WASHINGTON — Matt Albers has been one of the more underrated success stories of the 2017 NL East-champion Washington Nationals.
The 34-year-old right-handed reliever is a large reason why the Nats have stumbled into baffling success, clinching the division on Sunday with 19 games to play, despite having one of the league’s worst bullpens for the first three and a half months of the season.
Even at the bullpen’s worst, Albers was rock steady, going 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA, two saves and a .178 batting average against in 34 appearances prior to Washington’s July 16th acquisition of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.
And he’s remained reliable, going 2-1 with a 1.27 ERA and .155 average against in 22 appearances since the holes in the bullpen were patched up. On the season, Albers is 7-2 with a 1.66 ERA and 58 strikeouts (9.6 Ks/9).
Mike Rizzo, Nationals GM and President of Baseball Operations, was asked about Albers, as a person, as the Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week during his weekly appearance with The Sports Junkies.
Is Matt Albers the nicest person in the Washington Nationals clubhouse? — J.A. in Olney
“Matt is a great guy,” Rizzo said Wednesday. “What a great pickup we made in the offseason, and kudos go to him for, he accepted a minor league deal to come to spring training with a chance to make the club.”
“He not only made the club, he cemented the bullpen when we needed him most,” he said. “And then when we got some reinforcements, has continued to be a key contributor, getting key outs at key times, and is gonna be a big part of us going into the playoffs.”
“And yes, he’s one of the nicest men I’ve ever been around in baseball,” Rizzo added. “Quiet and unassuming, but kind of a jokester and a really good teammate in the clubhouse.”
“Hey, when he gets on the mound, though, he’s all business,” he said. “You see him — he gets fired up when he gets some big outs, and those are the kind of guys that we like.”