Apr 10, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) hits a three-run home run in the seventh inning of their game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Pedro Alvarez Off To Encouraging Start For Pittsburgh Pirates

Coming off a big season in which he tied for the National League lead in homers (36) and drove in 100 runs, big things were expected from Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

Judging by the start to the 2014 season, Alvarez seems poised to deliver on those lofty expectations.

Apr 2, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) singles against the Chicago Cubs during the thirteenth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 4-3 in sixteen innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Now if you are one that foolishly judges a hitter solely by his batting average, you should probably stop reading now, because Alvarez has gotten off to a very promising start.

Slow April starts and Alvarez go hand in hand, which is a big reason for his .189 batting average that people like to point to. However, look more closely and there are a ton of positives about his start.

No one works harder at his craft than Alvarez and the signs show he is starting to become a more complete hitter.

He’s worked on taking the ball to left field more and has hit plenty of balls the opposite way with authority. He’s also been much more patient at the plate and his walk total has increased. Finally, while he never will totally master hitting left-handed pitching as most lefty hitters don’t, he has looked more competent against southpaws.

The facts are that Alvarez is and always will be a very streaky hitter. When you are riding the highs he can carry an offense and when he is going badly he can be brutal.

That’s baseball, folks.

Alvarez awakened last Thursday going 2 for 3 with a pair of walks and a three-run homer against the Milwaukee Brewers. He had another two-hit performance last night against the Cincinnati Reds.

That raised Alvarez’s line to  .189/.302/.459.

The OBP is solid enough given the low average and the patience at the plate should see that number increase, which is a great sign considering that during his big 2013 campaign Alvarez posted only a .296 OBP.

A better sign for Alvarez is that his isolated power (slugging minus batting average) of .322 entering last weekend was among the top marks in all of baseball.

He’s also already clubbed six home runs, a number he didn’t reach until May 10 of last season. Alvarez ended May with only 10 homers last season, a number he is sure to eclipse in a big way this season.

More importantly, as I mentioned a couple of times already, Alvarez is drawing plenty of walks with 11, and has struck out in just 22 percent of his plate appearances, a number that is down big time from his 30.4 percent career mark. He didn’t draw his 11th walk of the season last year until May 23.

Another good sign is that his batting average on balls in play is only .163, which is not sustainable and will rise. Last year Alvarez carried a .276 BABIP and a .303 mark the season before. When it is all said and done, that number will likely be right around the .290-.300 range.

At the end of the day if Alvarez can continue on this path and continue to keep the strikeouts down, he realistically could hit in the .260-.270 range the rest of the way.

If he continues on all the positive trends, the 2014 season could be a big one for “El Toro.” He’s already well on his way to doing so.

Tags: Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Lucas Rambo

    260-270? C’mon now sir… Pedro has never hit .260 in his career! Guy is a .233 career hitter and will strike out 170+ times this year! Hard to hit .260-270 when you strike out 1 time a game… Also, yes he is on pace to hit 46 homers this year but is also on pace for only 100 RBI’s which he did last year… Guy could hit 10 more home runs yet drive in the same amount of runs? Tells me the guy can’t get base hits with people on… Batting .160 RISP isn’t too promising… Oh, and if you are a Pirates fan, you better hope he doesnt have a big time season due to the fact that agent Boras is going to try to get him 10-12 million a year in which the Pirates won’t pay… So just hope Pedro stays a below average guy in the field and is only good for HR’s on O. Cutch, Marte, Cole and Polanco are your future Pittsburgh… Not the liability at 3rd!

    • Matt Shetler

      I never said he would finish the season hitting .260. What I did say was he could hit .260 or so the rest of the year which would like end up him being a .240 hitter at seasons end. He has hit over .300 a couple of months the past 2 seasons and has hit over .250 in a month 6 times the past 2 years so that is attainable given the improved metrics.

      And the past three years he has hit .241 with runners on base so while that isn’t outstanding it is not nearly as bad as you make it seem. What he needs is a real bat hitting behind him and you should see those numbers increase even more.

      And I agree about the Boras factor. He’s as good as gone in 2017 when he can hit free agency and will likely get more than $10-12 mil. Just the way the market is.

      Has some holes but far from a liability though

      • Luke Rambo

        Alright, at the end of the day you are going to get a guy hitting 35+ homers, 100 RBI’s batting in the .230′s, I get that. I graduated accounting/economics so I do enjoy looking at numbers. If you look at who is hitting behind Pedro, look who is batting behind Cutch. He (Cutch) is leading the NL in walks which tells you even though Pedro (who was leading the league in homers) is hitting behind him yet they still don’t fear Pedro. Pitchers know hey at the end of the night I can probably get this guy out and he wont beat me deep so they would rather walk Cutch who is much less of a home run threat and then pitch to Pedro. Highest BB he has had in a season is 71 so people are willing to walk Cutch to pitch to Pedro. Not too many guys leading the league in homers and walking less than 50 times a year. As for his defense, guy has lead the MLB in errors the last 2 seasons, if he isn’t a liability in the field then who is? I’m not saying you are wrong, I am saying this guy is praised a lot more than he should be.

        • Matt Shetler

          I also agree with everything you say as he is a hard player to really figure out and project. I’m not overly high on him. I just think there are some signs that he is ready to take some steps to become a better all around hitter. By better I don’t mean a 280 hitter but if at the end of the day he hits .240-.245, which I think is attainable and add in 35-40 dingers and a 100 RBI and I feel that is a solid season for him.

          There aren’t as many negatives attached to a guy like Mark Trumbo who like Alvarez is a power guy that typically hits under .240. I just feel that Alvarez shouldn’t be the scapegoat for many of the Pirates problems.

          A big reason for the RBI numbers not being better now is the Pirates are one of the worst OBP teams in baseball. Get more guys on base and get a real No. 5 hitter and I think you will see some good things from Alvarez the next few years.

          He is just very frustrating. When he’s hot he is on fire and when he’s bad he is real bad. I guess that is baseball though

          • Lucas Rambo

            Without a doubt their main issue is no one is getting on base besides Cutch. Marte is striking out at an alarming rate, they have to play Martin basically every day due to the fact Sanchez and Stewart can’t field the catcher position and the pitching isn’t going to be as dominating as it was last year.
            Cutch is the only guy that has been getting on consistently but they will not hit 200+ HR’s this year so some of these guys are going to have to start figuring out how to manufacture runs or they are going to finish where they are sitting now in the division…
            Cincy is starting to get healthy, St Louis will be tough as they always are and they way the Brewers have been pitching I don’t see them shutting down anytime soon. Everyone keeps saying they are trying to hold off on Polanco till June-July but it may be too late by then!