Ok, let's get the obvious out the way right up front - he's had two starts, one he he lasted 8 and 1/3 innings and gave up no runs, and another was a complete game shutout. That's pretty crazy. He's just the 63rd pitcher to give up zero runs in his first two career starts, and the combined 17.1 innings is the 17th longest scoreless streak ever by a starter to begin his career, and the longest since the immortal John Hiller in 1967. Crazy, crazy stuff, especially coming from an unlikely source. Of course the downside is that the list isn't exactly full of big names (Phil Niekro and Mike Norris are probably the biggest) and some of the more recent pitchers to pull the two game thing off haven't exactly gone on to bigger things (Josh Collmenter, Vin Mazzarro, and Alex Sanabia, to name a few). So the big question - is Andrew Albers, like, good?
He was never really considered any kind of prospect, signing with the Twins as a minor league free agent after a year with the Padres' rookie ball squad and spending a season playing for Quebec in an Independent League in Canada. His minor league numbers are fantastic, however, putting up a career ERA of 2.64 and WHIP of 1.15 in 5 seasons, and while limiting walks and homers and striking out 7.7 batters per nine innings including 7.9 per at Rochester prior to being called up. Setting up like a nice diamond in the rough story, eh? And his pro results obviously have been a fantastic, but let's look at this with some nerd stats.
A fastball topping out at 87mph and a K/9 mark of 2.09 right now both scream fluke, as does being a starter who pitches from the stretch at all times (what's up with that?). Add in a BABIP of .113 and a LOB % of 100% and everything says regression to the mean is going to hit this kid and hit him really, really hard. Then again, that's what I thought after start #1, and start #2 was even better.
Now, if you aren't striking batters out, the other way to have some success is to get a ton of groundballs and not to walk anybody. His 49% ground ball rate would put him at 21st in the majors if he had enough innings. Very good. His walk rate of 1.7% would be the best in the majors, halving the 3.4% of major league leaders David Price and Adam Wainwright. Perhaps even more importantly to his success this far is when he's not getting ground balls he's not getting hit hard, with a line drive rate of just 11%, 5% better than league leader Stephen Strasburg. And, of course, he has yet to allow a fly ball to leave the yard, despite even the best pitchers usually seeing about 5% of their fly balls going out (he's only allowed 21 fly balls period, so this is one to watch). Could he sustain this? (Obviously not, but I mean something close enough to it to be a permanent fixture in the rotation)
Albers so far has thrown 58% of his pitches in the strike zone, which would be by far the highest percentage of all starting pitchers in the majors. Of those strikes, 63% have been swung at which is a pretty low rate, and he's getting nobody to chase the balls out of the zone (just 27% have been swung at). Batters are also making contact with the balls they swing at in the zone at a 94.5% rate, worse even than noted soft-tosser Bronson Arroyo. Everything about his advanced stat profile screams to me that he's getting extremely lucky so far.
That being said, I'm not going to write him off either. If he can continue to not walk anybody (likely), continue to get a lot of ground balls (pretty likely), and keep the ball in the park (less likely) he could still find some success. If he can figure out how to strike batters out, we could really have something here. I would say he's got no chance at bringing up the Ks with that fastball at this level, but his AAA numbers were good so maybe there's something back there somewhere.
I guess the answer to the question, "Is Andrew Albers like, good?" is "probably not." But note the "probably". His two starts are historically amazing, but it's likely once teams get more tape and figure him out and his luck evens out he's going to get pounded. There does, however, exist the possibility that he's one of those rare pitchers who defy the advanced metrics, as he has so far. Hope for a back-of-the-rotation mainstay who can give you a season worth of 4.00 ERA year after year. But expect worse.
OTHER TWINS NOTE WORTH NOTING: In the blockbuster Drew Butera trade the Gophers received the infamous "Player to be Named Later." That player has now been named and it's Miguel Sulbaran. Sulbaran is a lefty starter at the Dodgers' Single-A affiliate, and at just 19 years old put up some pretty solid numbers - 3.01 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and an 85/27 K/BB ratio. He started young at 17 in rookie ball and through these years has an ERA of 3.21, WHIP of 1.19, and K/BB ratio of 206/59. Awfully good numbers for his age and level. He was actually named the #14 prospect in the Dodger system earlier this season. All this for Drew Butera? Considering getting anything other than "cash consideration" would have felt like a win, this feels like an outright steal.
GOPHER NOTE WORTH NOTING: According to a source close enough to know, since the Richard Pitino hire Reid Travis is now "seriously considering" the Gophers. I know this is sort of something everyone has kind of pieced together and some recruiting experts have said the same thing, but it was kind of cool to hear it confirmed. Plus I wanted to act all cool because I have a source. A one time only source, but a source. I'm so big time.