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Marlins Ace Sandy Alcantara Shows Starters Going Deep Isn’t A Thing Of The Past

Marlins Ace Sandy Alcantara Shows Starters Going Deep Isn’t A Thing Of The Past

When Marlins manager Don Mattingly walked to the mound in the ninth inning of a June 29 game against the Cardinals, he had every intention of removing starter Sandy Alcantara.

Alcantara had already completed 8.1 innings and thrown 115 pitches. The Marlins held a 4-3 lead and had a reliever ready to go. Most pitchers would have considered it a job well done, handed the ball to their manager and walked off the mound happy to be in line for the win.

Alcantara, the Marlins’ ascendant 26-year-old righthander, isn’t most pitchers. Two outs away from a complete game, he told Mattingly in no uncertain terms that the game was his finish. After a brisk conversation, Mattingly walked back to the dugout with Alcantara still on the mound.

Two pitches later, Alcantara induced a game-ending double play, sealing the win and his second complete game of the year.

“I was so mad, man,” Alcantara recalled during all-star weekend in Los Angeles. “I was so mad when I saw him come to take me out of the game and I said, ‘No. I got this guy. I got it. I got it.’ And I got the double play. I told him, ‘You gotta believe me. You gotta believe in all my pitches.’ ”

In the age of starters throwing fewer innings than ever before, Alcantara is a throwback to an earlier era. Entering the all-star break, he had nine starts of at least eight innings during the 2022 season. No other pitcher had more than four.

Those nine starts of at least eight innings were also more than anyone had the entire 2021 season.

Alcantara stands in direct contrast to the MLB-wide trend of teams deciding whether to allow their starters to pitch more than two times through an order. With Alcantara, there is little hesitation sending him out to see hitters a fourth or fifth time, let alone a third.

“He’s like a 1960s pitcher in 2022,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “It’s absurd. I’m glad I don’t have to face him all that much anymore. What he’s doing is special. The Marlins got a good one.”

Across baseball, the number of innings thrown by starting pitchers has been on a steady decline. In 2010, starters accounted for 67.1% of innings. By 2017, that number had dropped to 61.9%. Through the all-star break this year, they accounted for just 58.3% of all innings.

That steady decline  has led to declarations that the workhorse starter is a dying breed headed for extinction. Teams’ embrace of macro-level data that shows pitchers are generally less effective after two times…

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