If you have followed the Pittsburgh Pirates for the past few seasons, you have probably noticed that third baseman Pedro Alvarez can be streaky. When Alvarez is seeing the ball well, he is a lot of fun to watch. When he is struggling, well, he is extremely frustrating.
Fortunately for the Pirates, Alvarez’s struggles have gradually become less frequent and they don’t last nearly as long as they did earlier in his career. Early in the 2014 season, we are seeing a very good Alvarez.
If you look at his triple-slash line, the first thing you will notice is his .192 average. If you are a cynic, you will most likely stop there and not even pay attention to his .344 on-base percentage and .462 slugging percentage. Don’t let Alvarez’s .192 batting average fool you — he is having a very strong season so far.
In his brief MLB career, Alvarez has had major issues with his strikeouts. Obviously, his 32 plate appearances in seven games don’t provide a large sample size, but so far he is striking out in just 15.6 percent of his trips to the plate. Even more intriguing is the fact that he is walking in 18.8 percent of his plate appearances in this young 2014 season.
Based on his track record, it is hard to expect Alvarez to continue walking more than he is striking out, but if he can at least keep it relatively close, that would be a huge boost to the Pirates’ lineup. Looking deeper into Alvarez’s batting average, it isn’t hard to see why it is so low. His .158 BABIP is an obvious factor, and Alvarez is unlucky so far.
If you have watched the Pirates this year, it’s obvious that Alvarez is seeing the ball well — he is mashing the ball and he is using all parts of the field. He is taking walks when pitchers don’t want to pitch to him, and he is hitting the ball hard when pitchers are dumb enough to give him a pitch he can hit.
There are many good things to point out about the 2014 Pirates so far, including Starling Marte‘s performance, the pitching staff and even the surprising start for first baseman Travis Ishikawa, but the most exciting sign is seeing Alvarez look so comfortable at the plate.