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Pedro Alvarez flexing his muscle for Pirates

Oct 4, 2013, 5:15 PM EST

Pedro Alvarez Getty Images

Pedro Alvarez quietly tied for the NL lead with 36 home runs this year.

He quietly became the first Pirate in seven years to drive in 100 runs.

He quietly made the All-Star team for the first time.

He even pretty quietly went 4-for-8 with two homers as the Pirates beat the Reds last weekend to clinch home field in the wild card game.

Now Alvarez is going to start getting some more attention. After homering for the Pirates’ only run in Thursday’s Game 1 loss, he homered again and doubled Friday as Pittsburgh evened up the NLDS with a 7-1 victory over St. Louis.

It’s not so say that Alvarez is a star. He hit just .233 this year after slumping in the second half. His OBP, never a strong suit, tumbled from .317 in 2012 to .296 this year. The Pirates had him batting cleanup in the middle of the season, but he was dropped back down to the sixth spot following the Justin Morneau acquisition.

The problem is that Alvarez is just dreadful against left-handers. He hit .180 with three homers in 133 at-bats against them this year, compared to .249 with 33 homers against right-handers. His lifetime average versus southpaws is .200.

Alvarez is also limited at third base. Many figured he would have already made the move to first base by now. His defensive numbers, though, have gotten better since he entered the league, and no position switch seems likely to come in the near future, even though the Pirates will have first base open this winter.

Next year will be Alvarez’s age-27 season. If he doesn’t break through with a .260, 40-homer campaign then, it may never happen. Next year also figures to be his last season as a relatively cheap player; he’s arbitration eligible for the first time and likely to make somewhere around $4 million-$5 million. He’s a definite asset as is, but given his inconsistency and the possibility of more league-leading strikeout totals, he could be a risky long-term proposition. One imagines Alvarez’s showing this month will play in to whether he gets a nice multiyear contract offer from the Pirates this winter.

  1. apkyletexas - Oct 4, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    Keep in mind – the Bucs were 50-15 when Pedro drove in at least 1 RBI this year (.769 winning percentage). He’s a very streaky player, but when he’s hot (like right now), he really makes that offense run. He’s worth keeping around, and hoping he can improve against the lefties.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 4, 2013 at 9:12 PM

      Keep in mind – the Bucs were 50-15 when Pedro drove in at least 1 RBI this year (.769 winning percentage).

      There is a reason for that. It should be obvious, yet isn’t since announcers keep drudging these things up, that your team in more likely to win when any particular player drives in a run. Here are the team records of completely random players on games where they drove in a run.

      Matt Carpenter: 46-12 (.793 winning percentage)
      Bj Upton- 18-1 (.947 winning percentage)
      Paul Goldschmidt : 51-20 (.718 winning percentage)

      Okay, what about some players for bad teams?
      Michael Cuddyer 31-19 (.620 winning percentage)
      Jose Bautista 25-20 (.555 winning percentage)
      Chris Carter 22-31(.415 winning percentage…but remember the Astros had a .315 winning percentage on the year)

      In summary, you can pick virtually any player and the results will show you that their team performed much better when they drove in a run.

      • apkyletexas - Oct 5, 2013 at 9:47 AM

        You went to a lot of effort to gun down a pretty simple argument – the Pirates need Pedro to hit. They finished the season 26 games over .500, and they were 35 games over .500 when he drove in at least one RBI. You do the math.

        The fact that this also happens with other players on other teams has nothing to do with his value to this team. And your only two comparable players in your list – Carpenter and Goldschmidt – had a batting average over .300. The whole point of this discussion is that Pedro has value to the team even though he has NOT consistently hit for good average.

    • Reflex - Oct 4, 2013 at 9:41 PM

      Just think how great he’d have been if the Pirates had left him in the minors for a couple more seasons to learn how to play right, eh? Probably would have learned to hit for a higher average, get on base more and avoid injuries, eh?

      • apkyletexas - Oct 5, 2013 at 9:41 AM

        He hasn’t been injured yet, and he’s been sent down a couple times to work on plate discipline. They’ll probably want him to do some work in winter ball this year.

      • Reflex - Oct 5, 2013 at 3:40 PM

        Yeah, but think of how much he’s been ruined by his fast promotion! He’ll probably become injury prone by the time he’s 31 now, just like Griffey! It always sucks when teams like the Pirates mishandle young players like this..

  2. theageofquarrel - Oct 4, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    El Toro is heating up!!!

    LETS GO BUCS!!!!!

    • pens5829 - Oct 4, 2013 at 6:40 PM

      Cerano!!!!!!

  3. yankeepunk3000 - Oct 4, 2013 at 6:53 PM

    Glad the buccos tied up the series. With liriano going for game 3 it looks like the pirates can atleast force a game 5. Plus if Pittsburg can make the same level of noise they did against cinci then they have a big chance to win the series.

  4. sfbookreviews - Oct 4, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    Thing about Pedro is that he is the streakiest guy in the game. He’ll look like Babe Ruth for three weeks and then like Mario Mendoza’s sickly grandmother the next three weeks. If he follows the script, this series could be huge for El Toro.

  5. agc99 - Oct 4, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    It’s TACO TIME!

  6. steelers88 - Oct 4, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    If Alvarez gets hot he can single handily carry the Pirates.

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