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Record pace for Al Alburquerque

Posted by John Autin on June 19, 2011

Al Alburquerque is currently on pace to break Eric Gagne's records for batting average and slugging average allowed in a season of 50+ innings.

Batters have gone 10 for 82 so far against Alburquerque, a .122 BA. Since 1919, six pitchers have held opponents to a batting average less than .140:

Rk Player BA IP Year Age Tm Lg G GF W L W-L% SV H R ER BB SO ERA ERA+ HR BF AB 2B 3B IBB HBP GDP SB CS PO BK WP OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Pit Str
1 Eric Gagne .133 82.1 2003 27 LAD NL 77 67 2 3 .400 55 37 12 11 20 137 1.20 337 2 306 279 6 0 2 3 0 2 1 0 0 2 .199 .176 .374 1187 824
2 Carlos Marmol .135 87.1 2008 25 CHC NL 82 22 2 4 .333 7 40 30 26 41 114 2.68 172 10 348 296 6 0 3 6 2 3 1 0 1 6 .251 .257 .508 1512 930
3 Billy Wagner .135 74.2 1999 27 HOU NL 66 55 4 1 .800 39 35 14 13 23 124 1.57 287 5 286 259 5 0 1 1 0 6 0 0 0 2 .208 .212 .420
4 Jeff Nelson .136 65.1 2001 34 SEA AL 69 16 4 3 .571 4 30 21 20 44 88 2.76 152 3 273 221 5 0 1 6 7 2 0 0 0 2 .295 .199 .494 1190 684
5 Jose Valverde .137 50.1 2003 25 ARI NL 54 33 2 1 .667 10 24 16 12 26 71 2.15 219 4 204 175 5 0 2 2 1 6 0 0 0 2 .255 .234 .489 857 545
6 Hong-Chih Kuo .139 60.0 2010 28 LAD NL 56 16 3 2 .600 12 29 8 8 18 73 1.20 321 1 229 208 6 1 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 3 .211 .192 .403 941 626
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/19/2011.

Both Alburquerque and Antonio Bastardo of the Phils are on pace for a lower BA than Gagne's 133:

Rk Player BA IP Year Age Tm Lg G GF W L W-L% SV H R ER BB SO ERA ERA+ HR BF AB 2B 3B IBB HBP GDP SB CS PO BK WP OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Pit Str
1 Al Alburquerque .122 24.0 2011 25 DET AL 23 6 3 1 .750 0 10 6 6 16 40 2.25 171 0 100 82 1 0 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 4 .273 .134 .407 19 420 247
2 Antonio Bastardo .124 27.0 2011 25 PHI NL 30 6 3 0 1.000 2 11 3 3 12 32 1.00 389 2 103 89 3 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 1 .225 .225 .450 27 437 284
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/19/2011.

Moving on to slugging: Of the 10 hits Alburquerque has allowed in 24 IP, 9 of them were singles. So in 82 AB, only one batter has made a left turn on Alburquerque -- Minnesota's Luke Hughes, who hit a double. His opponents' slugging average is .134. Since 1950 (as far back as pitchers' SLG data are available), only 5 pitchers have had a season with 50+ IP while allowing a slugging average under .200:

Rk Player SLG IP Year Age Tm Lg G GF W L W-L% SV H R ER BB SO ERA ERA+ HR BF AB 2B 3B IBB HBP GDP SB CS PO BK WP BA OBP OPS OPS+ Pit Str
1 Eric Gagne .176 82.1 2003 27 LAD NL 77 67 2 3 .400 55 37 12 11 20 137 1.20 337 2 306 279 6 0 2 3 0 2 1 0 0 2 .133 .199 .374 1187 824
2 Rob Murphy .179 50.1 1986 26 CIN NL 34 12 6 0 1.000 1 26 4 4 21 36 0.72 546 0 195 168 4 0 2 0 3 2 1 0 0 5 .155 .245 .423
3 Hong-Chih Kuo .192 60.0 2010 28 LAD NL 56 16 3 2 .600 12 29 8 8 18 73 1.20 321 1 229 208 6 1 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 3 .139 .211 .403 941 626
4 Carlos Marmol .199 77.2 2010 27 CHC NL 77 70 2 3 .400 38 40 23 22 52 138 2.55 171 1 332 272 9 1 4 8 1 10 1 0 2 2 .147 .301 .500 1421 871
5 Jeff Nelson .199 65.1 2001 34 SEA AL 69 16 4 3 .571 4 30 21 20 44 88 2.76 152 3 273 221 5 0 1 6 7 2 0 0 0 2 .136 .295 .494 1190 684
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/19/2011.

