In due time, and maybe with a little bit of luck, the 2022 MLB season will arrive.
The arrival of baseball season is always an exciting time of year for MLB fans, and it’s also an exciting time for players who are looking to prove something in the new year.
Plenty of players fit that description as the 2022 season approaches.
Today, we’re going to look at a few MLB starting pitchers who are due for bounce-back campaigns in 2022.
Let’s get started.
3. Chris Sale
After missing the 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery, Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale made his highly anticipated return to the mound in 2021.
Sale made his season debut in August and wound up making nine starts in the regular season.
On the surface, the results were solid, as he maintained a 3.16 ERA in those outings.
However, he didn’t entirely look like his old self, which became crystal clear in the playoffs.
Over three postseason outings, he tossed nine innings and allowed 10 total runs.
It’s rare for a guy to look like his vintage self immediately after returning from a surgery like Tommy John, so Red Sox fans probably shouldn’t be too worried about how Sale performed in 2021.
We will likely learn a lot more in 2022.
It’s no secret what he’s capable of, as he’s a seven-time All-Star and perennial Cy Young candidate.
But in 2022, he needs to prove that he’s still capable of being that guy.
2. Yu Darvish
The 2021 season was a forgettable one for Yu Darvish.
He earned an All-Star selection after a strong first half, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
His season took a turn for the worst down the stretch.
Over Darvish’s final 13 outings, he pitched to a 6.72 ERA.
The good news is that his FIP during that stretch (5.02) was significantly lower than his ERA, and his FIP for the season (3.90) was also notably lower than his overall ERA (4.22).
But at the end of the day, keeping runs off the board is what matters, and the San Diego Padres are going to need Darvish to do that in 2022.
Given his track record, Padres fans should enter the season with high hopes for the 35-year-old.
Yu Darvish, Slider (home plate view with & without tail) pic.twitter.com/NwS05lEVVc
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) January 29, 2022
After all, he finished second in the Cy Young race in 2020.
That’s no small feat, and the hope is that he’ll have another Cy Young-caliber season in 2022.
1. Aaron Nola
Aaron Nola is the obvious choice for the top spot on this list.
The righty couldn’t catch a break in 2021, and he’s surely ready to leave it in the past.
On the surface, it was an ugly campaign for him, as he registered a 4.63 ERA and 90 ERA+.
But if you look at some of his complementary statistics, like his 3.37 FIP, you’ll likely come to the conclusion that he was extremely unlucky in 2021.
Largest gap between actual & expected ERA, 2021 (min 350 batted balls):
Andrew Heaney: 1.85 (5.83 ERA, 3.98 xERA)
Aaron Nola: 1.26 (4.63 ERA, 3.37 xERA)
Eduardo Rodriguez: 1.22 (4.74 ERA, 3.52 xERA)
(xERA: Based on quality of contact + walks, strikeouts)
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) November 15, 2021
In theory, that trend shouldn’t continue in 2022.
Nola is an ace when things are going his way.
He pitched to a 3.13 ERA and 138 ERA+ over 79 starts from the start of the 2018 season through the end of the 2020 campaign.
The 28-year-old even has two top-seven Cy Young finishes to his name.
The Philadelphia Phillies are hoping to see that version of him in the upcoming season.