Al Alburquerque’s Terrific Slider


I get nervous whenever a pitcher with a special arm employs the slider as a primary pitch. More than any other pitch type, the slider seems to do damage to players’ arms. We saw Jeremy Bonderman go from a hard throwing up-and-comer to all-washed-up in the blink of an eye.

It troubled me when Al Alburquerque was placed on the disabled list earlier this month. I was convinced that Murphy’s Law would kick in and that “elbow inflammation” would turn into “visiting Dr. Andrews” which would turn into “headed for surgery”. But Al Al spent the minimum 15 days on the DL, and returned to the team true to form.

Alburquerque’s slider, while scary to me, must be even scarier to batters. He’s thrown 294 sliders this season*, and batters have decided to swing 135 times (45.9%). Of those 135 swings, 77 have been complete whiffs, 32 managed to knock the ball foul, and only 26 were put into play.

Batters have decided not to swing at 159 of the sliders. 107 of those takes have resulted in a ball, and 52 resulted in called strikes.

So, his complete breakdown on the slider is 54.8% strikes (whiffs + fouls + strikes looking), 36.4% balls, and 8.8% in play.

The best strategy against Alburquerque appears to be work as hard as possible to get the walk, but that’s probably easier said than done. Here’s a visual look at the trajectory of his pitches:

Try to ignore the purple changeup. There’s only one instance of that, so it’s probably just a mis-classified pitch. Perhaps the same goes for the blue curveballs (25 instances), I’m not sure if he really throws an occasional curve or not.

Look at how closely the slider (green) tracks with the fastballs (red and orange). You can’t really tell a vertical or horizontal difference between the two until it’s about 25 feet from the plate. The slide-piece follows the same plane as the fastball until it’s about two-thirds of the way to the hitter when it dives down into Vlad Guerrero’s happy zone (unhittable for everyone else).

Hitters need to pray that they can get ahead in the count. At 0-0, Alburquerque has given up a slash line of .144/.305/.154. After a 1-0 count, that line improves to .171/.443/.195. If the hitter falls behind 0-1, they only have ended up hitting .111/.172/.111. Should you fall behind Alburquerque 0-2? You might as well just take a seat. 29 batters have fallen to this count, and they’ve combined for a slash line of .000/.000/.000.

I’m now convinced that proper strategy against Alburquerque must be not to ever swing. Don’t even bring a bat up to the dish with you. And if you strike out looking? Well, you probably weren’t going to do any better anyway.

*Pitch data comes from

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