Pittsburgh Pirates getting unique power from Pedro Alvarez


Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez has had the quite the interesting run in the power department.

Any casual Pirates observer can tell you that Alvarez’s home runs this year seem to come with no runners on base.

You weren’t going crazy, Pirates fans, because that is actually the case. Honest.

I was taking a casual stroll through baseball-reference.com and happened across the oddity. Here now is a complete look at Alvarez’s 2015 home runs:

105112015-04-09PIT@CINAnthony DeSclafani1,(0-0) X1
106212015-04-10PIT@MILMike Fiers1,(0-0) X1
107312015-04-13PITDETAnibal Sanchez1,(0-0) X1
108412015-04-19PITMILMatt Garza3,(2-0) BBX1
109512015-05-03PIT@STLSam Tuivailala3,(1-1) BSX1
110612015-05-15PIT@CHCKyle Hendricks3,(1-1) BCX1
111712015-05-19PITMINRicky Nolasco3,(2-0) BBX1
112812015-05-23PITNYMMatt Harvey1,(0-0) X1
113912015-05-25PITMIADavid Phelps3,(2-0) BB^X1
1141012015-06-10PITMILKyle Lohse1,(0-0) X1

So what can we glean from this and other information? First, we can see from Pedro’s peripherals we can see that he is batting much more ground balls than in previous years. Prior to 2015, his career high in Ground-ball to Fly-Ball ratio was 2.18, his second year in the bigs. Since that year, his GB/FB fell sharply to 1.18 in his NL home-run leading 2013. For 2015, that number has jumped back up to 2.08. So, the one pure power threat in the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup is hitting more ground balls than the team would like. Couple that with the fact that none of his home runs have come from when Pedro was behind in the count, and it shows a hitter that may be settling for pitches when he is in the hole.

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Second, the book may be out on Alvarez. Opposing pitchers are getting him to swing at balls in the dirt. As per Fangraphs, Pedro is seeing pitches identified as a sinker at a 10.8% clip. Offering Pedro a chance at a pitch in the dirt is not going to result in many RBI chances. Pedro hasn’t seen a sinker percentage that high since 8% in 2012.

Lastly, it is not like Pedro is completely unproductive with runners on base. With Bucs on the bases, Pedro is slashing .294/.405/.382 with 18 RBI, with six of his 20 hits in that scenario going for extra bases. However, despite better overall plate discipline this year, Pedro also strikes out his fair share with runners on, at a 29% clip as opposed to 25.6% overall.

So how can we make sense of this phenomenon? Is it a fluke? Probably. Can Pedro bust out of it by being choosier at the plate? Also probably, yes. For now, I would categorize this more in the fluky side of things.

Next: Rumor Mill: Polanco for Hamels?