In part thirty-nine of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at right-hander Matt Albers… THE FIGHTIN’ BULLPEN ENIGMA*!
* Credit to Dempsey’s Army – who sponsors the Albers page at Baseball-Reference, for that one.
Albers was one of the pieces that came over from Houston in the Miguel Tejada trade, and he showed some promise – mostly out of the bullpen – in 2008, largely due to his ability to generate groundballs. Going into 2009, I projected him to pitch 65 innings (split between the rotation and the pen) with a 4.55 ERA.
Things were a bit rocky for Albers this past season, as his ERA shot up from 3.49 to 5.51 and he was demoted to the minors multiple times. He was able to stay healthy though (unlike ’08), and still racked up 67 IP in the majors – all in relief. Despite the jump in earned runs allowed, Albers increased his strike-out rate from 4.8 K/9 to 6.6 K/9 which is a positive sign. That latter mark still isn’t great in general though, and with his spotty control (4.8 BB/9 in ’09, 4.3 BB/9 career) Albers needs to consistently keep the ball on the ground to remain a viable pitcher. While his groundball rate of 48.4% was still good, it was a step down from last year’s 53.2%.
Albers’ sinker – along with a low HR/FB rate – kept his FIP at 3.92 despite a 4.70 xFIP. The former mark resulted in Albers being worth 0.7 Wins Above Replacement, while the latter would make him only a replacement level pitcher. Both the FIP and the xFIP where slight improvements on 2008, but Albers will need to maintain or raise his strike-out rate while cutting down on the walks if he wants to keep his job with the team going forward.
Looking at the Pitch/FX, Albers’ fastball has good movement and above average velocity (92.8 mph), but it’s not quite a sinker like Brad Bergeson’s (for example). He threw the pitch a lot – about three-quarters of the time – and then complimented it with a 79 mph curveball that seems to have decent bite. As a reliever, which is the role he’s probably best suited for at this point, Albers has pretty much ditched his change-up – though it looked like a decent enough pitch when he threw it. That kind of repertoire makes for an adequate 7th inning arm, assuming he can gain better control of his stuff.
Albers wasn’t as good as he looked in ’08 or as bad as he looked in ’09, and even if he doesn’t improve much he’s not a bad option to round out a pitching staff. With the depth of young pitching in the O’s system though, Baltimore might not be the place for him to do so for all that much longer.
Photo by Keith Allison and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0.