by Rob Friedman, aka “Pitching Ninja”
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
The NL Cy Young Race is a four-horse race, appropriately driven Sandy Alcantaranicknamed “El Caballo”.
There is no doubt that Alcántara has been a working horse this season, and has been well ahead in the Cy Young for most of the year. However, unlike a racehorse escaping the field in Belmont, Alcantara seems to falter somewhat along the stretch, with a group of three pitchers behind it making moves.
Can Alcantara fend off the late contenders? lets take alook.
1. Below the extension, it’s Alcantara in front.
Alcantara has been great for most of the season. He has carried the heaviest workload of any bowler in baseball, throwing 196.2 rounds to date, 15 more rounds than anyone else in the game. MLB. He has thrown four full games, twice as many as any other bowler and, amazingly, more than any other team this season. Alcántara leads the WAR majors among shooters and has an impressive 2.43 ERA over 196.2 innings.
Alcántara throws the most valuable change in baseball in terms of running value, and is the eighth most valuable field overall. It’s also one of the fastest changes in the game, averaging 91.7 mph. The only beginners with faster average changes are his teammate Edward Cabrera and the most popular bowler in baseball, Jacob Degrom.
Here’s a look at Alcántara’s sinister change:
Opponents hit .148 against that score. What makes its change even dirtier is that the Alcántara pairs it up with a high-speed ballast that averages around 98 mph.
The combination of change and trough is killer, as you can see in this overlay.
Alcántara also has a unique slider that sometimes breaks “the wrong way,” making it a guessing game for hitters about how the court will move.
This overlay shows how the Alcántara diver and the scroll-and-shift slider work together to create the Bermuda Triangle for hitters.
Alcántara is undoubtedly the frontrunner for the NL Cy Young award, but his past three rounds have been less than stellar, dropping five or more in each. If he keeps getting bogged down, here are the three shooters waiting to make their moves.
2. Max Fried A few lengths back.
Fried was outstanding in 2022. He has a 2.50 ERA and is third in the WAR pitcher, thanks to his dirty collection of fast balls, curve balls, slides and alterations.
The Fried change has been a new weapon for him this season. He barely threw it in the regular season in 2021 (2.2% use), but in 2022 Fried threw his changeover about 14% of the time, which was a pretty cool show for him. Opponents hit .165 against its change, with a whiff rate of roughly 37%.
Here’s a look at the Fried Change movement:
This change also works well for Fried’s fastball. Here is an overlay to show how it is used for the Fastball/changeup combination to keep hitters balanced.
Of course, Fried is known for having one of the most beautiful baseballs too.
When paired with fastball, a curved ball can make hitters look ridiculous, thanks to the movement and speed differential of these two pitches.
Here’s a fastball/curveball combo with a 20 mph variance:
3. Julius Urea make a move?
The 2022 season was without a doubt one of the best in the National League. He has a 2.30 league-leading ERA along with an ERA+ of 183 and a 16-7 record. While he has thrown fewer innings than some of Cy Young’s other competitors (152.2, over 40 less than Alcántara), Urías has delivered at the elite level all season.
His Curve Ball is a true sweeper and averages over 16 inches of horizontal break. Check out the incredible motion of the curved ball from the corner of this house board.
It also features a bad change that has more than 30% sniffer rate.
Finally, Urías’ fastball has a hitting average of .174, which is the second lowest among beginner shooters with over 250 board appearances.
4. Zach Galenlate official
Galen is perhaps the most underrated ace in baseball. He had an astounding 44.1 innings streak cut this week, the seventh longest in MLB history, yet few outside of baseball’s most ardent fans seem to have noticed.
Gallen has the lowest WHIP among eligible starters in the National League, at 0.91, and has only given up 5.9 scores per nine innings, with an ERA of 2.50.
His arsenal features a hammer-knuckle curve that has brought many hitters to their knees.
He also has a knockout change, as you can see here.
Winning at Cy Young means a lot to Galen. Perhaps most importantly, it means that Gallen was no longer famous for this legendary funny video bomb when he was in North Carolina.
Honorable Mention: Spencer StriderNL’s most electric jug
While he only threw 120 rounds, which is not enough for him to be considered a competitor to Cy Young, in my view, the most electric shooter in the National League is Spencer Strider. Strider has averaged 13.6 hits per nine runs this season, and you should watch a baseball game every time he steps down a hill. He is also one of the leading competitors in this year’s NL Rookie competition.
Strider’s fastball has the seventh highest running value of any field in baseball and topped out at 102 mph, which at that time was the fastest in Statcast history of starting pitchers.
And the Strider slider (yes, I’m a poet), similar to the DeGrom slider, has turned into a weapon.
Although he’s shorter in stature, I called the Strider a “Quadzilla” because of his strong lower half that helps him generate his devastating speed.
If Strider repeats that effort in 2023, look for him to be a contender for next year’s Cy Young Award. That is, unless the most dominant bowler on the planet (deGrom) has been healthy all season.
Rob Friedman is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and his work has appeared on several Major League Baseball programs. Follow him on Twitter @ninja.
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