We May Never See Another Season Like What We Saw From Sandy Alcantara In 2022
Last night, Sandy Alcantara may have officially claimed his title as the best pitcher in baseball, taking home his first Cy Young award and doing it in unanimous fashion. Some recent Cy Young races have been very competitive, but in this case, there was no other choice. Max Fried and Julio Urias had fantastic years, but in 2022, it was Sandy Alcantara and everybody else. and we may never see anything like it again.
Alcantara’s stuff is undeniably filthy. His fastball can hit triple digits, and his changeup is consistently thrown in the low to mid 90s. He’s a strike-throwing machine, and he’s efficient as hell. But what made this season so special was his durability. Alcantara threw 228.2 innings in 2022, 23.2 more than Aaron Nola, who was second in baseball in innings pitched. He was single-handedly responsible for 40% of the complete games thrown in Major League Baseball last season. He averaged 7.1 innings a start. That’s the most innings pitched per start by a Cy Young winner since Clayton Kershaw’s MVP season in 2014. Keep in mind Kershaw made only 27 starts that season as opposed to Alcantara’s 32. And while in the grand scheme of things, 2014 wasn’t that long ago, in baseball terms, it may as well be an eternity. The sport has changed. Bullpens are better than they’ve ever been. This year’s Houston Astros were a prime example of that. Justin Verlander, who last night took him his third Cy Young, was brilliant in 2022, and Framber Valdez firmly established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Still, their bullpen was absolutely nuts and dominated in October. Alcantara did not have that luxury. The Marlins ranked 22nd in baseball in bullpen ERA. The fact that Alcantara was able to rack up 14 wins with that pen is a testament to his greatness.
Look, man, I’m a starting pitching guy. A 1-0 baseball game in which both starters go 7+ innings is my kind of game. I understand I’m in the minority for feeling that, but I can’t help it. I lament that the 220-innings starting pitcher is going out of style. Bullpens nowadays are loaded with relievers who can consistently throw 100 MPH. From an organizational standpoint, your goal is to win in any way possible, and I understand that. But we live in an era now where pitchers get pulled when they have perfect games going. The idea of starters going three times through the order is becoming a foreign concept.
I do not doubt that Alcantara, as long as he stays healthy, will continue to be one of the game’s best pitchers for a long time (he’s only 27, after all), but will he ever be as durable as he was in 2022? I have a hard time saying yes. Don Mattingly is not a manager that I’d ever consider elite by any means, but he’s one of the few managers in baseball willing to stick with his starting pitcher through thick and thin. Well, he is no longer the Marlins manager, and I have a hard time believing that the next guy will be comfortable letting Alcantara throw this many innings next year. It’s such a shame the Marlins can’t seem to get off the ground. I’m sure Alcantara will probably get traded at some point in the future, and for his sake, I hope he is. I want to see him pitch in some big games. Regardless of where his career goes from here, he’ll always have 2022, one of the best pitching seasons of recent memory.