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Are the Marlins fixing Jesús Luzardo?

The 23-year-old starter has shown his upside in his three most recent outings.

Cincinnati Reds v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Jesús Luzardo seems to have a better pitching approach. Things have changed for him based on how he uses his arsenal on the mound. Taking into account his last three performances, he is beginning to scratch the surface of his massive potential, showing why the Marlins were so motivated to trade for him.

Luzardo had a rough beginning to his Marlins career and similar struggles with the Oakland Athletics during the first half of 2021. But in 17 13 innings since August 29, he’s surrendered only eight hits (two home runs) and five earned runs, along with seven walks and 19 strikeouts. Opponents have hit for a .133 batting average against him.

Those statistical improvements coincide with a shift in his repertoire, throwing fewer fastballs (four-seamer and sinker) and more curveballs and changeups. Luzardo went from using fastballs 55.3% of the time to 39.1%. His curveball usage went up from 23.1% to 33.8%. Instead of 21.4% changeups, we’re seeing it represent 27.0% of his pitches lately.

Luzardo throwing his curveball in a 3-2 count to strike out the Mets’ Michael Conforto
Luzardo throwing his curveball in a 3-2 count to strike out the Mets’ Michael Conforto
Fish Stripes original GIF

Let’s take a look at how his opponents have performed vs. his pitches over the two cited periods:

From April 2-August 24

Against fastballs—.370 AVG/.677 SLG

Against curveballs—.226 AVG/.435 SLG

Against changeups—.263 AVG/.544 SLG

Since August 29

Against fastballs—.130 AVG/.391 SLG

Against curveballs—.080 AVG/.240 SLG

Against changeups—.250 AVG/.417 SLG

What’s most impressive is how he’s locating his heater to the glove side and working north and south with it. There seems to be a specific plan behind that which wasn’t there through the first few months of his campaign with Oakland and his early Marlins tenure.

Luzardo’s fastball location before August 29
Luzardo’s fastball location before August 29
Baseball Savant
Luzardo’s fastball location since August 29
Luzardo’s fastball location since August 29
Baseball Savant

And when you have plus velocity and a good breaking ball like Luzardo does, you’re gonna get a lot of hitters off balance, even right-handers. Alternating between those pitches is a recipe for foul balls, called strikes and whiffs.

Watch what his heater can do when his location is precise:

There’s more work to do with Luzardo, but the good part is he’s lined up to make four more starts before the end of the regular season. Several of those will come against familiar opponents and ones still in playoff contention, so the stakes are high.

This might be the beginning of something great for both Luzardo and the Marlins. For now, some Miami fans have regrets about sending Starling Marté to the A’s, but in the coming years, we could be celebrating the transaction.