Looking at NL Cy Young Leader Sandy Alcantara’s Dominant 2022 Season

Sandy Alcantara is the National League Cy Young favorite. If you ask the markets, the race is over.

FanDuel has Alcantara as a -550 favorite to win the award. Caesars has him as a -450 favorite to win the award. Sandy is the pitcher that will likely raise the trophy at the end of awards season.

PitcherCaesars NL Cy Young OddsFanDuel Cy Young Odds
Sandy Alcantara-450-550
Julio Urias650950
Zac Gallen1000850
Max Fried10002300
Tony Gonsolin60008000

But that doesn’t feel like the consensus opinion. You still have asinine, backward opinions like this one:

For the sake of full discretion, I am biased. I have three separate betting tickets on Alcantara to win the Cy Young, with prices ranging from 40-to-1 to 20-to-1.

But I genuinely believe Alcantara is deserving of the Cy Young, and I’m here to set the record straight.

As he enters what is likely his final start of the season, this is the overarching, substantive, final argument for why Sandy Alcantara is the only option for the 2022 National League Cy Young.

Point 1: Standard Numbers

Let’s set the baseline.

Alcantara has pitched over 210 innings this season with a 2.37 ERA. He’s pitched 19 innings more than any other pitcher in the National League and ranks second in ERA.

There have been 13 other instances of a pitcher finishing a season with above 210 innings pitched and an ERA below 2.40, and three of those came from Clayton Kershaw.

There’s often a debate among baseball fans/stat nerds about which Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic is the best to use. Is it FanGraphs or Baseball-Reference?

FanGraphs uses Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in its fWAR calculations while Baseball-Reference uses Earned Run Average (ERA) in its bWAR calculations. FIP uses only strikeouts, walks, and home runs in calculating a statistic and thus controls for fielding variance. To its credit, fWAR often projects better how a pitcher will better perform.

In terms of fWAR, Alcantara is currently third in the NL at 5.1, trailing just Carols Rodon (5.7) and Aaron Nola (5.5).

But bWAR’s calculations are based on past run prevention per nine innings while taking into account innings pitched – or past results. Otherwise: How well did a pitcher pitch over the past year?

When it comes to that calculation, Alcantara blows the field away.

I believe his third-best 53.4% ground-ball rate is important to mention. Alcantara is often able to pitch so many innings because his sinker-changeup combination forces ground-balls early in counts. He may not record the FIP-happy strikeout numbers, but you’ll see Alcantara pitch three-pitch innings often. That’s more valuable sometimes.

Let’s look at it all together.

PitcherERAFIPGB%IPfWARbWAR
Sandy Alcantara2.373.0653.4%212.25.17.1
Carlos Rodon2.842.2735.1%167.25.75.0
Aaron Nola3.382.6643.4%186.15.55.0
Max Fried2.502.7251.1%180.14.96.0
Zac Gallen2.462.8846.8%172.04.34.9
Tony Gonsolin2.103.3343.2%128.12.64.6

In the end, bWAR shows you how a pitcher performed that season, fWAR projects who will perform better in the future. The Cy Young is awarded to the best pitcher in the league from the past season, not who will be the best pitcher next season. Alcantara pitched more innings than any other pitcher while performing at an elite run-prevention level.

That should be enough alone. Let’s dive deeper.

Point 2: Length Like You Have Never Seen

The era of the workhorse is gone. Innings per start from starting pitchers have been dipping every season for the past two decades and are likely to continue to dip.

Alcantara does not care. His 7.1 innings per start and 102 pitches per start are far above the league-wide averages of 5.2 innings and 86 pitches. He became the first pitcher to reach the 200-inning benchmark in fewer than 29 starts since Corey Kluber in 2017 (Kluber won the AL Cy Young that season, by the way).

The importance of innings pitched has been questioned in recent years. Corbin Burnes won the NL Cy Young last season after pitching almost 60 fewer innings than Zack Wheeler but did so with an ERA 35 points lower.

But let’s combine both innings pitched with quality run prevention. For example:

The list of pitchers that have made starts of at least seven innings while allowing two runs or fewer this season is slightly different from when I tweeted this:

Pitcher7-inning, 2-run StartsComplete Games
Sandy Alcantara185
Aaron Nola112
Julio Urias40
Zac Gallen80
Carlos Rodon61
Max Fried70
Tony Gonsolin30

Alcantara’s five complete games is more than any other team’s staff has accumulated this season.

Plus, the difference between Wheeler’s 2021 and Alcantara’s 2022 is this difference in quality starts. Wheeler had just two complete games last year and managed to hit the seven-innings-or-more, two-runs-or-fewer mark just 11 times.

This list of quality starts should blow your mind. Let’s dive deeper.

Point 3: Strength of Schedule

Shoutout to Jordan McPherson for this article:

20 of Alcantara’s 30 starts this season have come against current playoff teams. He recently made seven straight starts against playoff teams…

In the dog days of August and September…

While already leading the league in innings pitched…

Sandy still averaged 6 ⅔ innings per start during that stretch. He took on the league’s best offense in the Dodgers during this crazy period and pitched a complete game while allowing just one run in the win.

Alcantara finally received some reprieve last Sunday against the bottom-of-the-barrel Washington Nationals. Sandy pitched a complete game on 103 pitches while allowing one run on seven hits with seven strikeouts.

Another point worth making – even if I sometimes make it tongue-in-cheek – is that Sandy doesn’t get to pitch against the Marlins. Miami has the second-worst wRC+ in the second half of the season and is often a gift to opposing starting pitchers.

Instead, Alcantara pitches in the NL East and regularly has to face three playoff teams in the Mets, Braves, and Phillies. All three of those teams rank among the top-15 teams in wRC+ during the same second half.

If you’re comparing him to Julio Urias, think about it this way:

Alcantara has accomplished everything mentioned above with every perceivable offensive obstacle in his way.

Conclusion

Sandy is putting together one of the best seasons from a starting pitcher we have seen this century. He still has more to prove.

By the time the postseason comes around, there’s a slim chance Alcantara will have accumulated 230 innings with an ERA below 2.30. The list of pitchers to accomplish that feat since 2010 is three.

Alcantara has done it all while facing the hardest schedule in the league with the worst offense behind him. He’s that good, folks.

Hopefully, after consuming this piece of content, you realize there is no other pitcher worth consideration for the NL Cy Young this season.

Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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