Look, Henderson Alvarez is likely never going to be much of a strikeout artist — which is to say that his game is mostly going to be rest on him having pinpoint control and ability to draw weak contact.
So what happens when you take one of those two elements out of the righty’s outings?
Well, the Miami Marlins are unfortunately finding out these days. Though the 23-year-old has definitely gotten off to an eye-opening start to his 2013 season after posting a 2.61/1.18 ERA/WHIP over 38 innings in July (six starts) and carrying a streak of five straight quality outings into August, it’s hard to say that his last three outings haven’t represented a step back.
Take his latest outing against the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers, for example.
Sure, the Marlins weren’t really going to have much of a shot against arguably the best team in baseball right now, and doubly so with Clayton Kershaw on the mound … but Alvarez did himself and the team no favors, allowing two walks and hitting two more batters in a labored five-inning outing in which he gave up five runs on seven hits.
The 78-pitch outing was just the second out of his 10 turns where he did not make into the sixth inning, and if it were a lone outlier, perhaps there’d be less reason for skepticism.
The fact, though, is that it follows a four-walk outing in his last turn, which is to say that he’s put eight runners on base via walks of HBPs in the last 12 innings all of a sudden. That’s an alarming slippery slope that his counting numbers will reflect (nine runs over that span), though they hardly seem to matter given the context of what the team is looking to get out of him this season.
No, it’s not really so much about the hits or the runs, but rather the fact that he’s thrown fewer than 50 percent of pitches inside the zone in each of his last three starts (after a five-start streak) that’s more of an issue here.
In short, Alvarez’s upside depends largely on his ability to throw strikes regardless of the opponent, and he’s not showing much of it his last few turns.
A decline in that department was part of what made him a poor fit with the Toronto Blue Jays to begin with, and even though he has plenty of time to find that control again, you’d imagine a failure to do so will cause the Marlins to change their valuations of where he fits into the team’s future too, no?