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Entries in Al Alburquerque (2)


Did Alburquerque Really Hang a Slider?

Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees hit a grand slam Saturday night off Al Alburquerque of the Detroit Tigers that put game one of the ALDS out of reach.  Starting with the call of the game, the narrative is that Al threw a slider that did not sink.  Alex Aviala, Al's catcher, explains to Jason Beck:


“He’s got two sliders, one that he throws for a strike and one that normally goes out of the zone,” Avila said. “I think he just tried to make too good of a pitch there, and it just kind of stayed up. That happens.”

The first version, the one for a strike, was his first pitch to Cano, who took it. The second pitch was meant to be the sharper one, the one that falls out of the zone. He uses it when he’s ahead in the count and gets aggressive hitters swinging and missing.


Looking at PITCHf/x data, I'm not sure that narrative is quite right.  First look at the location and movement on Alburquerque's slider during the regular season.

Al Alburquerque slider, location and movement, 2011 regular season.Al's sliders move down and in on a left-handed batter, and most often wind up in the lower inside quadrant of the plate, often on the edge of the strike zone.   Look at the movement of the two sliders he threw Cano:

Al Alburquerque slider, location and movement, 2011 ALDS game one.The first slider didn't move.  There was no break on the ball, it stayed up in the zone, and Robinson took it for a strike.  The second pitch did what most of Alburquerque's sliders do.  It broke down and in and caught the edge of the plate.  Maybe he meant it to break down further, but that particular break and location was very effective for the Tigers' rookie during the regular season.

Give Robinson Cano some credit.  This is exactly the kind of pitch he learns to hit in the home run drill run by Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long.  The drill forces hitters to be quick on inside pitches, and it turned Cano into a power hitting second baseman.  The pitch was not that bad.  Robinson Cano is simply that good.


Alburquerque's Devestating Slider

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:

Al Alburquerque, fastball and slider frequency, 2011.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:

Al Alburquerque, fastball and slider movement, 2011.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.