Five Proven Pitchers Off to Concerning Slow Starts

For a variety of reasons, these proven arms have gotten off to slow starts in 2024.

Jesus Luzardo of the Miami Marlins pitches during the first inning of the NL Wild Card game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 03: Jesus Luzardo #44 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the first inning of the NL Wild Card game against the Philadelphia Phillies on October 3, 2023 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Washington Nationals lefty Patrick Corbin has led the National League in losses for three consecutive seasons, and based on how he’s started in 2024, he could make it four years in a row.

Across his first five starts, Corbin is 0-3 with a 6.51 ERA and 4.46 FIP.

The good news for the Nationals is that Corbin is finally in the final year of a six-year, $140 million deal. The pact did net the Nationals a World Series in 2019, but for the bulk of his time in D.C., Corbin has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball by just about any metric.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel for the Nationals, who didn’t have playoff aspirations in 2024 anyway. But for a variety of reasons, here are five other proven pitchers whose slow starts are a little more concerning.

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Kyle Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals went with the quantity-over-quality approach this past offseason, and so far it’s netted, at best, mixed results.

President of baseball operations John Mozeliak signed Kyle Gibson to a one-year, $12 million deal after the journeyman logged 192 innings for the Baltimore Orioles last season. Through his first four starts with the Cardinals, Gibson has a 5.04 ERA, 5.84 FIP and -0.2 fWAR. It’s great that Gibson logs innings, but that only matters so much if he’s leaving the game with his team trailing in most starts.

The University of Missouri graduate’s contract has a $12 million club option for 2025. At this point, there’s a good chance the Cardinals instead take the $1 million buyout on Gibson’s age-37 season.

Jesús Luzardo, Miami Marlins

The version of Jesús Luzardo who posted a 3.48 ERA across 279 innings between 2022 and ’23 could be the top pitcher available on the trade market this summer.

However, that pitcher has yet to emerge in 2024, as Luzardo has a 6.58 ERA and 5.08 FIP through his first five starts of the season. One thing that sticks out right now for Luzardo is that he’s posted a 4.50 BB/9 in the early going of 2024, as opposed to the 2.77 mark he finished with last season.

The Miami Marlins aren’t contenders this year, and Luzardo can’t become a free agent until after the 2026 season, so it’s not the end of the world if the 26-year-old has a relative down year. But, it projects to be a weak starting pitching market before the July 30 trade deadline, so this could be the best year for president of baseball operations Peter Bendix to maximize the return for Luzardo. That is, if the lefty is able to rebound from a rather disastrous start.

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Bryan Abreu, Houston Astros

As a team, the Houston Astros are in disarray, having started 7-17 with a -33 run differential. One of the many areas of concern for first-year manager Joe Espada is the bullpen, which looked like it had a chance to be an elite unit before the year began.

Both Josh Hader and Ryan Pressly have had nightmarish starts to the 2024 season, but it’s Bryan Abreu who has the worst FIP (6.70) and fWAR (-0.3) among the trio of back-end relievers.

Abreu was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball over the last two seasons, posting a 1.84 ERA across 127 appearances while allowing only eight home runs. So far in 2024, Abreu has a 4.91 ERA over 11 games, and the three home runs he has given up are already more than the two he gave up over 55 outings in 2022.

Whether the Astros are able to dig their way out of this hole as a team remains unclear. But Abreu and the bullpen are too talented to continue pitching this badly, right?

Adbert Alzolay, Chicago Cubs

Speaking of high-leverage relievers who would like a mulligan on the month of April, let’s submit for your consideration Adbert Alzolay.

In 2023, Alzolay converted on 22 of 25 save attempts for the Chicago Cubs, finishing the year with a 2.67 ERA and 3.02 FIP. His season didn’t quite put him in contention to win the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award, but it was a solid development for the Cubs nonetheless.

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In 2024, Alzolay has blown four of his first seven save attempts. His -0.6 fWAR is currently the worst mark among all relievers. New manager Craig Counsell — who has a reputation as a strong handler of pitching staffs — has removed Alzolay from the closer role and gone to a closer-by-committee setup for the time being.

It’s a long season, so Alzolay will have time to earn back Counsell’s trust. But considering his limited track record of MLB success pitching out of the bullpen before last season, it is more than fair to be concerned by his slow start.

Miles Mikolas, Cardinals

The veteran additions of Sonny Gray and Lance Lynn have worked out well in small sample sizes for the Cardinals thus far, but as noted above, Gibson isn’t off to an encouraging start.

Elsewhere in a comically aging starting rotation, 35-year-old Miles Mikolas has a 6.49 ERA and 64 ERA+ (100 is the league average) across his first five starts of 2024. This comes after he posted a 4.78 ERA and 4.27 FIP across a league-leading 35 starts last season.

Again, it’s great to have one guy in your rotation who’s a back-end innings eater. The Cardinals have at least two in Gibson and Mikolas, and possibly a third in Lynn (his 4.44 FIP is significantly higher than his 2.81 ERA). That makes it feel like St. Louis has Gray and then a collection of No. 4 starters behind him.