Has Pedro Alvarez truly improved at the plate?

3 of 4

Sep 17, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest – and most unfounded – frustrations with Alvarez is his perceived inability to hit home runs with Bucs on base. Before we go to the tables, it is beyond imperative that this is understood: Alvarez gets pitched to much differently with men on base.

That is incredibly obvious to be sure, but it is not easily known the degree to which this occurs. I can start and end with one factor: Walk rate. With men on base in 2015, Alvarez’s walk rate more than doubles, with a 15.1% rate against a 6.3% clip with the bases empty. Pitchers are simply not giving Pedro anything to drive, if they offer a hittable pitch at all.

Here are Pedro’s slash lines and strikeout rates w/RISP

[table id=20 /]

The table above shows the very definition of a ‘mixed bag.’ Alvarez’s batting average and on-base numbers are more or less in line with his career figures, and in the case of his .OBP especially so. Key differentiation points show up in his slugging percetnage and strikeout rates. Slugging takes a huge hit – down almost .100 points year to year. With only eight extra base hits with runners in scoring position, Alvarez is either not driving the ball or not getting drive-able offerings. The strikeout rate – while down from his career mark – show a very binary approach. With a high walk rate and a high strikeout rate, Alvarez may be employing an all or nothing approach in this scenario.

Is that a sign of improvement? Conclusions may vary.

Next let’s take away the criteria of a runner in scoring position and take a look at the numbers with a base runner in any capacity:

[table id=21 /]

While a little less scattershot than its RISP counterpart, this look at Pedro’s numbers with men on base remains short on answers. We can point to the average and strikeout rates from 2015 to his career as being eerily similar. We also find that his career mark in on-base percentage is right in the middle of his 2015 and 2014 numbers. With the career and 2015 strikeout rates so similar, I am hesitant to say that he has improved in this regard. We can say that year-to-year Pedro has done a good job of getting on base a bit more, yet again as his high strikeout rate suggests, this increase may be something akin to fool’s gold.

Despite all of this, the numbers at the forefront of everyone’s mind when judging Pedro Alvarez remains his work against left-handed pitching.

Lucky for Pedro, his work against southpaws shows the most improvement.

Next: Pedro vs. The Lefties