I had some things I wanted to say about Adbert Alzolay before his start against the Braves, the first chance we’d get to see him this year against a team that isn’t the Brewers. Through those first three starts, the numbers didn’t look great at the surface, but the performances – the flashes we’ve seen – definitely leave you happy with his development.
So, anyway, I was really excited to see Alzolay, but didn’t really get a chance to dig in before the outing. That turned out to be quite fine, because he did to the Braves a better, deeper version of what he’d been flashing in the first three starts. Not only did Alzolay show the nasty stuff again with improved command, and not only did he get great results, but he also did it through six innings, the first time in his career he’s be able to go that deep. He’s been developing that stamina to keep up the mechanics and stuff once he reaches 80-ish pitches, which is understandable given his youth and his past injuries. But last night was a very, very good sign in that regard.
The Cubs needed a stopper last night, and it turned out to be the youngest starter on the staff.
Ultimately, Alzolay went 6.0 innings, allowing just two earned runs on four hits, one walk, and struck out six. Maybe the best stat of all, though, was the 94 pitches. He also got his first career hit in the game!
Once again, Alzolay’s slider was his biggest whiff weapon, netting him 10 whiffs in the game (he had four other whiffs, too, for a 14.9% swinging strike rate in the game – nice).
He also leaned heavily on that slider, throwing it 51 times out of those 94 pitches. I had wondered if the relative scrapping of his other offspeed offerings – the previously-well-regarded curveball and changeup – was tied to the fact that he was facing the same team three times to open the season (i.e., maybe just didn’t play for the Brewers lineup). But last night, he threw the changeup just five times, and didn’t throw the curveball at all. That curveball was regarded as an excellent pitch in the minor leagues, but also an inconsistent one. Right now, he doesn’t need it, so why burn pitches on an inconsistent offering that you might not get the feel for right away and might throw only a few times anyway? Longer-term, you’d love to see Alzolay able to re-incorporate it – I’m dreaming of an Arrieta-like five-pitch mix – but for now, the slider is so good and so well-located that it’s doing the work.
Oh, and speaking of the slider, this is what Eno Sarris sent out before the Braves game:
Stuff+ is designed to help make quick decisions because it’s based on velo & movement. Today’s Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay doesn’t have a huge sample, but 101 sliders in, it looks like he has the fifth-best slider in baseball by Stuff+. Love this dude. pic.twitter.com/9eatxo7Dik
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) April 29, 2021
By pitch value, that slider has been the third most valuable slider in baseball this year, behind only Shane Bieber and Yu Darvish. I mean, come on. So, yeah. Adbert Alzolay has one of the best sliders in baseball, and since he added it late last year, he’s posted a 33.3% strikeout rate against an 8.8% walk rate. Clearly, he is one of the most important stories for the Cubs this year.
Other fun Alzolay bits:
Matt Duffy on Adbert Alzolay: “I think his stuff, I'll put it up there with anybody in baseball. Just the way it moves. I faced him in live BP right before the season started and was thoroughly impressed with the pure stuff."#Cubs
— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) April 30, 2021
Marisnick on Alzolay:
"His stuff is unbelievable. I faced him a few times in live ABs and it’s really good. He’s got kind of a chip on his shoulder and a swagger about him and it’s fun to play behind."
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) April 30, 2021
Adbert Alzolay, 85mph Slider (swing/miss) and 95mph Fastball (backwards K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/ofHOAtSC30
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 30, 2021
That jersey hits different pic.twitter.com/Dxi1RqePWv
— Adbert Alzolay (@adbert29) April 30, 2021
Fittingly, last night we said goodbye to Adbert as a prospect even by the most conservative of definitions.
Alzolay was underranked this offseason across the board, as not enough credence was paid to the slider that’s now getting that love from the pitch data community. https://t.co/3UxGCGMnHm
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) April 30, 2021