This year, 5 pitchers are on pace to join that list; besides Alburquerque, Jonny Venters is also on track to best Gagne's record for lowest slugging percentage:

Rk Player SLG IP Year Age Tm Lg G GF W L W-L% SV H R ER BB SO ERA ERA+ HR BF AB 2B 3B IBB HBP GDP SB CS PO BK WP BA OBP OPS OPS+ Pit Str
1 Al Alburquerque .134 24.0 2011 25 DET AL 23 6 3 1 .750 0 10 6 6 16 40 2.25 171 0 100 82 1 0 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 4 .122 .273 .407 19 420 247
2 Jonny Venters .174 43.2 2011 26 ATL NL 39 6 4 0 1.000 3 22 4 3 13 47 0.62 620 0 164 144 1 1 4 3 8 1 1 0 0 3 .153 .238 .411 17 593 365
3 Henry Rodriguez .191 20.1 2011 24 WSN NL 18 8 2 1 .667 0 12 4 4 16 25 1.77 219 0 86 68 1 0 0 1 2 3 0 0 1 5 .176 .341 .532 55 362 211
4 Juan Cruz .191 26.2 2011 32 TBR AL 30 5 4 0 1.000 0 14 10 10 20 25 3.38 108 0 109 89 3 0 2 0 3 5 1 0 0 2 .157 .312 .503 50 500 298
5 David Pauley .194 40.1 2011 28 SEA AL 26 8 4 0 1.000 0 24 5 5 10 25 1.12 335 0 149 134 2 0 1 2 6 3 3 0 0 0 .179 .245 .439 27 509 321
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/19/2011.

In a related development, Alburquerque is amassing strikeouts at an historic pace. He has fanned 40 of his 100 batters faced; he would be just the 6th pitcher ever to face at least 100 batters and strike out at least 40% of batters faced:

Rk Player BF SO Year Age Tm Lg G GF W L W-L% SV IP H R ER BB ERA ERA+ HR AB 2B 3B IBB HBP GDP SB CS PO BK WP BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Pit Str
1 Brad Lidge 369 157 2004 27 HOU NL 80 44 6 5 .545 29 94.2 57 21 20 30 1.90 230 8 328 6 4 5 6 5 2 5 0 1 3 .174 .254 .290 .544 1478 989
2 Carlos Marmol 332 138 2010 27 CHC NL 77 70 2 3 .400 38 77.2 40 23 22 52 2.55 171 1 272 9 1 4 8 1 10 1 0 2 2 .147 .301 .199 .500 1421 871
3 Armando Benitez 312 128 1999 26 NYM NL 77 42 4 3 .571 22 78.0 40 17 16 41 1.85 241 4 271 8 2 4 0 4 12 0 0 0 2 .148 .260 .236 .496
4 Eric Gagne 306 137 2003 27 LAD NL 77 67 2 3 .400 55 82.1 37 12 11 20 1.20 337 2 279 6 0 2 3 0 2 1 0 0 2 .133 .199 .176 .374 1187 824
5 Billy Wagner 286 124 1999 27 HOU NL 66 55 4 1 .800 39 74.2 35 14 13 23 1.57 287 5 259 5 0 1 1 0 6 0 0 0 2 .135 .208 .212 .420
6 Al Alburquerque 100 40 2011 25 DET AL 23 6 3 1 .750 0 24.0 10 6 6 16 2.25 171 0 82 1 0 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 4 .122 .273 .134 .407 19 420 247
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/19/2011.

The highest K percentage ever was 44.8% by Gagne in 2003, his Cy Young season.

Another way of looking at strikeouts is K/9. Alburquerque's 15.00 K/9 would be the 2nd-highest K/9 rate ever with at least 24 IP:

Rk Player SO/9 IP Year Age Tm Lg G GF W L W-L% SV H R ER BB SO ERA ERA+ HR BF AB 2B 3B IBB HBP GDP SB CS PO BK WP BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Pit Str
1 Carlos Marmol 15.99 77.2 2010 27 CHC NL 77 70 2 3 .400 38 40 23 22 52 138 2.55 171 1 332 272 9 1 4 8 1 10 1 0 2 2 .147 .301 .199 .500 1421 871
2 Al Alburquerque 15.00 24.0 2011 25 DET AL 23 6 3 1 .750 0 10 6 6 16 40 2.25 171 0 100 82 1 0 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 4 .122 .273 .134 .407 19 420 247
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/19/2011.

