With a few days remaining before the All-Star Game, Bruce Bochy still has to decide which horse he wants to ride to start for the National League.
Sorry, Bruce, but Madison Bumgarner is not one of those horses he should be considering.
It's basically down to Zack Greinke and Max Scherzer, who've each been terrific to say the least. Let's take a look at each, and try to decipher who should get the ball in the first inning.
Zack Greinke: 18 starts, 8-2, 1.39 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, .191 BAA, 106 K's in 123 1/3 IP
NL Ranks: 1st in innings, ERA; 2nd in WHIP
The Case for Greinke: The guy has a 1.39 ERA at the All-Star break. That's the lowest at the ASB since 1968. It's also the fourth lowest at the ASB since World War II. He's currently on a scoreless streak of 35 2/3 innings. Last night's 6-0 win over the Phillies was his fifth straight scoreless start. He's retired 35 of his past 36 hitters. He hasn't allowed a runner to third base in the past 27 2/3 innings.
Need I say more?
There's not much Greinke can't do right now, save for literally being absolutely perfect in each outing, but he sure is close. He's in his contract year, and is pitching like a guy who will blow the roof off of free agency this offseason (following in Scherzer's footsteps from last year). Whatever the motivation, he's clearly not only the hottest pitcher in baseball, but probably the best.
Max Scherzer: 17 starts, 9-7, 2.12 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .188 BAA, 143 K's in 123 1/3 IP
NL Ranks: 1st in innings, WHIP, complete games; 2nd in ERA; 4th in wins, ERA
The Case for Scherzer: There might not have been a better pitched three-game stretch in the history of baseball than what Scherzer did in June. First he pitched a complete game, one-hit, 16-strikeout shutout over the Brewers. Then he came within one hit batter of tossing a perfect game over the Pirates, settling for "only" a no-hitter. He capped it off by retiring the first 16 batters in Philadelphia before finally giving up a hit in the sixth. It was simply amazing watching him.
That alone might get him the start, as he was as close as you can possibly be to untouchable in those starts. He's allowed two earned runs or less in 13 of his 17 starts, with 10 of those being one run or less. His strikeouts have been very impressive, tallying six starts in double-digits.
The Nationals haven't run away with the NL East like most experts thought they would, but on a team with some question marks, Scherzer has far and away been the top dog.
The Verdict: This is a really tough call, as you're pretty much flipping a coin between two phenomenal pitchers. In a perfect scenario, they'll each give the NL two shutout innings in the ASG.
However, if Bochy is looking at his best chance of winning the game, then Greinke is the guy. He's simply peaking at the perfect time. While he's riding a five-game scoreless streak, Scherzer is coming off his worst outing of the season, giving up five runs while not making it out of the fifth inning against the Reds on Tuesday. It was clearly a blip on the radar, as he was sensational in his starts before that... but so was Greinke, who's been even better.
If I had to take a guess, I get the feeling that Bochy will lean towards Scherzer, simply because he's been getting more press this year. There's not much Greinke can do about that, because he just quietly goes about his business as most of America is asleep. Scherzer gets the luxury of more eyeballs on his starts.
I'm hoping Bochy will show some NL West love, and not deny a Dodger pitcher from rightfully starting the ASG for the third straight year (Clayton Kershaw was bumped for Matt Harvey and Adam Wainwright). Plus, Greinke would make a better choice to start because he won't fall victim to being too pumped up by trying to blow everyone away. That was the old Greinke. The new one is all about locating and changing speeds, and that's exactly what he'll do in the first inning.
Both men have already made their last starts of the first half, so they've done all they can do. I just think Greinke has done a little more, and should get the nod for the start.