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Sandy Alcantara becomes first Cy Young award winner in Marlins history

No pitcher in the National League was as impactful as Alcantara in 2022, and the BBWAA recognized that.

Courtesy of Bally Sports Florida

What’s been inevitable for months was made official on Wednesday night: Sandy Alcantara won the 2022 National League Cy Young award. Alcantara received [all 30/29 of 30] first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Julio Urías (Dodgers), Max Fried (Braves), Zac Gallen (Diamondbacks), Carlos Rodón (Giants), Aaron Nola (Phillies), Edwin Díaz (Mets), Corbin Burnes (Brewers), Yu Darvish (Padres), Kyle Wright (Braves), Logan Webb (Giants) and Ryan Helsley (Cardinals) also appeared on BBWAA ballots.

The 27-year-old right-hander is the first Dominican pitcher to win a Cy Young in either league since Bartolo Colon (2005, AL). There hadn’t been a unanimous winner in either league since Shane Bieber (2020, AL) or a unanimous winner in a full-length season since Clayton Kershaw (2014, NL) until Alcantara and Justin Verlander (AL) did it this year.

There have been a couple near-misses for the Marlins in past Cy Young races, most notably in 1996 when Kevin Brown finished runner-up to John Smoltz and in 2005 when Dontrelle Willis finished runner-up to Chris Carpenter. But Alcantara’s body of work this season was unrivaled by any other NL pitcher due to his combination of effectiveness and volume. It was impossible to deny him the hardware considering his statistical brilliance.

Marlins Pitchers to Receive NL Cy Young Votes

Name Year Rank
Name Year Rank
Sandy Alcantara 2022 1st
José Fernández 2016 7th
Henderson Alvarez 2014 12th
José Fernández 2013 3rd
Josh Johnson 2010 5th
Dontrelle Willis 2005 2nd
Carl Pavano 2004 6th
Kevin Brown 1996 2nd
Al Leiter 1996 t-9th
Bryan Harvey 1993 t-8th

Even accounting for the pitcher-friendly conditions of LoanDepot Park, Alcantara posted a 178 ERA+, preventing runs 78% better than the league average. In an era when pitchers typically go about five innings per start, Alcantara averaged 7.15 every time he took the mound. He completed six games by himself (all six embedded below); meanwhile, no other MLB starting staff combined for more than five.

The quality of competition that Alcantara faced was fierce. Of his 32 starts, 21 came against eventual MLB postseason teams. That included a stretch of seven consecutive matchups against those opponents from August 10-September 13.

Alcantara’s strikeout and walk rates were practically identical to 2021, so why the improved results? The development of his changeup was a major factor. It generated more soft, groundball contact for him this year. The cambio was his most-used pitch—he threw it 899 times—yet he allowed zero home runs with it. Statcast valued his changeup at four runs better than league average over the course of the 2021 season. That skyrocketed to 25 runs above average in 2022.

Sandy Alcantara’s 2022 Statcast percentile rankings
Sandy Alcantara’s 2022 Statcast percentile rankings
Baseball Savant

Around this date in 2021, Alcantara and the Marlins were ironing out the final details of a five-year, $56 million contract extension that included a sixth-year club option. It seemed like a bargain for Miami in the moment and has proven to be much more than that. By signing Alcantara at a below-market rate before this historic campaign, the Marlins preserved the resources that will be needed to build a playoff-caliber supporting cast around him. As grim as the team’s near-term outlook appears to be in the mighty NL East division, it’d be worse if not for the extension.

The Marlins have had numerous extraordinary players throughout the last three decades, but so many of their tenures ended prematurely or awkwardly. Sandy Alcantara has a chance to follow a different trajectory. If he stays long enough and comes anywhere close to maintaining this level of performance, he’ll be unconditionally loved, a prime candidate to be the first player in franchise history to have his uniform number retired.