Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara: The overlooked MVP candidate

Oct 5, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara (22) waives to fans while being recognized for an outstanding season in the fourth inning at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 5, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara (22) waives to fans while being recognized for an outstanding season in the fourth inning at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports /

The National League Most Valuable Player vote will be revealed in a few weeks, which means it’s almost time to overlook Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara.

Alcantara won’t be totally overlooked, of course. He’s the favorite and likely easy winner of the National League Cy Young Award.

Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara deserves more MVP love than he will get

Alcantara’s credentials for that award are slam-dunk level. He led the NL in innings pitched (by 23), WAR (by 2.1), ran a close second to Julio Urias for the ERA title, and led all league pitchers in Win Probability Added by a full game.

It’s in the Most Valuable Player voting that Alcantara is likely to get shafted despite a statistical profile that presents itself as certain top-five level and a contender for the award itself. Votes for that award, along with all the others, have already been cast; all we are waiting on is the official announcement.

This is not an argument that Alcantara clearly deserves the MVP; that case is a close call. It is an argument that he deserves serious consideration alongside such other obvious candidates as Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado and Austin Riley.

He’s likely to finish behind all those guys and a few others for two very prejudicial and invalid reasons. First, he’s a pitcher, and second, he plays for a non-contender.

MVP voters from time to time buy into the reality that pitchers are also players. Shohei Ohtani won the AL MVP just last season. But he’s a freak. In 2014, Clayton Kershaw won it when he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA. In 2011, Justin Verlander’s 24-5 record and league-leading 2.40 ERA was honored.

But it’s rare, probably because voters seem to have a bias against pitchers since they play in only a relative handful of games. It’s inarguable that Alcantara only took the field for 32 of his team’s games in 2022. Goldschmidt, just to pick one other contender, played in 151 games for the Cardinals.

Still, consider the degrees to which those two players influenced the games in which they played. In his 32 games, Alcantara took part in 919 batter-pitcher confrontations, an average of nearly 29 per game. Goldschmidt had 268 fewer batter-pitcher confrontations than Alcantara, and he averaged just 4.3 per game. Alcantara had far and away the greater influence on the outcomes of the games in which he played than Goldschmidt…or any other position player you want to look at.

To be fair to Goldschmidt, he reached base 262 times, giving him a .40.2 ‘win’ average in such confrontations. Alcantara retired his opposing hitter 686 times, meaning he ‘won’ 74.6 percent of his batter-pitcher confrontations. The season-long National League average was 69.3 percent for pitchers, 30.78 percent for hitters.

You can weigh Goldschmidt’s more remarkable rate stat against Alcantara’s substantially superior counting stat and decide which you prefer. Win Probability Added is a stat that attempts to do precisely that. It put Alcantara’s contribution to victory at 5.5 games, higher than Goldschmidt (4.7) or any other National League position player.

Giving a pitcher a square deal in MVP voting is rare and even moreso when the pitcher plays for a non-contender. To some voters – okay, many – it somehow makes sense to deny Alcantara the award because the Marlins had the second or third worst offense in the league…which they did. As if Alcantara was in some way responsible for that.

If you just compare widely valued numbers posted by all the legit contenders, Alcantara’s line holds up competitively.

I’ve already noted that he led the league in WPA. Here are the NL’s top 5 in 2022:

1.     Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins, +5.5

2.     Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals, +4.7

3.     Manny Machado, San Diego Padres, +4.4

4.     Josh Bard, Colorado Rockies, +4.4

5.     Max Fried, Atlanta Braves, +4.3.

The best measure of offensive production is probably OPS+; it’s pitching equivalent is ERA+. Here are the NL’s five leaders in OPS+ or ERA+ for 2022.

1.     Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers, 194

2.     Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals, 180

3.     Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins, 178

4.     Max Fried, Atlanta Braves, 164

5.     Tyler Anderson, Los Angeles Dodgers, 163

In this category, Alcantara runs a close second to Goldschmidt, with Urias well out in front.

Finally, we can look at Wins Above Average (WAR), a stat that has the advantage of being fairly readily understood among even casual fans these days. Again, here are the top five for 2022.

1.     Sandy  Alcantara, Miami Marlins, +8.1

2.     Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals, +7.9

3.     Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals, +7.8

4.     Manny Machado, San Diego Padres, +6.8

5.     Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves, +6.5

6.     J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies, +6.5

Among the top three, the WAR numbers are close enough that they don’t make a compelling case for any of the top three as opposed to the other two. But for whatever it’s worth, Alcantara does have the fractionally higher total.

Next. Marlins looking for a different type of hitter. dark

None of that necessarily makes him the Most Valuable Player. But when you combine his game impact with his leadership in WAR and Win Probability Added, then consider his high rank in OPS+/ERA+, he at least deserves serious consideration.

Here’s betting he didn’t get it from MVP voters.