Ahead of the 2022 season, if you predicted that Jesús Luzardo may—for lack of a better pun—flounder out of the Marlins starting rotation mix, you wouldn’t get much of a rebuttal out of me. On the other end of that spectrum, if you forecasted a breakout, I would’ve found that equally believable. Luzardo was the ultimate wild card, a 2021 underachiever with enticing upside.
- April 12: Commences regular season with 12-strikeout effort against the Angels.
- April 24: Effectively wild, 5-inning, 8-punchout outing to earn his 1st win of the season against Atlanta.
- May 15: Placed on 15-day IL with a left forearm strain.
- June 15: Transferred to 60-day IL.
- July 16: Begins minor league rehab assignment.
- August 1: Activated from IL following 3rd rehab start; earns loss whilst allowing 2 runs over 5 innings against Cincinnati.
- October 4: Concludes campaign with 6 scoreless innings against the eventual division champion Braves, earning his 4th win thanks to career-high-tying 12 strikeouts.
By the Numbers
The version of Jesús Luzardo acquired by the Marlins in 2021 in the deal that sent Starling Marte to Oakland was the baseball equivalent to a chicken without its head attached. In 12 starts after the trade, the Parkland native posted a 6.44 ERA and gaudy-for-all-the-wrong-reasons 1.60 WHIP.
Fortunately, after years of being proclaimed among the best pitching prospects in the sport, the left-hander burst onto the scene in 2022. While he may have only contributed a mere 100 1⁄3 innings with a pedestrian 4-7 win-loss record, a look underneath the hood tells us the quality of pitcher Luzardo managed to be.
Posting a 3.32 ERA (123 ERA+), Luzardo saw a precipitous drop in HR/9 (1.8 to 0.9) and H/9 (10.0 to 6.2), as well as a gradual drop in BB/9 (4.5 to 3.1). That translates to a 3.12 FIP, fully validating his run prevention results and then some. Luzardo’s proficiency in limiting hits placed him in a tie for 6th with the White Sox’s Dylan Cease—a presumed Cy Young favorite in the American League—in said category.
Jesús Luzardo gets his 100th strikeout of the season (took him 87.1 IP) pic.twitter.com/lKJSN7f1Ut— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) September 22, 2022
Baseball Savant’s Run Value uses zero to represent an average pitch, with anything above that considered below-average for the pitcher and anything sub-zero being above-average. We see that Luzardo’s increased effectiveness can be attributed to his improved four-seamer, sinker, and changeup. After posting run values of +13, +7, and + 6 on those respective offerings a year ago, 2022 saw them go to -1, -4, and -5. Even his “worst” pitch in terms of Run Value, the curveball, was terrific when used to finish off plate appearances—opponents hit just .157 with a 44.5-percent K-rate against it.
What about Luzardo’s pitches actually made them “better” than before? Well, a slight rise in velocity helped. More noticeably, he operated in favorable counts, going from a 58.4-percent first-pitch strike rate in 2021 to 64.9-percent in 2022 (MLB average is 61.3-percent).
Will Luzardo Be Back?
The Marlins and first-time manager Skip Schumaker don’t need to overthink this: they should feel confident penciling Luzardo’s name into the 2023 Opening Day rotation. His adjustments were legitimate, and with 4 years of club control remaining, any concerns about being able to pay him what he deserves long term are still far down the road.
A question mark headed into this past season, Luzardo is now firmly entrenched on the starting staff. His superb August and September made a compelling case that he should occupy the No. 2 slot behind Sandy Alcantara.