WASHINGTON -- It's easy to tell once Max Scherzer finds himself in a groove on the mound. He fires another strike three and then stomps around behind the mound, often yelling to himself, as the ball is thrown around the infield. Once he receives the ball again, Scherzer quickly stands back on the mound, his eyes locked into the catcher and ready to flood the strike zone again with pitches that often flummox opposing batters. The symptoms of a historic performance can be easy to spot, but for an opposing team, far more difficult to stop.
Scherzer was at perhaps the height of his talent facing his former Tigers teammates on May 11, when he tied a Major League record with 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Scherzer won the Esurance MLB Award for Best Performance for that display of dominance and for Best Pitcher, when the awards were revealed on Friday night.
The Esurance MLB Awards annually honor Major League Baseball's greatest achievements as part of an industry-wide balloting process that includes five groups, each of which accounts for 20 percent of the overall vote: media, front-office personnel, retired MLB players, fans at MLB.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) voters.
The MLB Awards are an all-inclusive program, encompassing the top players and performances from both the American League and National League from Opening Day through the end of the postseason.
Individual awards went to the Best Major Leaguer in addition to the winners in the following categories: Best Hitter, Pitcher, Rookie, Defensive Player, Manager, Executive, Social Media Personality and Postseason Performer.
Winners were also recognized for the year's best Offensive Play, Defensive Play, Regular-Season Moment, Postseason Moment, Single-Game Performance, Social Media Post, Fan Catch, Broadcast Call, Player-Fan Interaction and Trending Topic.
Winners of the 2016 Esurance MLB Awards were unveiled at a reception in Manhattan's Chelsea Market, on MLB social channels and during a live broadcast on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Scherzer can add those two honors to the National League Cy Young Award he secured on Wednesday night from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He also won the American League honors in 2013, making him just the sixth pitcher in history to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues.
The case for Scherzer as the Best Pitcher was built largely on his strikeout ability. He led the Majors with 284 K's this season, the best strikeout-to-walk ratio at 5.07 and struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings (third in the NL). He also posted the lowest WHIP at 0.97, led NL pitchers with 6.2 wins above replacement, threw an NL-high 228 1/3 innings and also collected a NL-leading 20 victories.
"Toughest category: Best pitcher," former Major League pitcher and MLB Network analyst Al Leiter said. "It was tough to pick between a few guys who arguably led their teams to the postseason, but in the end I couldn't look past Scherzer's K total and 20 wins."
And Scherzer was honored for that memorable night at Nationals Park when he became the fourth pitcher in MLB history to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game. It was Scherzer, who also has a pair of no-hitters on his resume, at the peak of his dominance in one of the best performances not only of the 2016 season but of all time.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.