So ... yeah. Alburquerque, a 25-year-old, 6' righty from San Pedro de Macoriis, signed with Detroit last November as a minor-league free agent. He whiffed 3 in 2 IP in his debut April 15 and hasn't slowed yet. He's fanned more than a batter per inning in 17 of his 23 games, with a high of 6 Ks in 3 IP on April 30, and two games of 4 Ks in 2 IP. He has allowed 6 runs in 24 IP, but none in his last 11 games; he has also stranded 17 of 18 inherited runners.

Now for the ogligatory caveats:

(1) Obviously, 24 innings is not a lot, and it would only take one bad game to knock him off track for these records. A couple of bad games and we might forget he was ever on such a pace.

(2) There is nothing in Alburquerque's minor-league record to suggest that he was capable of anything like this degree of domination. In 178 minor-league IP, mostly in relief, he had a 4.49 ERA and allowed 8.7 H/9, and his 10.0 K/9 was good but not special for a minor-league reliever. He's never had even a partial season that looked anything like his first 23 games in the majors.

But this Tigers fan hopes he can keep it up ... 'cause Justin Verlander can't pitch every day.

This entry was posted on Sunday, June 19th, 2011 at 11:44 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

46 Responses to “Record pace for Al Alburquerque”

  1. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Last season Craig Kimbrel faced 88 batters and struck out 45.5% of them. This season he's all the way down to 36.5%. He and Venters must be one of the great relief combos to watch.

    Mariano Rivera never shows up on these lists for single-season dominance. Pretty much every season he has is excellent, but not other-worldly. But the couple guys who might be more impressive in any one season fade away, while he keeps on truckin'.

  2. Arthur Rhodes was on a record setting pace right around this time last year, too.

  3. John Autin Says:

    @2, Rich -- Valid point, but I would add that:

    (a) Rhodes was 40 years old last year, with a long track record of being good but not dominant; and

    (b) he did still wind up with very good numbers for the year.

    As for Alburquerque ... Any time I mention a record pace, I'm well aware that the player will most likely fall short. I'm not making any predictions, not calling him the next Billy Wagner; I haven't even seen the guy pitch yet. I'm just saying: I knew he was off to a great start, but until I ran the numbers, I didn't realize just how great it was.

  4. fredsbank Says:

    good god, eric gagne

  5. This ol' Bugs Bunny fan sure appreciated the "left turn [at] Albuquerque" remark.

  6. John Autin Says:

    @5, Ian -- You've made my day by noticing! I really wanted to use the title "No Left Turns on Alburquerque," but having once used the title "Tuesdays with More E's", I've been asked to refrain from punny titles.

  7. So, is Al the first major leaguer with 2 Qs in his last name?

  8. Holy crap, Venters already has 45.1 IP (including tonight).

  9. His BABIP against is only 0.238, so except his BA against to start creeping up.

    The kid has a walk rate of 6 BB/9, but his WHIP is only 1.08. You don't see that every day.

    Seriously though, he'll need to improve his control for the Tigers to use him other than as a middle guy.

  10. how underrated is his name?

  11. [...] Record pace for Al Alburquerque: B-R’s John Autin puts Alburquerque’s 2011 season-to-date in historical perspective. [...]

  12. @6

    Whoever asked you to refrain, don't listen to him. Keep it up, JA. You're quickly becoming my favorite blogger on this site.

  13. John Autin Says:

    @9, Doug -- I think it would be great if he improved his walk rate. But I wouldn't see any problem with his exact performance to date being used in a more high-leverage role. There have been plenty of effective closers with high walk rates, including Carlos Marmol (career 5.8 BB/9, but just 5.6 H/9 thanks to 11.7 K/9).

  14. John Autin Says:

    @10, Jesse -- Immeasurably. In fact, I think it would be impossible to overrate his name.

  15. John Autin Says:

    @1, JT -- Interesting point about The Great One, although he does show up at #3 on the single-season WHIP and SO/BB lists (min. 50 IP).

    Do you think there is any conscious "pacing himself" aspect to Rivera's performance?

  16. Let me be the one to get the bandwagon rolling: Al Alburquerque for the Hall of Fame!

    And how on earth is it possible that a name that unusual is NOT spelled the same as the town in New Mexico? Anyone know why that is?

    Th... th... th... that's all folks!

  17. John Autin Says:

    @16, Hartvig -- It's all the same to Bugs: "Alba-coiky!"

