The Tigers have the fire power offensively to be a tough out in the postseason. Detroit is third in the majors in team batting average, and fourth in runs scored. The lineup possesses a multitude of weapons, thus moving forward, opposing pitchers will need to bring their A-game if they want to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.
Detroit from a pitching point of view isn’t necessarily sitting in the driver’s seat. Getting the ball to Jose Valverde with a lead is the name of the game, and as a playoff series moves along, that becomes tricky when guys not named Verlander or Fister are starting.
That is where a healthy Al Alburquerque steps in. After passing the two outings on consecutive days test Jim Leyland presented this weekend, one could make the assertion Al-Al is in good shape to be a part of the postseason roster. While Alburquerque won’t impact a series to the same effect as a Justin Verlander or a Miguel Cabrera, his presence in the bullpen is a big deal.
Perhaps I’m speaking out of rear end on this one, but I am not entirely comfortable with the Tiger’s other bullpen options for the 7th inning.
Daniel Schlereth, while possessing a nice breaking ball, often has struggles controlling his pitches. And quite frankly, his .244/.404/.453 line against right-handed hitters might suggest he should be more of a Loogy.
Ryan Perry has grown up a lot in the last month or so, but I question his ability to pitch in a game underneath the bright lights with Joe Buck serving as the announcer. He still looks like in some spots, there’s a comfort issue going against him.
Phil Coke probably has the intensity lacking in Perry, but a WHIP over 1.40 scares me. Coke, like Schlereth also has similar struggles against right-handed batters(.313/.374/.426).
Alburquerque’s biggest concern isn’t his stuff – it’s the noggin. And right now, there’s no evidence to suggest his brain waves aren’t functioning at a high level.
Since his return from being drilled in the skull with a batting practice line-drive, all Alburquerque has done is allow three hits and no runs in 5.1 innings. In that time he’s struck out nine, and opponents are hitting .176/.250/.176 against him.
Also, with reference to earlier concerns about Al-Al throwing way too many sliders, and the negative effects that could have on his health – I have noticed a change in his recent outings. While it doesn’t seem like he is cutting down on the sliders, he does appear to be firing them with a little less torque.
Earlier in the season, his slider was retreating far away from the strike zone(down and way away from righties). Perhaps in effort to save his arm and shoulder, Alburquerque’s slide-piece has morphed into a pitch with significantly less break, but that is not harming the results.
When facing right-handers in September, Al-Al’s slider is constantly pelting the outside corner of the strike zone. It is still a difficult pitch to do much with, as batters still have to account for the inside fastball. And obviously when guys have found a way to put the pitch in play, not much in the way of danger is happening. I believe this change has also benefited Alburquerque in terms of limiting free passes.
If Detroit has visions of going deep in the playoffs, their pitching is obviously crucial. Bridging the gap from starter to Valverde is the big mission. A healthy Al Alburquerque could make this mission much easier to complete.