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How Sandy Alcántara broke out into a leading Cy Young candidate

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Despite baseball being a somewhat volatile and unpredictable sport, some occurrences in this game appear to be cosmically ordained to happen consistently. One of those events is the fact that whether they’re good or not, the Miami Marlins somehow always find themselves with at least one incredible talent on their team. It’s really mind-boggling to think about just how many great players have suited up for MLB’s South Florida representatives.

Whether it was the likes of Kevin Brown and Gary Sheffield donning the teal-and-black on their way to a World Series run in 1997, the dynamic 1-2 punch of Dontrelle Willis and Josh Beckett pushing them towards another title in 2003, Miguel Cabrera starting his career by launching bombs into the orange seats in what is now the Hard Rock Stadium, Giancarlo Stanton sending moonshots into the Fish Sculpture that used to stand tall, or the mercurial José Fernández turning his starts into must-see events, the Marlins seem to have a knack for finding themselves with at least one completely fantastic ballplayer donning their fish-adorned hat at any given moment in their history.

It appears that we’re seeing latest Marlins superstar come into his own here in the 2022 season. If we’re looking at Cy Young candidates for this season in the National League, the conversation right now starts and ends with Miami Marlins starter Sandy Alcántara. If you’re a Marlins fan, this is no surprise. After all, Alcántara is coming off of a 2021 campaign where he posted up a 3.19 ERA and a 3.42 FIP over 205.2 innings pitched — proving that his 3.00 ERA and 3.72 FIP performance over 42 innings in the 60-game 2020 season was no fluke. It’s not a shock to see Alcántara pitching well since this will now be three straight seasons where he’s proven himself to truly be a top-of-the-rotation starter.

What comes as a surprise is that it appears that Sandy Alcántara has taken the leap to the next level past simply being a top guy in a rotation. Two of my favorite advanced stats over on FanGraphs for pitchers are ERA- and FIP-. I like them because at the end of the day, it’s pretty easy to understand; 100 is considered to be average and the lower someone’s ERA- or FIP- is, the better that they’re pitching out there. So if you have an ERA- or FIP- of say, 70, then you’re doing very well for yourself. If one of those stats are in the 30s then that means you’re probably 1999-2000 Pedro Martinez. So with that in mind, it’s important to let y’all know that Sandy Alcántara’s ERA- is at 48 and his FIP- is at 75. Yes, Alcántara has been that good here in 2022.

While those aren’t exactly Pedro Martinez numbers for Sandy Alcántara, those are numbers that are right in the neighborhood of what we could expect from Justin Verlander. I’m bringing up Verlander in particular because Verlander himself has been pitching at a level where his ERA- is at 45 and his FIP- is sitting at 74 and he’s doing it in 2022. While it’s impressive that Justin Verlander has been able to do this at age-39 and coming off of a season where he only pitched six innings in 2021, it also puts it into perspective just where Sandy Alcántara is at right now. Alcántara is doing so well that he’s keeping up with a future Hall-of-Famer who’s having a great season.

So, how’s he doing it? The easy answer is that Alcántara is just extremely good at going deep into games. He’s pitched a league-high 158.1 innings so far this season — divisional rival Aaron Nola is in a distant second with 144.2 innings under his belt so far this year. He’s also had four starts this season where he’s gone the full nine innings but he’s only been credited with three complete games since one of those games saw the game go into extras while in a scoreless tie. Either way, these types of starts have been putting other rotations to shame.

Including today’s complete-game shutout, Sandy Alcantara now has 4 starts this season with 9 innings pitched.

That’s more such starts than any other TEAM in Major League Baseball. pic.twitter.com/pvwL9rfNTT

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 4, 2022

Alcántara’s also had six other starts where he’s gone at least eight innings and five more starts on top of that where he’s pitched at least seven innings. It’s almost as if he’s pitching like if he leaves the game, he’ll be done forever. He’s also breaking the mold when it comes to present-day pitching. Instead of being tepid when it comes to facing batting orders for a third time in a row, it really seems as if Sandy Alcántara relishes seeing teams for the third time through the order.

His ERA when facing a lineup for the third time in a game is at 3.07. That doesn’t seem too imposing until you consider that the league average ERA (before the end of play on August 9) for pitchers going through the order for a third time is 5.49. Usually other teams are licking their chops whenever they get to see a starting pitcher for a third time in a single game — with Alcántara, the fight is still going and going strong, at that.

The big question going forward with Alcántara here in 2022 is whether or not the Marlins will decide to put some sort of limit on how many innings their ace will get to pitch going forward. Even back in July, Miami’s braintrust of general manager Kim Ng, manager Don Mattingly and Miami’s coaching staff were already monitoring the innings that Alcántara was racking up. It’s an understandable concern, especially when you consider that he’s throwing some hard stuff (his fastball velocity is ranked in the 96th percentile of baseball according to Statcast) and doing so for usually long stints.

Any sort of innings limit appears to be the only thing stopping Alcántara from potentially adding the NL Cy Young Award to his personal trophy cabinet by the winter. While there are other worthy contenders like Max Fried in Atlanta, Carlos Rodón in San Francisco, or the aforementioned Aaron Nola in Philadelphia, no other pitcher has done more to shift the current idea of starting pitching than Sandy Alcántara has in this current season.

He’s not just up against a potential innings limit — he’s also pushing the limit of what starters are capable of here in 2022. It’s truly fascinating to watch and also totally in line with the Marlins’ history of somehow being a fertile ground for baseball superstars. Sandy Alcántara is the latest fish to leap out of the water in order to make a splash on the baseball landscape.

Source : SBNation

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