It took one year for Max Scherzer to be called the ace of the Nationals' staff. Besides throwing two no-hitters in 2015, Scherzer was the team leader in wins (14), strikeouts (276) and ERA (2.79). Scherzer looks to be even better in 2016.
MLB.com caught up with Scherzer on Monday and talked about last season, new manager Dusty Baker and MVP Bryce Harper.
MLB.com: What do the Nationals have to do to at least win the National League East?
Scherzer: Everybody has to have a career year, and that has to be the mindset as a player. What am I going to do to have the best year of my career? It starts at the individual level, every single person. Everybody has to answer that question. When you can do that individually, that will go up to the team level. If everyone plays at their best, I'm confident we can reach the goals that are set up for this year.
MLB.com: In retrospect, how come this team didn't win last year?
Scherzer: Not everybody peaked at the same time. We had guys peaking at different times of the year. We were never on all cylinders. There were times we played some great baseball over some stretches. More often than not, our lows were lower. We were in first place through August. We weren't able to close that down. That was disappointing to have that happen that late in the season.
MLB.com: With Dusty Baker as your manager, how do you expect him to change things?
Scherzer: He has already changed things.
MLB.com: In what way?
Scherzer: By keeping everybody loose. We're having more fun. His personality has so much charisma. Sometimes you just need new faces, and this is the situation. He has his own style. He's old school. [Joking] He played with Babe Ruth. [Being serious] He has seen so much baseball. He just knows so much. He knows how to manage. He already has set the tone definitely this year. We'll see how we respond to it.
MLB.com: What did you think of your season in 2015?
Scherzer: I really made some strides forward. I continue to make myself a better pitcher. When you look at the first-pitch strikes, that was the highest of my career. You look at the walks, it was lowest of my career. Those are really two things I take pride in. I achieved those marks that I wanted to hit.
Along the way, I ran into some problems. In the second half, I didn't pitch as well as I would have liked to. I wasn't able to finish strong in the second half, which left a sour taste in my mouth. There are things I think I can do differently. I fully intend to be better than I was in '15.
MLB.com: What do you plan to do differently to make sure that you are pitching consistently?
Scherzer: It's the hardest thing to do in professional sports -- be consistent. What I'm saying is, I understand it takes 1,000 actions behind it. I'm not going to judge myself on one start or five starts. It's what you do in 33 starts. You have to have command of your pitches and be able to use them in different times. That's one thing I'm doing in Spring Training, trying to use some pitches in different sequences, help myself become a better pitcher, so I'm able to change the looks multiple times in the lineup.
MLB.com: You have the distinction of playing with Bryce Harper and Miguel Cabrera during their MVP seasons. How do you compare the two players?
Scherzer: They are both special in their own way. The one thing that they share in common is, they can hit a pitcher's pitch and they can hit it for a home run. Obviously Bryce is very talented. [However] Miggy is complete. He is the most complete hitter in this generation. There is just no way of getting around it. Bryce isn't Miggy -- yet. Miggy has the ability to hit situationally, be able to go the other way, take the singles when he needs to and drive in runs. It feels like he can do almost anything at will.
Bryce is still developing that part of his game. He is a phenomenal talent, one of the best hitters I've ever seen. He is still learning the game. You just can't make a senior out of the freshman. It takes years to learn this. The good thing about Bryce is, he wants to learn. You just can't walk into the league and become the best. You watch the best, study them and figure them out. It's going to be fun to watch Bryce in the next few years, because he has a chance to do some of the things I've seen out of Miggy.