After another thrilling Pittsburgh Pirates victory, a few things are starting to become clear. The Pirates’ pitching will be good this year, but it won’t be nearly as good as it was in 2013. For this reason, the team will need to hit more in 2014 if they want to continue their winning ways and reach the postseason for a second straight season.
The Pirates are off to a very good 6-3 start to the 2014 campaign, and a ton of positives have emerged through nine games. Most notably, however, is the outstanding start from third baseman Pedro Alvarez. The 2013 NL home run leader, Alvarez is well on his way to leading his league in long-balls again. After hitting his fifth home run during Thursday afternoon’s win against the Chicago Cubs, Alvarez is now tied with Brandon Belt of the San Francisco Giants and Mark Trumbo of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the NL lead.
Unlike last season, Alvarez isn’t only hitting home runs. If you watched him last season, many of Alvarez’s at-bats were boom or bust; if he wasn’t hitting homers, he would be having terrible plate appearances, swinging at pitches he had no business swinging at. Obviously, 41 plate appearances in 2014 is a very small sample size, but they are all we have to judge him on right now. If you have watched most of Alvarez’s 41 trips to the plate, it would be hard to deny that he looks like a much-improved hitter this season.
In 2013, Alvarez ended up with 36 home runs. Based on what we are seeing this season, including watching Alvarez draw walks and use all parts of the field, we should expect to see Alvarez shatter his previous career-high in homers — and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him lead the NL in that category again.