There was really no other way to say it: Max Scherzer was getting his darthole blown out.
The still-newly acquired Tiger has getting shelled start after start at the beginning of the 2010 season, sporting a 1-4 record and a 7.29 ERA (highlighted by a start at Minnesota where he allowed 10 earned runs and walked 4 batters — with a single strikeout — in only 4.1 innings). His mechanics were off, he seemed uneasy on the mound, and his frustrations were palpable. Even though he was the crown jewel of the Curtis Granderson trade and a former first-round pick, he got a ticket to Toledo to work his **** out.
It was hard not to see this as a failure on Scherzer’s part, but he accepted the demotion, worked hard to address his problems, and came back a changed pitcher. Hell, his first start back he notched 14 Ks in 5.2 innings against against a pesky Oakland squad.
We know the rest of the story on Scherzer, how he kept improving to the point where he got a bombass contract from the Nationals due to his consistent domination of hitters. But this isn’t to compare Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer in any true sense of skill; though Sanchez may have a no-hitter and an ERA crown under his belt, he isn’t a fraction of the pitcher Scherzer was/is. The only comparison is that the two pitchers were/are struggling mightily despite reputations that dictate they should be much better than were/are, and both deserve(d) a trip to Triple A.
Sanchez’s numbers aren’t pretty. Actually, they’re in the Fugly category, like Sloth-from-Goonies-reflected-in-hobo-vomit Fugly: his ERA+ is 63, while the league average is 100. His FIP is 5.62, and his xFIP is 5.10. His BB/9 is up to 4.25, his highest since an injury-riddled 2009. In fact, look at this guy:
And then imagine the EXACT OPPOSITE. It’s a chore to put him into a game, and it honestly seems like the only reason that Brad Ausmus insists on resorting to using Sanchez is because A) He’s beyond loyal to a fault and B) his contract demands it.
And right now this looks like a flaming turd of a deal: Sanchez is making $16m this season to shart his pants, and is looking at another $16m next year. Oh, but don’t worry – the Tigers can buy out his contract in 2018 for a measly $5m.
Essentially, the Tigers should be demoting Sanchez in order for him to get his stuff back together. It appears there’s no physical ailment causing him to Dutch Oven the Tigers, so it must be a mechanical problem…or a mental one. Regardless, he needs to be out of the ever-critical eye of the big league media, away from a home ballpark where he’s more than likely to recieve a deluge of boos for every appearance. Put him in an evironment where it’s low-key, a place where he can be basically the sole focus of the manager and pitching coach. He’s not old enough to lose his stuff completely, and he’s displayed the skills and savvy to be an effective Number 2 or 3 starter for a plethora of years now.
I can’t tell you why the Tigers aren’t being supportive enough to offer him an escape clause right now. They’re constantly putting him in position to fail, and he’s happy to oblige them. He needs a demotion not for a punishment (like Anthony Gose), but instead a chance to fix his issues in peace.
Maybe, just maybe, he’ll come back a better pitcher than before.
He sure can’t get much worse.