Last night, the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer threw six innings of shutout baseball to lead his team to a 4-3 win. With that victory, coupled with a Giants loss to Milwaukee, the Dodgers took sole possession of first place in the NL West.
Since acquiring Scherzer, the Dodgers have won all six starts he’s made, and the three-time Cy Young winner has gone 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA and just a .473 OPS against. And Scherzer hasn’t done this against slouches either. His six starts as a member of the Dodgers are against the Astros, Phillies, Padres, Braves, and the Mets twice (I’ll admit their offense sucks). That’s a pretty impressive stretch, and it undoubtedly played a major role in the Dodgers’ overtaking the Giants for first place in the NL West.
However, it’s probably played a much bigger role than you realize.
Max Scherzer’s presence in the Dodgers’ clubhouse represents more than just the stats he puts up. It represents the Giants’ and Padres’ inability to secure the players they wanted at the trade deadline.
You think the Giants, who lead all of Major League Baseball in home runs, are top-10 in runs per game, and have had numerous starting pitchers hit the injured list since the start of August, wanted Kris Bryant more than Mad Max? No. Not by a long shot.
You think the Padres, who are competing with the two teams at the top of MLB in team ERA, and have also seen tons of injuries to their pitching staff, wanted Adam Frazier over Scherzer? They barely had a place to put Frazier. They had to move Tatis to the outfield in order to make room for him, and protect his shoulder. Both the Giants and Padres needed more starting pitching stability. It’s not that their rotations are bad. They’re not. It’s that with so many injuries plaguing their starters, someone as dominant and durable as Scherzer would’ve been a huge commodity.
Both teams were clearly interested in Scherzer at the deadline, too. This isn’t just speculation. The deal that would send Scherzer to San Diego was all but done. People were tweeting about it with fire emojis, and the one where the face is puffing out air through its nose (you know the one). Padres fans were going nuts, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them.
Obviously, any team would be thrilled to add Scherzer, a future Hall of Famer, to their squad. However, the Dodgers pretty much had to do so. They had expectations to win the NL West. The Giants were never supposed to be a threat. Their best offensive player is a 34-year-old catcher whose last great season came in 2017. Now just imagine if the Giants acquired Scherzer at the deadline. Sure, they have Kevin Gausman already, but with Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani, Logan Webb, Aaron Sanchez, Johnny Cueto, and Tyler Beede, having all made multiple and/or lengthy trips to the IL in 2021, having a second arm in the rotation that you don’t have to worry about would’ve lifted a huge weight off the Giants’ shoulders. Not to mention that Scherzer is an innings-eater. He goes deep in his starts. With the Giants having blown 24 saves this season — tied for fourth-most in MLB — Scherzer would often put that bullpen in better positions to hold those leads.
I’m not going to make this about how the Dodgers’ humongous payroll allows them to trade for all the best players in the world while still being able to maintain the core of their farm system, which in turn allows them to trade for even better players, yadda yadda yadda. It’s a vicious cycle. This is about the Dodgers making an incredible move to really upend with their rivals’ plans. I’m a Giants fan, but bravo Dodgers. That Scherzer move was even better than most people realize.