As Nationals ace Max Scherzer pumped in 98 mile per hour fastballs and mixed in a filthy slider, most hitters at last night’s All Star Game in Miami knew their fate before stepping into the batter’s box and ended up flailing at anything close to the strike zone. Then Red Sox flamethrower Chris Sale took the mound, and he produced similar results.
Scherzer and Sale, starters who typically pitch seven or eight innings per start and will most likely win the Cy Young in their respective leagues, were each tasked with facing between four and eight hitters in the exhibition game.
This shortened workload allowed them to go all out for one or two innings and the results were scary. This got me thinking: if some of baseball’s best starters were converted into a bullpen role, would they become virtually unhittable?
Short answer: Yes. Scherzer was able to direct all of his energy and adrenaline into one inning. As he stomped around the mound and grunted on the release of every pitch, even Aaron Judge, a reincarnation of Paul Bunyan, looked intimidated.
We also have some context for this experiment: look at what Andrew Miller, a converted starter, has done in his ‘fireman’ role with the Cleveland Indians.
The combination of his high-90’s fastball and possibly the best slider in baseball history carried the Tribe to a World Series appearance last year. Miller only throws two pitches but both are extremely effective and he could go down as the best reliever ever.
So, which five starting pitchers would be the toughest to face in a one-inning situation?
1. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Scherzer proved last night that if he was asked to get three outs in the ninth inning of a World Series game he would be nearly impossible to hit.
2. Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers
Fulmer was selected to the American League All Star team but didn’t get a chance to pitch in the game.
Detroit’s ace often hits 97 or 98 on the radar gun and if he knew his only job was to get out three hitters, I’m sure he could reach 100.
Fulmer is having a breakout season and will be one of the AL’s best pitchers for years to come.
3. Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
Syndergaard has battled injuries this season, but when healthy he is a one of baseball’s most intimidating pitchers.
He dominated the San Francisco Giants in last year’s Wild Card Game, consistently pumping in 100 mile per hour fastballs and mixing it up with his deadly slider, which can touch 95.
If Syndergaard only had to lock in for one inning, the results would be scary.
4. Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays
Sanchez is now a starter, but when he pitched out of the pen, his fastball consistently reached triple digits.
Sanchez, still only 25-years old, has yet to refine his approach on the mound, but when he mixes in his wicked 12-6 curveball it leaves batters stuck in the mud.
5. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates
Cole was a prized prospect in the Pirates system but outside of a strong 2015 season, he has yet to live up to the hype.
Cole’s average 2017 pitch speed is 96.13 miles per hour and he consistently leads starters in that category.
I think a decreased role for Cole would spell disaster for opposing hitters.