Scherzer-Bumgarner, Price-Thor just two of the duels fans hope for
By Richard Justice
Are you ready for Clayton Kershaw vs. Stephen Strasburg? Got your popcorn and your scorecard? Sometimes, a baseball season delivers an unexpected delight, and that's what we've got Monday night at Dodger Stadium.
That they've never faced one another before makes it even better. Here at MLB.com, Kershaw-Strasburg got us to thinking about about some other pitching matchups we'd like to see.
While we enjoy this one, let's dream about 10 others that have never happened before.
If you think this one might settle the National League Cy Young Award debate, you're thinking too small. These two guys might very well finish one-two in the NL MVP voting. Kershaw leads the NL with a 1.58 ERA, and the Dodgers are 13-1 in his starts. Arrieta is second with a 1.74 ERA, and the Cubs are 12-2 in his starts. They're the gold standards and both tenacious competitors.
What would a great matchup be without a little hot sauce? What we have here are two of the most fiery, demonstrative, take-no-prisoner competitors in the game. Bumgarner once stepped off the mound during a game, looked in the opposing dugout and promised to tear a certain guy's head off. That guy, an All-Star, sat down and shut up. His 2014 postseason performance stands as one of the greatest ever: 6-1, 1.03 ERA. Likewise, Scherzer's emotions are right out there, raw and bubbling at the surface. He's 53-20 with a 2.94 ERA the last three seasons and has averaged 221 innings.
This matchup has October written all over it as the Giants and Cubs seem headed for a collision in the postseason. Both these guys have pitched at a high level for a long time, but they've never been better than they are right now for first-place teams. Cueto is 10-1 with a 2.10 ERA. Lester is 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA. Lester has leaned heavily on a very good cutter for most of his career. Cueto has added one the last three seasons. Both are thriving in an environment in which expectations are high and the confidence level through the roof.
If you need to be convinced that pitching is an art form, Greinke-King Felix would erase any doubt. Both of them throw more consistently in the low 90-mph range these days, but they win anyway and remind us that it's as much about location and movement as velocity. In the last six seasons, Greinke is 91-29 with a 2.90 ERA and Hernandez 76-52 with a 3.02.
This is about young power arms. Fernandez, 23, goes with a 95-mph fastball and 84-mph slider. He challenges hitters, makes them uncomfortable. Gray is less demonstrative on the mound, but has some of the same stuff, that is, a big-time Major League fastball. His curveball is one of the better ones in the game. In 86 career starts, Gray has a 3.20 ERA. In 60 career starts, Fernandez has a 2.43 ERA.
The world would be watching. At least, the millions of baseball fans in Japan would be. These one-time Japanese League rivals bring a large repertoire of pitches and an understanding of how to keep hitters off balance. Darvish throws harder, but both rely heavy on wicked split-finger fastballs.
If you liked Scherzer-Bumgarner, you'll love Harvey-Verlander. Both bring emotion to the mound. Both rely on a fastball-slider-curve mix. Most of it is hard stuff. Both guys throw hard enough to make hitters uncomfortable, and both guys have experienced the highs and lows that are part of the game.
You didn't think we'd pass up a chance to match Stetson University alums, did you? Both will throw four pitches at any point in the count. Kluber's best is an 88-mph cutter that would make Mariano Rivera proud. deGrom builds game plans around a 93-mph fastball, but also has confidence in a slider, curve and change. What's interesting abut this matchup is that Kluber and deGrom have the power to win that way, but have the understanding of how effective the softer stuff can be.
This would be fun for fans, but it would be great fun for Hamels and Sale, as each could learn from the other. Hamels is a master at changing speeds and keeping hitters off balance. Sale throws harder, challenges hitters more. At some point, though, he will be forced to make the middle-aged adjustment that every pitcher has to make, and paying attention to Hamels would be a significant step in the right direction.
Our friends over at Statcast™ love Syndergaard. His 98.3-mph fastball is tops among all starting pitchers. His sinker -- a mere 98.1 mph -- is the second-fastest pitch. So with Syndergaard, we're not just getting a great pitcher -- we're getting a guy who'll hit 100 mph. Price works in the 92-mph range in his ninth big league season. He's relying more on a cutter this season and is throwing more changes. This superb matchup would be a contrast in styles.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.