Yeah, I know that the title is boring, but I wasn't really sure what to call an article about Tigers' reliever Al Alburquerque. I wanted to find a clever way to tie in his Instagram account, but that thing is so far out there that none of it would have made any sense anyway. No matter, this report card is strictly grading Alburquerque's performance on the field, not on social media.
Al Alburquerque was a semi bright spot in Detroit's much maligned bullpen. He was far from the "Amazing Al" that we knew in 2011, but he was not bad either. Al Alburquerque was actually pretty good in 2014. He was primarily used in the seventh inning, but it was never clear what his role was all season. Alburquerque's appearances ranged from mop up innings to extremely high leverage situations, like the May 21st game in Cleveland. Remember the balk-off? That was Al.
In 2014 Al Alburquerque posted a 3.54 ERA, a 3.78 FIP, 9.89 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, a 1.17 WHIP, and an inflated 89.7 percent LOB% in 57 1/3 innings. Overall, that line isn't eye popping, but it is solid. For what it's worth Al Alburquerque use to be a two true outcome pitcher: a strikeout or a walk. In previous years Al was striking out hitters at a 12+ K/9 rate and walking hitters at a 5+ BB/9 rate. While Alburquerque walked hitters at a smaller rate than usual, he sacrificed his strikeout numbers. Luckily, the drop in strikeouts did not hurt him due to his .275 BABIP against.
The advanced analytics also liked Alburquerque this season. Al posted an ERA- of 64 and a FIP- of 98. His ERA- is extremely good, while his FIP- is right about league average. The thirty-four point discrepancy shows that he had good defense behind him, but he was still league average at worse.
While Al Alburquerque was a different pitcher than in years before, he still proved to be effective in 2014. He was only worth 0.2 fWAR, the same as Joe Nathan, but he was also never given a chance to pitch consistently in high leverage situations like Nathan. Not to mention, he made less than one tenth of what Nathan made this season. Al has been on the team since 2011, and has made a postseason appearance in every year up to 2014. Remember the guy that kissed the ball before lobbing it over to first base for the third out of the inning? Classic Al Alburquerque.
Despite the solid numbers that he put up this year, Alburquerque did not pitch a single inning in the 2014 Postseason. If it were up to me, he would have leapfrogged Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan for late inning duties before the playoffs. Sadly, I am just an eighteen year old blogger, not a manager in Major League Baseball, so I had no say in the matter.
Would the series had turned out any differently had Al Alburquerque started the eighth inning of both Game 1 and Game 2 of the ALDS? Possibly, but it's best not to dwell on what could have been. That series was already gut wrenching enough. The point is that Al Alburquerque had a good season, and should have been given more chances to pitch in bigger innings. There's always next year, Al...