The Case of Pittsburgh Pirates Slugger Pedro Alvarez
The Pittsburgh Pirates have started to find their bats the last few days and it is coming along with the fine starting pitching that they have been getting from their rotation combined with a great bullpen. One persons bat who has still not had any impact on a ball game whatsoever, is the bat of Pedro Alvarez, the starting third basemen for the Buccos. There is no denying the fact that Alvarez is a 30+ home run, 100+ RBI bat in the waiting to put those numbers up year in and year out. Unfortunately, this season has been a mighty struggle for Alvarez, hitting .089 with 1 home run (which came tonight), and 3 RBI. Clearly, not a start the Pirates or Alvarez envisioned.
Career numbers for Pedro Alvarez show us that when he is not striking out, he is hitting some doubles and home runs. He has a career batting average of .231, and his best batting average in a season came in 2010, when he hit .256, albeit, in 95 games. His worst season swinging a bat, came in 2011. In 74 games in the major leagues, Alvarez hit .191 with 80 strikeouts. He was sent up and down from AAA and the MLB that season and just could never find his way with the bat. In 2012, the Pirates and their fans saw what could make for a breakout 2013 season for Alvarez, where he clubbed 30 home runs, and drove in 85 RBI in his first big league season. For a guy who hits a lot of home runs, doesn’t walk a whole lot, and strikes out a ton, his .244 batting average was not horrible, but still, has tons of room for improvement to transform himself into the true impact player in all facets of the offensive side the Pirates want from him.
When one takes time to examine advanced baseball sabermetrics of Alvarez, there isn’t a whole lot of optimism for him to pick up his batting average any time soon. In 2012, Alvarez had a ground ball percentage of 46.8%, and a fly ball percentage of 34.5%. This would explain his low on base percentage and low batting average. If its not a home run or a strikeout, chances are the ball is being scooped up and thrown to first for an out. So far this season, Alvarez has a 60.7% ground ball percentage coupled with a 40% infield fly ball percentage. Perhaps, Alvarez’s lack of power thus far is because his timing is off. Regardless, even if he straightens out his power stroke and gets some timing, that ground ball percentage will still find itself around 45% if not higher.
His slow start to this season has many people wondering if Alvarez will be able to fully put it together and become the impact bat everyone thinks he can be. Personally, I can see Alvarez turning into a Mark Reynolds type player. Once Alvarez gets his timing down, my hope and prediction for him is we can see the 30+ home run potential and a .240 batting average, very similar to a Mark Reynolds type season. Reynolds however, has the ability to hit for extra bases on more of a frequent occasion than Alvarez has shown. Reynolds strikes out a lot as well, but I truly think Mark Reynolds is a type of guy who Pedro Alvarez will be when he reaches his ceiling.
Pedro Alvarez. Power and strikeouts. The state of the Pittsburgh Pirates right now may afford for him to stay in the #5 spot in the batting order but as the core pieces like Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker get older, there will be more pressure for Alvarez to pull his weight. I think once his timing gets down, we will see Alvarez improve with the power, but don’t expect a high average. You can thank his ground ball percentage for that.