Houston Astros World Series: Analyzing the Cole vs Scherzer matchup

Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

With Game 1 of the World Series set for the Houston Astros, how do pitchers Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer compare? Read on for tonight’s prediction.

Houston Astros fans — the World Series will start tonight.  Houston Astros’ manager, AJ Hinch, has decided on his starters for the first three games.  Gerrit Cole will get the nod for tonight, Justin Verlander in Game 2 tomorrow, and Zack Greinke in Game 3 this Friday.

Cole will face Washington’s ace, Max Scherzer tonight. The Nationals’ starting pitcher has experienced a down year—well, down for Scherzer’s ridiculously elite resume, at least. Scherzer features 170 career wins to just 89 losses, good for a .656 winning percentage. At age 35, the right-hander has a shot at reaching 300 career wins to punch a ticket to Cooperstown, provided he stays healthy, remains effective, and chooses to pitch himself off into the distant sunset.

Over Scherzer’s last three regular-season campaigns, the right-handed hurler’s 2.92 ERA in 2019 appears to be a drop-off from stellar earned run averages of 2.51 and 2.53 in 2017 and 2018, respectively. But come on, how many MLB starting pitchers would kill to have an ERA lower than 3.00 at the end of a season?

Additionally, the three-time Cy Young Award winner’s 2019 regular season campaign marks the first time since 2014 that the starting pitcher featured a WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) north of 1. In other words, Scherzer averaged slightly more than a runner on base per inning this season.

Concerning durability, 2019 represents the first year that Scherzer has not pitched at least 200 innings since 2012. Could a 12-year career spanning 2,290 innings of mileage on his right arm be catching up to him?

That all said, Scherzer’s 2.92 ERA and 243 strikeouts stand alone as the eighth-best in the majors for 2019, while his WHIP of 1.03 represents the seventh-best showing of any starter who has pitched at least 120 innings. As a matter of fact, only six pitchers who threw a minimum of 120 innings this season earned a whip under 1.00; three of them play for the Houston Astros and will also pitch in the 2019 World Series: Verlander (0.80), Cole (0.89), and Greinke (0.98).

Translation—the Houston Astros’ offense will have their work cut out for them against arguably one of the ten best starting pitchers currently living in Max Scherzer. In 20 innings pitched so far this postseason, Scherzer’s numbers prove elite: a 1.80 ERA, a .85 whip, 27 strikeouts, and 2 wins.

But the argument can also be made that Cole turned in either the first or second-best stat line for

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any pitcher in the majors this season. Among all Major League starters in 2019, Cole ranks second in wins (20), third in ERA (2.50), second in WHIP (0.89), first in strikeouts (326), and is tied for second place in the category of fewest losses among starting pitchers who threw at least 160 innings.

Bottom Line

A Cole-Scherzer duel should play out as a treat for baseball fans everywhere—well, except for LA and literally the entire tri-state nation of Yankees’ fans. However, look for the beleaguered Cardinals faithful to tune in as Scherzer is a St. Louis-area native. Cardinals’ Nation will be okay—after all, they have rising star phenom, Jack Flaherty, under team control for years to come.

Though Scherzer did not have a career year in 2019—and likely will not win the National League Cy Young award—the Houston Astros’ hitters face a formidable opponent. Scherzer has made it to the Fall Classic before in 2012, ultimately losing alongside his former teammate, Justin Verlander, in four games to the San Francisco Giants.

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But the Astros will be sorely mistaken to overlook how hungry the Nationals’ ace has become for over a decade to win a ring. Look for Hurricane Max to give the Houston Astros’ bats fits for two solid starts and a potential relief appearance. As for a loose prediction, if the Houston Astros fire on all cylinders, Houston should win the series four games to two.