Has Pedro Alvarez truly improved at the plate?

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Sep 13, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) celebrates the dugout after hitting a solo home run against the Milwaukee Brewers during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2014 was a horrendous year for Pedro Alvarez versus left-handed pitching, as you’ll see below.

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This metric shows us the biggest leap by far of any of the ones we have studied today. Pedro’s numbers against LHP are an improvement both year-to-year and against his career across the board, save for a slight increase in strikeout rate from 2014.

As this is the number one concern among Pirate fans and commentators alike, this is very encouraging. However, we must mention the devil that always exists in these types of details: small sample size. Alvarez has a paltry 60 total plate appearances against LHPs in 2015 against 359 versus RHPs. Is that enough to consider his slashlines against left-handers an improvement? With a considerable reduction in strikeout rate vs his career numbers, I would be inclined to say that it would, yet the lack of at-bats cannot be ignored.

The purpose of this study was to look past Pedro Alvarez approaching that arbitrary .250 batting average mark to see if he has truly improved. Before I give you my conclusion, here are a few choice tweets when I reached out to gauge public opinion:

Good stuff here as always from our readers. Yet another reader confirmed my suspicion that no matter what Pedro Alvarez does at the plate, his defense is too bad to ignore for most:

Perhaps that’s true, but to me, Pedro has improved at the plate. We can – and will – debate many different facets of Alvarez’s game, from his defense to the unshakable perception that he struggles against left-handed pitching.

Hearkening back to Pedro’s role as the team’s chief power threat, his improvement in at-bats per home run is the deciding factor for me. Hitting the equivalent of one home run every 4-5 games indicates that he is doing his job. The real question becomes: Has Pedro’s value to the team decreased? It’s a fair question, one that prompted Joe Starkey of the Tribune Review and 93.7 The Fan to ask if the team would even trust him in a Wild Card game scenario.

That remains to be seen, but Pedro Alvarez is still bringing some value to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It may not be the value fans envisioned after his breakout 2013, but value nonetheless.

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