Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Crystal Ball 2011: Matt Albers

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

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.


Sean said...

Fangraph suggests that Albers was actually worth $1 mil last season. Why not tender him a contract? The bullpen could use the depth, and the payroll will be low enough that $1 mil won't hurt. If he's ineffective in 2011, he can be non-tendered after next season, before he gets more expensive. You might say that it's bad process to give money to Albers, but I think it's okay in the context of the 2011 payroll, as long as we recognize that this case is an exception and not the rule.

DempseysArmy said...

Fangraphs tends to overinflate value just a wee bit when compared to what a player could get in real life. I have no problem with bringing Albers back (unlike most Oriole fans), there are worse relievers out there, believe it or not. But for $1 mil the O's could pick up someone who actually throws strikes on a consistent basis. You could argue that there are a bunch of guys who the O's could sign to minor league deals who would probably outperform Albers (see Wil Ohman last year). Bring him back at similar money and see how he does. If not, no great loss. The O's minor league system is full of promising relief arms. In fact, that's about all we have past Zach Britton!

Sean said...

Well, Fangraph's Dollars is based on what the player would be worth as a free agent market, so I think that $1 mil for Albers wouldn't be a bad investment overall. That being said, I think you're right that relievers who can't throw strikes aren't worth much, and I would prefer to bring him back for less money.

I wonder if Albers would take a minor league deal from the O's. And now that they've non-tendered him, I hope they give his roster spot to Mickolio.

DempseysArmy said...

Albers didn't want to take a "split deal" from the team; one that paid him less is he ended up in Norfolk. Doubt he would take a minor league deal from O's but you never know.

I think the FanGraphs values are a great tool and a nice rule of thumb but Albers is specifically a reason why they don't always jibe to real life. If someone give Albers $1 milfor next season, I'll pass out from shock! It may not be a "bad" investment but I don't think the market will bear that for him. Not yet.

And yes, there's a bunch of guys who probably should get a shot from the minors (or guys riding the shuttle back and forth from Norfolk to Baltimore). Mickolio, Jim Hoey,Pat Egan, Jim Miller (if he's still around...), VandenHurk, Troy Patton...there are internal options and, of course, the yearly list of scrapheap types.