Just ahead of the Thursday night deadline to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players, I thought I should take my first (and possibly last) look through the Crystal Ball at Oriole reliever Matt Albers. Before the 2010 season, I was still a supporter of Albers. I loved his stuff and thought he would eventually learn to control it. I was wrong. After a horrid April, I was the last one left to leap from the Albers bandwagon.
However, it would be wrong to think that Albers didn't do some good things over the last three seasons. Here's some of his stats from FanGraphs.com:
Season W L G IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP GB% HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP 2008 3 3 28 49.0 4.78 4.04 0.73 .258 53.2 % 7.5 % 3.49 4.60 5.02 2009 3 6 56 67.0 6.58 4.84 0.40 .355 48.4 % 4.5 % 5.51 3.92 4.70 2010 5 3 62 75.2 5.83 4.04 0.71 .305 56.5 % 8.7 % 4.52 4.24 4.46
As you can see, his FIP was respectable and his xFIP was the best of his career. The ground ball rate is very good thanks to his sinking fastball. The peripherals are generally good.
However, his walk rate continues to be above 4.00 BB/9 which is not good. You need to strikeout 8 or 9 per 9 innings to make that work.
His Pitch F/X numbers show that he's added a pitch back to his repertoire. The slider.
Season FB SL CB 2008 76.7% (91.1) 22.6% (78.0) 2009 75.1% (92.8) 24.3% (79.2) 2010 73.0% (92.5) 10.9% (85.6) 16.0% (79.0)
And the fact that he throws three pitches instead of two may make the difference for him going forward. Again, his fastball still pops and sinks, he gets good movement on his slider and his curve.
But he can't throw strikes. And there's no evidence that he ever will.
You can't offer Albers arbitration. You've got to cut him loose and see if you can bring him back at what he made last season, let him try to win a job in Spring Training. It's a risk and the Oriole bullpen depth isn't enough that you can just let him go without mulling it over but you can't pay him close to $1 mil to stay.