  18. John Autin Says:

    @16, Hartvig -- But seriously ... glad you asked!

    It seems it is the city, not the player, who is "in error." Per Wikipedia:

    "It is generally believed that the growing village was named by the provincial governor Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes in honor of Don Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, viceroy of New Spain from 1653 to 1660. One of de la Cueva's aristocratic titles was Duke of Alburquerque, referring to the Spanish town of Alburquerque."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albuquerque,_New_Mexico#Etymology

  19. Not a lot in Al Alburquerque's minor league stats to suggest his 2011 dominance. He missed all of 2008 and pitched only 34.1 innings last year. Arm problems in both instances?

    He's had only a cup of coffee in Triple A in his career. Nice pick, Andy, on his great start but he will probably come back to earth over a whole season.

    At 24 IP, have the advance scouting reports around the league caught up with him yet?

    That raises the question does the league "catch up" with a new pitcher like Alburquerque faster or slower than with a hot new rookie hitter?

  20. John @ 16 Thanks! What a great website. Baseball, geography and history lessons all in one post.

  21. Hartvig, you Wascally Wabbit, you!

  22. @19
    Sorry, JA, referenced you as Andy. A nice catch o putting Alburquerque's great start in perspective.

  23. [...] B-R love... this time for Al Al Record pace for Al Alburquerque Baseball-Reference Blog Blog Archive __________________ 2011 AAT - Matt Hoffman My Batter Strikeout [...]

  24. As a Tiger fan, I've been watching Al since he came up closely and the thing that is most noticeable about him is his absolutely dominating slider. It's just as good as Marmol's, and while I don't think he will be able to sustain what he has going now, he isn't going to fade off as much as people think.

  25. John Autin Says:

    @24, Corey -- Thanks for the eyewitness report. I have not yet seen him pitch. Should I break down and buy the MLB Season Pass? I'm starting to get Tigers Fever!

  26. Al Al sure is fun to watch. That 6 K game against Seattle was something else. Nobody was touching any of his pitches. He was running it up to 97 or 98 that night IIRC and his slider was breaking more than the width of the plate. He looks great when he's on. Time to just ride the wave as long as it can go!

    Although - I agree with #7. First major leaguer with two Q's in his last name?

  27. John Autin Says:

    @7, @26 -- Sorry, but I can't say definitively whether Alburquerque is the first MLB player with 2 Q's. I'm sure he's the only one I've ever heard of.

    P.S. While searching for the answer to that question, I happened upon some Cubs fan site claiming that they signed a pitcher named Austin Bibens-Dirkx to take over Alburquerque's role as player whose last name is hardest to spell. I thought it was a joke, but no....
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=bibens001aus

  28. I've also seen him pitch regularly. He's looked dominant from day 1.

    Not only is is slider filthy, but he has a 98 mph fastball. And you can tell that hitters never have any idea of whether or not any given pitch is going to be his fastball or his slider. They'll regularly take the fastball down the middle and then swing away at the slider in the dirt. And he throws the slider a lot in fastball counts too.

    I don't expect him to keep up his current pace, but he sure looks like a keeper.

  29. One more thing, he has two different sliders. One is slower and he'll throw it for strikes. The other is hard and nasty. It just drops off the table without any warning. He gets a ton of swing and misses with that pitch.

  30. John Autin Says:

    @28/29, Funk -- Any comparison to Jordan Walden, the Angels' young closer? I got my first look at him this past weekend. He started the 9th with a 1-run lead, walked Reyes, and after Reyes stole 2nd, walked the next batter. I thought he might get a little rattled, but instead he fanned the next 3 guys swinging, on a slider that started out looking like a fastball at the knees but wound up in the dirt. Three veteran lefty batters, but they had no chance.

  31. Can't tell you, John. Most of the games I watch are Tigers games. But that sounds similar to Al Al's hard slider. One of the best sliders I've ever seen.

  32. Johnny Twisto Says:

    he has two different sliders. One is slower and he'll throw it for strikes. The other is hard and nasty. It just drops off the table without any warning. He gets a ton of swing and misses with that pitch.

    Reminds me of old Joba....sob....

    Jordan Walden

    I can't stand watching that guy. He jumps as he pitches! WTF? It looks awful aesthetically and it doesn't seem like efficient mechanics. I guess it's working so far though.

  33. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Do you think there is any conscious "pacing himself" aspect to Rivera's performance?

