Alburquerque was sent down for command reasons. Here’s a quote from Jim Leyland from the above linked MLive article:
“He was too wild today,” Leyland said. “Just too wild. He was bouncing balls to the guy he struck out. If the guy takes that pitch, we might have been in trouble there.”
If you didn’t know that this quote was taken after a specific game you might mistake it for an Al Al scouting report. He’s never been a command strike-thrower, but he’s been incredibly effective in his 71 inning major league career nonetheless. He owns a 1.90 career ERA, and a closely matching 2.15 FIP. He’s walked a ton, sure (6.3 BB/9), but he’s fanned a bunch too (14.1 K/9). We’ve seen those rates jump to an extreme level this season – 8.2 and 16.3 respectively – but his overall line is still more than adequate. The fact that his ERA is above 3.00 is probably more due to his BABIP being nearly .450 than his walk rate being over eight per nine innings.
Alburquerque isn’t going to Toledo to learn command – that would be a foolish request – but he is going to go and try to put a few less-wild innings together before coming back up. He’s an unusual pitcher in that he can be incredibly effective – one of the better relievers in the game – while walking 6+ batters per nine innings. His strikeout stuff is so devestating that batters can’t lay off. I think the Tigers recognize that and will look to get him back to the big leagues, so I won’t call this a dumb move just yet, but I don’t really see the point in the minor league tour. Reed isn’t going to out-perform Alburquerque in the big leagues, and Alburquerque isn’t likely to discover his inner Adam Wilk.
What’s going to happen is that Al Al’s walk rate will come down a bit – owing to regression and the fact that it’s AAA – the organization will say he’s “fixed” and bring him back up. It all would have happened just the same had he remainined in Detroit, but oh well. Evan Reed is now a thing.