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Mr. Zero
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Since the start of 2013, just two pitchers in baseball have thrown more than three shutouts.

One is an annual Cy Young contender with 107 career wins and a 3.07 ERA in 1,400 innings. The other has thrown 178 1/3 innings in the last two seasons combined and has 18 career wins.

But the two hurlers are on par when it comes to going the distance without giving up a run.

St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright is one of those two pitchers. The other plays for the Miami Marlins, but it isn't Jose Fernandez or Nathan Eovaldi.

It's Henderson Alvarez, a man who has more career no-hitters than first names.

Alvarez blanked the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday night for his Major League Baseball-leading third shutout of the season and now has a 2.62 ERA in 75 2/3 innings. He's tossed 21 straight scoreless innings over his last three starts.

The right-hander's no-no came on the final day of the 2013 season against the Detroit Tigers, so he's thrown four shutouts in his last 13 starts.

However, just three of his nine non-shutout outings in that span were quality starts.

So is Alvarez really a dominant ace or just someone who can put it all together for one start a month?

His stuff says he can be the former, but his chase, contact and strikeout rates say he's closer to the latter. I think he's somewhere in the middle.

Alvarez' primary pitch is a sinker which he throws an average of 94.7 mph. He also averages 94.9 mph with his four-seamer and throws a change-up and a slider, according to Brooks Baseball.

Pitchers who throw 95 mph, especially with a sinker, don't usually have a K/9 under 6.0, but that's where Alvarez has been throughout his career.

His career K/9 is 4.63 and he's struck out 5.35 batters per nine innings this season.

Alvarez' contact rate is 84.7 percent, 12th-highest in baseball, and his swing-and-miss rate is 18th-lowest.

But the right-hander has been as good at limiting home runs as anyone not named Brad Ziegler, the Arizona Diamondbacks submarining reliever who makes a living by getting batters to hit the ball on the ground, over the last two seasons.

Among pitchers with 100 innings in that span, only Ziegler's HR/9 ranks higher than Alvarez' 0.3.

Alvarez doesn't really allow many extra-base hits in general. Of the 81 hits he's allowed this season, 62 were singles. He ranks eighth in baseball with 11 ground-ball double plays.

Alvarez also has impeccable control. He's walked 1.9 batters per nine this season after issuing 2.37 free passes per nine a year ago.

The 24-year-old, who came to Miami from the Toronto Blue Jays as part of the salary-dump trade that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to the Great White North, has some rough outings because he allows so many balls in play and is prone to the somewhat random fluctuations of BABIP.

But because he doesn't walk anyone, mostly allows singles and gets a ton of double plays, Alvarez has proven to be adept at keeping the scoreboard clean when he's on his game.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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