Trea Turner was confused.
When the shortstop discovered that he, Juan Soto and Kyle Schwarber had been named Sunday to their first MLB All-Star roster, Turner’s excitement soon morphed into wonderment that another Nationals player wasn’t on that list.
Turner figured that maybe MLB would notify the pitchers who made the All-Star Game on another day. But when that theory was proven wrong, all Turner could do was scratch his head.
After all, Max Scherzer has played at an all-star level all season.
“If he’s not an all-star, there’s something wrong,” Turner said. “I mean, we pulled up his stats when we found out. I know there’s a lot of good players. I get it. But, I mean, he’s top five in every category, and not only in the NL, but most of the MLB as well.”
Scherzer isn’t quite top five in every category, but Turner was close.
His 2.10 ERA is the seventh best in the majors. He ranks fourth in WHIP at 0.848. He’s averaging 5.629 hits allowed per nine innings, which is the sixth fewest in baseball. He racks up 12.117 strikeouts per nine innings, the fifth most in the league. He records on average 6.048 strikeouts to every walk, which is also the fifth-best mark.
And for Washington, Scherzer has been the consistent ace needed as the team attempts to battle its way back up the National League East standings while weathering several key injuries.
“He’s got the numbers,” Turner said. “He’s Max Scherzer. And I think he deserves to be there.”
Scherzer could still feature in the All-Star Game — scheduled to take place July 13 in Denver — should any of the pitchers who made the team drop out of the competition and MLB calls on Scherzer to plug the gap.
The starting pitchers who were included on the National League All-Star roster are all putting together impressive seasons. There’s the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, whose 0.95 ERA is the lowest in the majors. San Francisco’s Kevin Gausman (1.68 ERA) and Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff (1.87 ERA) and Corbin Burnes (2.41 ERA) also made the squad. As did San Diego’s Yu Darvish, with a 2.65 ERA and 0.951 WHIP.
Scherzer’s numbers are better than Darvish’s, giving up fewer hits, walks and runs per nine innings while striking out more batters. But Darvish received his fourth All-Star nod — and first since 2017 — while Scherzer seems poised to miss an All-Star Game for the first time since 2012 (although there was no All-Star Game in 2020).
For Schwarber, Soto and Turner, the upcoming Denver All-Star Game will be their first experience in the Midsummer Classic. Schwarber still plans to attend, even though a significant right hamstring strain suffered during Washington’s series against the Los Angeles Dodgers will keep him sidelined.
“I’d like to go and still kind of experience everything,” Schwarber said. “You only get one first, so I want to experience it and just make the most of it. It sucks I won’t be able to play, but you know what? It is what it is, and I’m still excited to be a part of it.”
Schwarber is coming off a June in which he hit 16 home runs in the span of 18 games. He slugged at a .760 clip with a 1.122 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. His 25 homers overall rank second in the National League. A move to the leadoff spot midway through June helped spark Schwarber’s offensive eruption.
Turner has paced the Nationals’ offense for much of the season, hitting .318 with 38 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. He, too, is currently dealing with an injury issue, though. Turner jammed a finger sliding into a base Wednesday to complete his cycle, and he hasn’t played since. Washington manager Dave Martinez said Sunday Turner might get back on the field early this week.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to play [in the All-Star Game] in some capacity; I want to,” Turner said. “Like we’re doing, taking it day-by-day, see how it feels, and I’d love to play in the game.”
Soto has put together a solid season, but his marks fall short of his 2020 production when he led the majors with a 1.185 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. In 2021, Soto’s average has fallen to .278, and his slugging percentage — finishing at .695 in 2020 — is just .431. But his .400 on-base percentage is the second-highest in the National League.
Should Soto, Turner and Schwarber play at an All-Star level during the second half of the campaign, the Nationals’ full turnaround from a slow start could take place, pushing for a playoff spot rather than selling at the trade deadline.
“It’s gonna be fun, the second half, whenever we get these guys back in the lineup and healthy,” Soto said. “When we all click together, we’re coming in hot. I think it’s gonna be fun. It’s going to be a challenge, too, because we have to keep going and keep playing baseball, try to win this East.”
For Washington to complete that comeback, the team will need more than Soto, Turner and Schwarber — whenever the latter might return from injury. The Nationals will need more strong starts from Scherzer in the mix, no matter if he’s on the All-Star roster or not.
“I see a guy like that, who just competes and the numbers every year, it’s crazy we don’t see him in the All-Star,” Soto said. “He’s been there every time, he comes to play every day, so it’s just tough to see him out of there.”