    Interesting question. I doubt it. I mean, part of the reason short relievers can be so dominant is because they don't have to pace themselves. But Rivera is so smooth and relaxed in his delivery, it may appear that way.

    It's an odd thing, but he doesn't really have a put-away pitch. Of course his cutter is dominant and very difficult to hit, but it's not a classic strikeout pitch. He has usually had good strikeout rates, but never the amazing ones which many of his peers do. And some seasons he's been down with a decidedly average K-rate, with no apparent loss of overall effectiveness. He really is a guy who can consistently induce weak contact. We've all seen pitchers have individual games where no one hits them well. But generally, dominant pitchers are dominant because they strike a lot of guys out. Rivera is a dominant pitcher with a dominant pitch which doesn't get that many swing-and-misses. Just part of what makes him one of the singular performers in baseball history.

  34. Just wait for our good old friend umpires to put him to his right place. After all, Al is just another wetback pitching for Tigers.

  35. Johnny Twisto Says:

    There he is! Cabriel, why didn't you join us on the discussion about the confusion during the Mets-Pirates game last week? Lots of juicy umpire morsels to sink your teeth into there.
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/11816

  36. @33.

    Interesting comment about Rivera: "He really is a guy who can consistently induce weak contact."

    My hunch would be that, if this statement is true, then Rivera's BABIP against would be consistently below his peers. And, it is. For his career, Rivera has a 0.264 BABIP against, versus a 0.298 MLB average. Only twice in his career has his BABIP against been 0.300 or higher - in 2007 and so far in 2011.

    But, what does this say about the arguments around DIPS? If I've understand the concept correctly, BABIP is supposed to be about luck - a pitcher is as likely to have a good or bad BABIP against in any given year. Therefore, the pitcher's job is just to get the strikeouts up and the walks down - reduce the balls in play, and minimize the impact of the ones you allow.

    If all that's true, Rivera must be just about the luckiest man who's ever lived to have had the BABIP against numbers that he's had. I don't think it's luck.

  37. John Autin Says:

    @36, Doug -- I don't think it's luck, either; neither does almost every LHB who's ever been quoted on what it's like to hit against Mo.

    But I don't think that a few exceptions invalidate the theory.

  38. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Pitchers do have some skill in preventing BABIP. It's just that the variation caused by chance is greater than the spread in talent (at the MLB level), so it can be hard to tell who really has the ability for years, perhaps until their career is over. Rivera does seem to be one of those at the extreme endrange of BABIP prevention.

  39. I think BABIP is best used to determine whether or not a pitcher / batter is having an especially lucky or unlucky year. Players definitely have varying BABIP over their career, but season to season it varies a lot, and most of that variation is due to luck.

  40. John Autin Says:

    Update: Another sharp long-relief outing for Al-Al in LA on Wednesday 6/22: 2.2 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 4 Ks. Came on in a tight spot in the 5th, with a 1-run lead, 2 on, 2 out; issued a walk but left 'em loaded with a strikeout. He's now stranded 19 of 20 inherited runners, which is off the charts.

    The 4 Ks in 2.2 IP actually lowered his K/9 by a hair, but raised his K% of batters faced. And the 0 hits in 7 AB lowered his opponents' batting average to .112 (10 for 89).

  41. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I'm still reading! Though in the middle of page 2, I doubt anyone else is....

    I remember him facing the Yanks earlier in the season but I really don't have much memory of him besides his name. I wonder if he wasn't that sharp, I wasn't paying much attention, or I'm just an idiot. I need to get another look at him.

  42. [...] in the week, John Autin of Baseball-Reference pointed out that Al Alburquerque is on a pace to challenge some historic marks this season. The [...]

  43. As far as comparables, his skillset looks more like Brad Lidge in his prime, with a high end fastball, as slider he throws for strikes and a slider he effectively draws swings out of the zone, namely in the dirt.

  44. John Autin Says:

    @41, JT -- To jog your memory:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/DET/DET201105040.shtml

    Al-Al pitched in 2 of the 4 games in the Bronx, neither one high-leverage. In the one above, he closed out Scherzer's gem, pitching the 9th with a 4-0 lead. He hit Teix with a 1-2 pitch, then fanned A-Rod and Cano swinging, before Swisher bounced out on an 0-2 pitch to end it.

  45. [...] Record pace for Al Alburquerque Baseball-Reference Blog Blog Archive On pace for a historical season. [...]

  46. [...] left turns on Alburquerque... Record pace for Al Alburquerque Baseball-Reference Blog Blog Archive [...]