4.29 SO/BB

2011-13 – 52-19, 3.66 ERA, 597 IP

Jordan Zimmermann

2011 – 8-11, 3.18 ERA, 26 GS, 161.1 IP, 57 ER, 124 SO, 1.147 WHIP, 4.00 SO/BB

2012 – 12-8, 2.94 ERA, 32 GS, 195.2 IP, 64 ER, 153 SO, 1.170 WHIP, 3.56 SO/BB

2013 – 19-9, 3.25 ERA, 32 GS, 213.1 IP, 77 ER, 161 SO, 1.088 WHIP, 4.03 SO/BB

ERA 2011-13 – 39-28, 3.12 ERA, 570.1 IP

As you see, Scherzer has improved significantly each season. He’s already a Cy Young winner, is just 29 and could conceivably get even better. He was also the best pitcher on a team that won their division and made the playoffs in 2013. 

Overall, however, he hasn’t been any better than Zimmermann over the last three seasons. Zimmermann, in fact, has held opponents to 0.54 less runs on average. That’s significant even with the delineation between AL and NL lineups. He's also two years younger that Scherzer.

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Scherzer can be a free agent after this coming season while Zimmermann is under control through 2015. The Tigers also traded Prince Fielder to the Rangers in November which gave them more financial flexibility. All signs point to an extension for Scherzer and it could happen soon.

Whatever number Scherzer gets could give insight into what Zimmermann is worth. He may not have the name recognition or accolades that Scherzer has, but he’s been just as effective for his team.