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.
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.