The Marlins had Sandy Alcantara in 2019, Trevor Rogers in 2021 and now Pablo López in 2022. The Venezuelan right-hander is poised to become the third Miami pitcher in as many full-length seasons to be selected as a first-time MLB All-Star. Barely one month into the regular season, it’s not premature to have this conversation: he’s been that special.
López enters Saturday with a 1.05 earned run average, which is the best mark among all qualified major league starters. For as much as baseball analysis has evolved in recent years to give us new and better ways to analyze the action on the field, ERA remains the main determinant of which arms go to the Midsummer Classic. Fans, media members and MLB players themselves grasp and respect it.
With the assistance of Stathead, I looked back at the last 10 full-length seasons (2011-2019 and 2021) to find pitchers whose hot starts matched the following criteria:
- Made season debut in March/April
- Started first seven games without interruptions due to injury or minor league demotion
- Allowed a total of seven or fewer earned runs during those games
Arbitrary thresholds but unequivocally excellent, right?
Pablo López is in the company of Johnny Cueto (2012), Matt Harvey (2013), Jake Arrieta (2016), José Quintana (2016), Jason Vargas (2017), Carlos Martinez (2018), Justin Verlander (2018), Luis Castillo (2019), Zach Davies (2019), Tyler Glasnow (2019), Chris Paddack (2019), Mike Soroka (2019), Jacob deGrom (2021), John Gant (2021), Lance Lynn (2021), John Means (2021) and Carlos Rodón (2021). Of those 17 similar players, 11 of them rode their dominant stretches to All-Star selections later that season.
Martinez, Glasnow and Means were derailed by injuries. As Marlins fans are well aware, López previously hurt his throwing shoulder in 2018, 2019 and 2021. It would be naive to rule out the possibility of it happening again.
With Cueto, Davies and Gant, their run prevention belied their true ability. Each had multi-run discrepancies between their ERA and fielder independent pitching (FIP). Through seven outings, Cueto had a 1.12 ERA/3.16 FIP, Davies had a 1.56 ERA/4.01 FIP and Gant had a 1.83 ERA/4.39 FIP. It was unsurprising to see them regress in May and June. That isn’t applicable to López—his 2.16 FIP is third-best among qualified starters.
MILESTONE: 10th strikeout for Pablo López, setting a new career high pic.twitter.com/zWzpsGBAjB— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) May 14, 2022
López is not the only 2022 pitcher in the 7 GS/7 ER club. He’s joined by Miles Mikolas of the Cardinals and Madison Bumgarner of the Diamondbacks. However, they have pitched fewer innings to legitimize their current numbers (in MadBum’s case, 12 2⁄3 fewer innings).
I cannot imagine a scenario in which López maintains his 1.05 ERA throughout the first half. Heading into the break with it in the low-2s would be the ideal realistic outcome for somebody who still needs considerable help from his defense and typically goes only as far as his changeup will take him. Point is, he’s given himself a tremendous head start on his National League competition and shown more than enough underlying skill to make an All-Star nod seem inevitable (health permitting).
You would have to go back to 2017—the end of the Jeffrey Loria era and the year that Marlins Park hosted the All-Star festivities—to find the last time the Marlins had multiple representatives. Between López, the steady workhorse Sandy Alcantara and the mesmerizing play of Jazz Chisholm Jr., they could be sending a large delegation to Los Angeles in 2022.