Al Alburquerque (DET) is winning high praise after three no-hit innings Saturday night. Jim Leyland described his slider as electric, and batters have yet to earn a hit off the pitch while striking out eleven times in thirteen at bats on the pitch.
Al throws his slider as much as the fastball, and these heat maps show why the pitch is so good:
The mass in the middle represents the fastball. The other mass in the lower corner of the catcher's right hand is the slider. Here's what the movement looks like:
The fastball comes in with the expected drop, and moves to the catcher's left a bit. The slider comes in with a big drop and moves the opposite way. So if Alburquerque gets a hitter used to the fastball, the slider changes everything the hitter learned.
Yet, in looking at his pitch log, Al sometimes just comes after batters with the slider. The last batter he faced on Saturday was Asdrubal Cabrerra, and he attacked him with sliders, but moved them all over the strike zone. He even pulled the string on the last two, dropping them from 86 to 84 MPH. We'll see how batters adjust to the pitch as the season progresses.