Max Scherzer should win the Cy Young, run support or no

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The reporter that riled up Jim Leyland was asking the wrong questions, because Scherzer's been flat-out awesome.

It's not nice to play with an old man's emotions like this, but somebody in Detroit has successfully riled up Jim Leyland and generated a stupid controversy out of nothing by asking about the run support that Max Scherzer has had.

Now, it's true. That run support has been spectacular. The Tigers have scored almost six runs per start in Scherzer's outings, which has allowed the best #2 starter in baseball to rack up the double-yous more reliably than anyone else in the game. There's no doubt that, without that sterling run support, Scherzer would have had a far worse record in 2013.

Leyland was reportedly annoyed by the question, saying he doesn't...

...believe in any of that [stat] stuff. I won't listen to any of it and have no interest in talking about it. You can figure out whatever you want. My view of pitchers' stats is this: Did he give us a chance to win? If he did that on any kind of consistent basis for me, then he's a very good pitcher.... If you want to simplify it, it's just been Scherzer's year but don't make it sound as if he hasn't pitched good.

While strident about being anti-stat, Leyland is essentially right here. The run support Max Scherzer gets is irrelevant to the fact that he's had a tremendous season, and perhaps been the best pitcher in the American League. The unspoken subtext of the writer's question was that Scherzer doesn't deserve the success he's having, that he's not as good a pitcher as his record indicates, and that he doesn't deserve the Cy Young that he's going to win.

That's just flat out wrong. It sets up some kind of idiotic stat geeks vs. old school argument that isn't even going on right now, and whoever asked it was being disingenuous. Even if you remove the run support, and therefore the won-loss record from the debate, it's not at all clear that Scherzer's not the best pitcher in the AL. As of Wednesday morning, here's what pitcher wins above replacement leaderboards look like:

Name

Fangraphs WAR

Baseball Reference WAR

Max Scherzer

5.7

6.0

Felix Hernandez

5.8

5.2

Chris Sale

4.7

6.2

Go ahead, try and definitively pick the best pitcher in the AL from that list. You can't. WAR isn't that precise. Meanwhile, Scherzer is third in ERA, first in WHIP, second in strikeouts, and fifth in innings (just six innings behind the leader), and he's had all of this success pitching for most of the year in front of one of the league's leakiest defenses -- things are better with Jose Iglesias around, but that's a handful of starts. Indeed, Scherzer has been as good as any pitcher in all of baseball, and will wind up being a perfectly fine selection when he does win the Cy Young Award. Not a single stathead should complain about it. In this instance, the new school and the old are pretty well aligned and in the same corner.

So, yes, Jim Leyland was right to be annoyed. But he should be annoyed with whichever writer stoked the embers of the old nerds vs. jocks rivalry, and not with "all that stat stuff." At least, that is, until someone asks him about Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera again.

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