Mizzou's Greatest, #63: Max Scherzer

US PRESSWIRE

Max Scherzer lights up the universe.

The few times I noticed Max Scherzer during his first year at Mizzou, I saw what most people did: a goofy freshman with a goofy smile that started in those goofy mis-matched eyes.

When Tim Jamieson and his staff scouted the young Chesterfield pitcher, what they saw was a raw pitcher with an arm like a howitzer, but with little control over his pitches. He was all arms and legs flailing about, striking out a lot of high school batters due to their abject fear as often as he did through skill.

"Tons of potential and a great athlete, all that good stuff, but he needed to mature and develop," according to Tony Vitello, who was just a rookie himself as a pitching coach. (Columbia Missourian, April 5, 2005)

In his freshman year, Max pitched only 20 innings, mostly from the bullpen, with a 5.85 ERA. But he and the coaches spent that first year molding him into a student of both the art and the science of pitching. The result was that he earned the Friday night ace job going into his sophomore season and made it his own throughout the next two years.

In his sophomore season, he broke the school record for strikeouts (131), pitched seven innings of a combined no-hitter against Texas Tech, led the Tigers to an NCAA Regional, and was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and an All American.

In his junior season, he led the Tigers to their first ever NCAA Super Regional.

Of all the star baseball players Mizzou has seen over 120+ years -- people like Phil Bradley, Dave Silvestri, Ian Kinsler -- what makes Max Scherzer worthy of being the only one listed in the 100 Greatest?

1) Scherzer is the highest ever MLB draft pick from Mizzou, picked 11th in the first round.

2) Max's impact on the Mizzou baseball program cannot be over-estimated. His success established a reputation for MU as a program that develops successful pro-quality pitchers, leading to a continuing succession of top pitching recruits: Crow, Gibson, Tepesch, Anderson, Stites, Zastryzny, Graves, Rash, Williams ...

3) Max Scherzer's career began at Mizzou, but it has taken off to incredible heights since he was drafted. After mixed results over a couple of years with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers.

Making himself into an advanced student of the science of pitching, with the help of his brother, Alex, Max has steadily improved his consistency and his dominance over the years.

He helped lead Detroit to the World Series in 2012. In 2013 he is fulfilling the predictions made by a majority of baseball pundits heading into the season. He has become the ace of the staff (surpassing veteran Justin Verlander), delivering a Cy Young-caliber season. As of this writing, he is among the MLB leaders in strikeouts and wins, and is the odds on favorite to be named the American League All-Star Game starter.

4) And lest you still doubt the splendorous heights to which Max Scherzer has ascended, check out this description of his fastball, from none other than Ralph Waldo Emerson (fangraphs.com):

Envoy of Beauty (Fastball): One might think it was made to give man the perpetual presence of the sublime. If he threw it just every thousand years, men would preserve for many generations the remembrance of it! Instead, he throws it about 50-60% of the time, and lights the universe up.

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