Max Scherzer has thrown no-hitters. He’s struck out 20 batters in a game. On Wednesday, he joined a club that counts Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay as its only other members.

Here’s your smoking jacket, Max. Pedro will teach you the secret handshake.

In a landslide decision, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America named Scherzer the National League Cy Young Award winner. He’s the sixth pitcher to claim the prize in both leagues—he won it in 2013 with the Detroit Tigers—and joins the pack of aces listed above.

The Washington Nationals right-hander got 25 of 30 possible first-place votes. The Chicago Cubs‘ Kyle Hendricks and Los Angeles Dodgers‘ Clayton Kershaw got two first-place votes each, and the Cubs’ Jon Lester got one.

Scherzer posted a 2.96 ERA, led the NL with 228.1 innings and notched an MLB-leading 284 strikeouts. He also went 20-7, though the outmoded win stat doesn’t carry the cache it once did.

The Nats’ season ended in disappointment. They were eliminated in the NL Division Series by the Dodgers, with Scherzer throwing six strong innings but taking a no-decision in the deciding Game 5.

That may explain his drive to improve in 2017.

“I want to find a new way to be better, go out there and find new ways to get guys out,” Scherzer said, per USA Today‘s Jorge L. Ortiz. “I’ve been dreaming up different ways to do it. When I get to spring training, that will be my thing, to find a new way.”

Washington would be fine with more of the old way.

Some pitchers wobble under the weight of big contracts—we’re looking at you, Zack Greinke and David Price. Scherzer, meanwhile, has delivered on his top-of-the-rotation pedigree since inking a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nats in January 2015.

In two seasons with Washington, Scherzer has gone 34-19, notched a 2.88 ERA, averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings and posted the second-highest WAR (12) among pitchers in either league, according to FanGraphs’ measure.

He’s had headline-grabbing moments, too, including his pair of no-nos in 2015 and the aforementioned 20-strikeout game in May, which tied the MLB record.

Stephen Strasburg has the stuff to be special when healthy. Tanner Roark roared back after a disappointing 2015 and led Nationals starters with a 2.83 ERA last season. Scherzer, however, has been Washington’s rock and undisputedly its best pitcher.

If Kershaw hadn’t missed all of July and August with a back injury, he might have won his fourth career Cy Young. Even with his time on the shelf, the Dodgers ace got first-place votes. When healthy, he’s probably still the top arm in baseball.

Scherzer is in the conversation, however, with his durability, bat-missing stuff and propensity for historic achievements.

There were Cy Young arguments to be made for Hendricks and Lester, who finished 1-2 in the big leagues with ERA marks of 2.13 and 2.44, respectively.

Scherzer’s case was tough to quash, though, as Lester himself winkingly acknowledged:

Scherzer is 32. His production could falter in the waning years of his Nationals tenure. That’s been the fate of most pitchers who’ve signed nine-figure deals, as the Washington Post‘s Barry Svrluga outlined:

The 19 pitchers who have signed $100-million deals, Scherzer included, generally have delivered in the first two years of the contract, as Scherzer did. … Averages over the first two seasons:

13-8 record, 3.28 ERA, 1.150 WHIP with 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings, averaging 197-2/3 innings pitched.

But compare that to seasons three and beyond:

8-6 record, 3.73 ERA, 1.251 WHIP, 7.55 [SO/9] and, most alarmingly, 131-1/3 innings pitched.

Maybe a decline is imminent. Maybe this will be Mad Max’s zenith, and it’s all downhill from here. That’s hand-wringing for another day, however.

For now, Nats fans can rejoice, or at least accept their ace’s award as a consolation prize for another fizzled postseason run.

Scherzer, meanwhile, can slip on his Cy-in-each-league coat, grab a seat at the table and give the Big Unit the secret handshake.

He’s earned it.


All statistics courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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