Sep 23, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez (37) delivers a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Henderson Alvarez – B+
At the start of the season, if you had taken a poll on which starting pitcher would lead the Marlins in ERA, very few people would have selected Henderson Alvarez. That doesn’t mean that he was a bad pitcher heading into the season, rather he was more of an afterthought with Jose Fernandez and Nathan Eovaldi leading the way, well, as much as someone who threw a no-hitter in his last start could be.
That being said, Alvarez took a major step forward this year, especially when staff ace Jose Fernandez went down with season ending Tommy John surgery. After two dismal starts following Fernandez’s injury, Alvarez went on a tear going 9 straight starts allowing 2 runs or less, and 14 of 15.
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Alvarez posted a WAR of 2.2, to go along with a 12-7 record in 187 innings pitched. His ERA of 2.65 bettered his FIP by almost a full run (3.58) but much of that can be attributed to his significant increase in strand rate to 79.3%. Those numbers speak to a regression in 2015, but certainly numbers that Marlins’ fans enjoyed in 2014.
Henderson struck out 111 batters, easily a career high, while throwing 3 complete game shutouts on the season. He allowed 14 home runs this season, a huge spike from 2014, but I believe that is a good thing, considering his 2 home runs allowed in 2013 were so low. Even experiencing a regression to the means in home runs allowed didn’t result in a bad season for Alvarez, rather quite the opposite.
If you are looking for secondary numbers to explain Alvarez’s marked improvement over 2013, you can start with his decrease in walks. After posting 2.37 BB/9IP last year, that number dropped to a stellar 1.59. That coupled with the aforementioned increase in batters left on base, and you have a pitcher who dressed out for the National League at the All Star Game.
2014 appeared to be the year of the changeup for Alvarez. He apparently grew quite fond of the pitch compared to years past, as he threw it almost twice as much as last year, 12.3%-23.2%. That increase was divided pretty evenly among his fastball and slider, as he developed more trust in a vital pitch to keep hitters guessing at his low 90’s fastball. Alvarez provided a lesson to young pitchers – Even though his changeup averaged only 6 MPH slower than his fastball, it was enough to throw hitters off-balance, and become successful.
Make no mistake though, Alvarez’s bread and butter is still his fastball. It provided him with a 16.8 runs above average, while both his slider and changeup were in the negative. I expect him to continue to make strides with his secondary pitches, and while he might not have quite as good of a season next year, I anticipate another solid campaign in 2015.
What about you? What grade would you give Henderson Alvarez in 2014? Let us know in the comments below!