Comparing MLB aces is often an interesting exercise, one that often results in obvious answers leaning to one particular side.
Their numbers are extremely similar, both from a run-prevention and from a strikeout potential standpoint.
Let’s examine both of their cases.
The Case For Cole
Cole can say that, being six years younger than Scherzer, he has a similar peak season to the stellar veteran.
In 2019, Cole won 20 games, had a 2.50 ERA and a 2.64 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), with 7.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
That 7.5 WAR number is his career-high, matching what Scherzer did in 2018 with the Washington Nationals.
That year, he struck out 13.82 hitters per nine innings, a number that Scherzer hasn’t been able to match.
Gerrit Cole made Brett Phillips look silly last year 😅 pic.twitter.com/5wMusHcL3E
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) January 4, 2022
Between the two, Cole is the one with the strikeouts edge at this point, but he unlocked that potential once he arrived in Houston in 2018.
Judging their 2021 performance, Cole had the edge in FIP (2.92 to 2.97) and strikeouts (243 to 236).
Cole is also the better bet to stay healthy and put up stellar numbers in 2022 and beyond, because he is significantly younger than his counterpart.
The Yankees ace also has a velocity advantage: he averaged 97.8 mph on his fastball in 2021, whereas the veteran checked in at 94.5.
Both pitchers are very, very close in several statistical categories, but Cole has a good case to be considered better than Scherzer.
It depends on personal taste with the numbers being so close.
The Case For Scherzer
When it comes to career accomplishments, Scherzer has many more than Cole.
For starters, Cole hasn’t won a Cy Young award (although he should have won in 2019).
Just like Judge should’ve won MVP in 2017, Cole should have won Cy Young in 2019. What blows me away is that all the @officialBBWAA writers don’t go off of analytics. As we approach the next decade I expect that to change. https://t.co/OtibUjdWQR
— Young Yanks (@YoungYanks) December 27, 2019
On the other hand, Scherzer has three Cy Young awards in the bag.
Scherzer is a four-time wins leader (2013, 2014, 2016, 2018) and a three-time National League strikeout leader (2016–2018).
Additionally, he pitched two no-hitters in 2015 (June 20 and October 3).
Scherzer also has a slightly better career ERA (3.16, to Cole’s 3.20).
In 2021, however, the difference was large: Scherzer finished at 2.46 while Cole checked in at 3.23.
Scherzer also had a tiny edge in both WAR versions: FanGraphs (5.4 to 5.3) and Baseball Reference (6.0 to 5.7).
If he decided to hang up his cleats, there is a good chance Scherzer is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, while Cole still has a long way to go.
We are talking about two aces, and two top ten pitchers in baseball.
It means that the difference between the two is minimal, and you can’t go wrong with either one of them.
If you are drafting a team for the next five seasons, Cole should be your choice based on current skill level and future projections, by virtue of still being in his prime.
On the other hand, if you are comparing careers, Scherzer would be in front by a lot: not only he is six years older, but he has made them count with flawless performance.
Right now, after the 2021 season, it’s a wash.