With the Mets’ 2022 season set to get underway this evening, Max Scherzer is without question the team’s ace—for now. If and when Jacob deGrom is fully healthy and back in the rotation, he’d reclaim that title, but Scherzer has been one of the very best pitchers in the game in recent years.
In 2021, Scherzer had the second-best ERA among qualified starting pitchers in all of baseball with a 2.46. Only Corbin Burnes, who won the National League Cy Young, was better by ERA. And Zack Wheeler finished ahead of Scherzer in Cy Young voting with a slightly higher ERA but quite a few more innings pitched.
Since the start of the 2019 season, Scherzer’s 2.86 ERA is the fifth-best in baseball, just 0.02 behind Gerrit Cole for fourth-best, among pitchers who have thrown at least 200 innings.
On almost any team that didn’t have deGrom waiting in the wings to return to the rotation, Scherzer would be the ace right now, even at the age of 37. He’s dealing with what he has described as a minor hamstring issue right now, and he may or may not make his first start of the season in the Mets’ second game—assuming the first one is played despite the lousy weather.
If you’re unfamiliar with Scherzer’s track record, he made his major league debut in Arizona in 2008 as a highly-touted prospect. In two years with the Diamondbacks and three more with the Tigers from 2010 through 2012, Scherzer was a solid major league pitcher. But he really turned a corner in 2013, posting a 2.90 ERA in 214.1 innings and winning the American League Cy Young.
After one more very good year with the Tigers in 2014, Scherzer hit free agency. Had the Mets hadn’t been strapped by very limited payroll budgets under the Wilpons, perhaps a player of his caliber would have been of interest to the team. In the reality that the franchise experienced, though, Scherzer signed with the Nationals, was outstanding for them throughout the course of the deal, won two more Cy Young awards, and helped win the team a World Series in 2019.
It’s still a little bit mind blowing that Scherzer is with the Mets now. But there’s no reason to think he’ll be a lesser pitcher than he was last year or the year before that. Age catches up to all players at some point, but the very elite ones have a tendency to defy it more than the average major leaguer.