The 2017 season did not end how the Washington Nationals planned with another disappointing early playoff exit. However, Nationals fans should be happy with the many bright spots of this season. Bryce Harper returned to the star hitter we all knew he was after a rough 2016, Ryan Zimmerman turned around his career with his bat, Anthony Rendon and Gio Gonzalez emerged into star players, and the one-two punch of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg was brilliant again. Scherzer may be the player that stood out from all the others with how great he pitched this season. He was awarded this week with the National League Cy Young Award over Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw and his teammate Strasburg, an accomplishment he has now won in back-to-back seasons and the third of his career.
Scherzer earned all but three first-place votes for the award this year after posting one of his best seasons of his outstanding career. He finished 2017 with a 16-6 record, a career-low 2.51 ERA, and 268 strikeouts while pitching 200 innings. He was first in the National League in strikeouts and opponent batting average against at .178. The Cy Young Award was much deserved by Scherzer, who led as the ace of the Nationals starting pitching staff that was the second best in the National League this season with a combined 3.88 ERA as a unit and an opponent batting average of .239 against them. He was also the starting pitcher for the National League during this season’s All-Star Game. Scherzer won the American League Cy Young Award in 2013 as a member of the Detroit Tigers, along with consecutive awards won with the Nationals the past two seasons, making Scherzer one of six pitchers all-time to win the Cy Young Award in both the AL and NL. He is also the tenth pitcher all-time to win the award three times during his career.
He battled through a late-season neck injury as well to pitch for Washington in the playoffs. Scherzer was untouchable during the National League Division series until the fifth inning of Game 5, where the Chicago Cubs left him without words when he gave up three costly runs in a relief appearance at home, the day after starting and winning Game 4 in Chicago, to lose the series for the Nationals. Regardless of the bad playoff relief outing, Scherzer was the most valuable player on Washington during 2017. The Nationals starting pitching helped take a lot of pressure off of their high-powered offense in 2017, resulting in 97 regular season wins and a second straight National League East division title. Scherzer was not entirely at fault for another Washington postseason collapse and should be expected to pitch at his best during the regular season and playoffs in 2018. Washington brought in new manager Dave Martinez for 2018 to see if he cannot get Scherzer and the Nationals deeper into October.
It’s no secret that after winning this award again, Scherzer should be considered a future Hall of Famer and an all-time great pitcher. In 10 seasons, Scherzer has 141 career wins to go with his career 3.30 ERA, five All-Star appearances, and three Cy Young Awards. He has always been a durable player with little time spent on the disabled list during his career, who gives his full effort every time he takes the mound and is a loved teammate in the clubhouse. Scherzer is a workout warrior and is always aiming to improve his incredible statistics the next year. Many were disappointed with his relief appearance during the playoffs, but everyone expects Scherzer to bounce back to be even better and more reliable in 2018 than he already was in 2017. If Scherzer can pitch anywhere near this level of performance again in 2018, expect the Washington Nationals to be among the top contenders again for the National League pennant and their franchise’s first World Series appearance.
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