Alburquerque named Tigers Rookie of the Year
Fifty-one weeks after he was a footnote transaction, reliever Alberto ("Al-Al") Alburquerque has become a household name in Detroit — although notsomuch amongst New York talk radio hosts like Mike Francessa.
Wednesday, it was announced that he'd been named the 2011 Detroit Tigers Rookie of the Year by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters' Association, an award the organization has handed out since 1969.
Alburquerque was well worth the big-league contract the Tigers handed him, signing him the same day they inked set-up man Joaquin Benoit, finishing as the leader among American League relievers in batting average allowed (.142), as well as hits (4.36) and strikeouts (13.92) per nine innings. His strikeout rate and average allowed were the best numbers recorded by a Tigers reliever in the post-World War II era.
As a rookie, Alburquerque finished 6-1 with a 1.87 ERA in 41 outings, not allowing a single earned run after his September return from injury, but had a postseason ERA of 13.50 in four playoff outings. The rust on his arm from missing time with a forearm injury and the much-publicized batting practice concussion limited his ability to contribute in the postseason, hamstringing the Tigers at the end of games, forcing them to go almost exclusively with Benoit and closer Jose Valverde.
General manager Dave Dombrowski didn't seem to indicate any need to improve the back end of the Tigers' bullpen before next season, trusting that Alburquerque can snap back to form with an offseason of rest.
"You've got Valverde, you've got Benoit, Alburquerque was a little bit of an unusual situation at the end of the year, but he'll be healthy, so that's three guys that have established themselves from the right side," Dombrowski said.