ST. LOUIS I want to talk about Max Scherzer.A couple of days ago, the Nationals right-hander took the mound Felix Hernandez Jersey on ESPN’s Sunday night baseball and absolutely dominated the Cardinals, the hometown ballclub he grew up rooting for as a kid. In the first two innings, Scherzer struck out five of the six batters he faced, with Yadier Molina’s weak ground out to shortstop looking like a mighty win for the Cardinals because at least he made contact and put the ball in play.MORE: Bryce Harper receives most NL All-Star votesScherzer eventually allowed a couple of hitsand finished with 12 strikeouts in seven shutout innings. This was his 17th start of the 2017 season, and the 10th time he’s haddouble-digit strikeouts. After the game, though, the way his incredible outing was discu sed in the Nationals’ clubhouse speaks volumes to the type of pitcher he’s become.That’s why he’s an All-Star, Bryce Harper said, matter-of-factly. That’s why he’s Max Scherzer. He’s one of the best in the league, if not the best.The Nationals had lost their previous three games, and Scherzer’s performance helped the team avoid a sweep at the hands of the Cardinals. Manager Dusty Baker casually dropped his ace in with some of the best in the history of the game. Again, matter-of-factly.Guys like Max and Kershaw and the top pitchers in baseball, that’s what they’re supposed to do, and they’re paid handsomely to do it, and they take pride in it, stopping streaks, Baker said. I’ve seen that a lot with the great pitchers, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard. Those guys were known to stop streaks.MORE: Scherzer, Harper celebrate All-Star berths with big gamesHe’s on the All-Star team, and barring some rather stunning surprise, he’ll start the game for the Nationals League. He deserves the nod, because here’s the thing: Scherzer has never been better than he is right now, and that’s really saying something. Remember, this is a guy who has won the Cy Young Award twice (once in each league), with the Tigers in 2013 and the Nationals in 2016.He’s been so much better this year than he was in either of those Cy Young seasons. Let’s look:2013: 2.90 ERA (AL Cy Young)2016: 2.96 ERA (NL Cy Young)2017: 1.94 ERAThoughts: Yeah. Of course ERA is not the perfect standalone stat, but it’s a pretty solid starting point for this comparison. You’ll see the peripherals back up the ERA.2013: 10.1 K/9 (AL Cy Young)2016: 11.2 K/9 (NL Cy Young)2017: 12.2 K/9Thoughts: After the game Sunday, I asked Scherzer whether he takes any more satisfaction watching a hitter swing and mi s at a pitch or whether he prefers seeing a frozen batter take a strike.It doesn’t matter how you get a strike, he said. You’re trying to sequence guys so that you can throw out pitches with two strikes. Most of the time https://www.marinersedges.com/seattle-mariners/nelson-cruz-jersey that means a strikeout, but if that means a lazy fly ball or weak contact, that’s just as effective as well. It’s trying to find the right sequence so that you can throw your best pitch with two strikes.But really, 10.1 strikeouts per nine is great for a starter. And 12.2 is kind of ridiculous.2013: 2.74 FIP (AL Cy Young)2016: 3.24 FIP (NL Cy Young)2017: 2.61 FIPThoughts: It’s not just that Scherzer is getting luckywith at’em balls. This is the best Fielding Independent Pitching mark of his career.WOMACK: Max Scherzer’s on a Hall of Fame path, but far from a lock2013: 6.4 H/9 (AL Cy Young)2016: 6.5 H/9 (NL Cy Young)2017: 5.0 H/9Thoughts: Opponents are batting just .159 against Scherzer this year, with a BABIP of .222, mostly because even when they do make contact it’s not good contact. Check this out: His line-drive percentage of 14.1 is best in the bigs among qualified starters, and his rate of 26.5 percent hard contact Edgar Martinez Jersey is third in the majors. Good stuff.2013: 0.970 WHIP (AL Cy Young)2016: 0.968 WHIP (NL Cy Young)2017: 0.771 WHIPThoughts: We’ve talked about the hits against, but he’s throwing a ton of strikes, too (as always). This year he’s walking 5.7 percent of the batters he’s faced, compared with 6.7 percent and 6.2 percent in his other Cy Young seasons (his career-best is 3.8 percent in 2015, btw). 2013: 6.7 rWAR (AL Cy Young)2016: 6.2 rWAR (NL Cy Young)2017: 4.7 rWARThoughts: Unlike the other numbers we’ve looked at, WAR is a cumulative stat. Scherzer posted two very good numbers in his Cy Young campaigns, but he’s on pace to put up the best number of his career. He posted a 7.1 rWAR (the Baseball-Reference formula) in 2015, which wasn’t either of his Cy Young seasons.Looks like he’s on the brink of posting his best rWAR in his third Cy Young season.