Why Trout says Scherzer is the best he's faced

May 29th, 2020

recently named as the best pitcher he's faced. Not exactly a shocking pick. Trout vs. Scherzer might very well be a matchup of the best hitter and the best pitcher in the world.

But hold on … can you picture what a Trout-Scherzer at-bat looks like? Because it's a rare sight. Scherzer's team hasn't even played Trout's since Mad Max hopped from the Tigers to the Nationals in 2015. Trout and Scherzer have had exactly one matchup in the years since -- an eight-pitch walk Trout drew in the first inning of the 2018 All-Star Game.

Yet Trout answered "Scherzer" without hesitation. That alone makes their history worth reviewing. And it turns out, it's a really interesting history.

Check out these numbers. Scherzer's overpowered Trout like no other pitcher. Scherzer has 10 strikeouts in the 16 times he's faced Trout (not counting the All-Star Game). That's 62.5%. There are 170 pitchers who have faced Trout at least 10 times in his big league career; Scherzer is the only one to strike him out over half the time. Scherzer's also one of only 12 pitchers to strike out Trout double-digit times, period -- but it's taken all of those other pitchers at least 28 plate appearances to do so.

And how about this: Trout has zero walks in those 16 at-bats against Scherzer. Walks are kind of Trout's thing. He finally worked one off Scherzer in the Midsummer Classic, but 10 strikeouts and no walks during the season? That's as un-Trout-like as it gets.

So when Trout says "I was happy when he left to the National League so I don't have to see him like when he was in Detroit," well, that's why.

Other pitchers have good numbers against Trout. Trout's 0-for-10 against Hyun-Jin Ryu, for example, the only pitcher he's faced that many times without ever reaching base. He's a .125 career hitter in 50 plate appearances against Justin Verlander. And David Price has held him to a .185 average in 32 plate appearances, with 12 strikeouts and no extra-base hits.

Scherzer, though, is pure dominance, and that makes him the toughest of them all. Trout's beaten Scherzer a few times -- a home run and infield single in 2012, a double in 2014, the All-Star Game walk. But that's it. And Trout had to battle for every individual victory.

That's why it'll be a must-watch when Trout and Scherzer go head to head again someday. For now, here's a look back at the battles they've had -- the history of Trout v. Scherzer.

2012: The first meetings

The first time Trout faced Scherzer was on July 19, 2012, in Detroit. And what a meeting it was. Both players were emerging as superstars. Trout was a few months into his incredible rookie season. Scherzer was coming into his own as a strikeout artist -- he'd reach the 200-K mark for the first time that year -- but he wasn't yet the ace (Verlander was). He wasn't quite Scherzer yet. But he was close.

Trout stepped in to lead off the game, and Scherzer blew him away -- a three-pitch strikeout, finished off with 97 mph heat upstairs. The next at-bat, Scherzer got him again -- this time at 98, a fastball on the inside edge where Trout couldn't hold his swing.

But the third time, Trout did one of those Trout things. Scherzer got ahead 1-2, then got Trout out in front reaching for a slider at the bottom of the zone … and Trout hit a home run. Such effortless power is a Trout signature, and a reminder that no matter how many times you get Trout, Trout can always get you.

Scherzer matched up against the Angels twice more that season, on Aug. 26 and Sept. 7. In August in Detroit, Scherzer fanned Trout twice more. In Anaheim in September, Trout laced a beautiful inside-out double to the opposite-field gap -- and also ... fun fact here ... dropped down a bunt for the last time in his career to date. Scherzer fielded it and threw him out.

2014: Scherzer dominates

By the time they next faced each other in 2014, Scherzer was the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and Trout was about to win the first of his three MVP trophies. But Scherzer dominated in their two meetings in April and July. Trout went 0-for-6 with five strikeouts.

Scherzer attacked, as Scherzer does, and Trout had no answer for Scherzer's riding fastballs upstairs and his biting sliders down and away. But that was the last he had to see of Scherzer for a long time.

2018 All-Star Game: Trout being Trout

Fast forward all the way to the 2018 All-Star Game in Washington. Now Scherzer is peak Scherzer. Trout is peak Trout. This is the best vs. the best, and it lives up to the billing.

Scherzer, starting the All-Star Game in his home park, with a raucous crowd behind him, strikes out the first two batters he faced, Mookie Betts and José Altuve. That brings up Trout.

First pitch: 96 mph heat, right down Broadway and right past Trout for a swinging strike. Next, a ball, just high, then a filthy slider for another swing-and-miss. Scherzer's a pitch away from striking out the side. But Trout is impossible to put away. He lays off a slider down, then a fastball up-and-in -- the same pitches Scherzer once used to strike him out -- and runs the count full. Then he fouls two upper-90s heaters back to the screen, taking some big rips.

Finally, on the eighth pitch, Scherzer tries one more slider, but it backs up inside, and there's no way Trout is chasing a bad ball. After all those strikeouts at Scherzer's hands, Trout finally walks -- as riveting a walk as it gets.

Trout remembers it well: "I get in the box and they're chanting, 'Scher-zer, Scher-zer.' And I'm in the box, and I can just see him on the mound grunting at me. I worked an eight-pitch walk, and it was the best at-bat I've ever had."

If only every at-bat could be like that. Hopefully Trout and Scherzer have some more in them.