2015 Pittsburgh Pirates Gradeout: Pedro Alvarez


The offseason is unfortunately here and so we are simultaneously tasked with reflecting on the 2015 season and looking forward to next spring. As part of Rumbunter’s off-season coverage, we will be grading out virtually every member of the Pittsburgh Pirates who spent substantial time on the team’s 25-man roster over the past season. We will look at their seasons as a whole, show you their relevant stats, and assign a final grade to each player. Today’s entry: Pedro Alvarez

When we here at rumbunter decided to grade out each and every significant member of the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates, we knew that we would have some polarizing guys to talk about.

Did someone say polarizing? Enter Pedro Alvarez.

Alvarez went into 2015 as the lead dog in a perceived two-headed first baseman along with Corey Hart. Of course, that idea was shot to rubbish fairly quickly. Hart made only 57 plate appearances before finally giving in to his storied injury history. For better or worse, Alvarez was the guy.

Almost all analysis of Alvarez can be neatly folded into the last three years. 2013 saw him lead the National League in home runs. He was the lone batter on that breakthrough team to achieve 100 runs batted in. In 2014, the wheels fell off of Alvarez at the plate as well as in the field.

Here are Alvarez’s statlines for the last three campaigns:

2013 ★152614558701302223610048186.233.296.473.770

Strictly from a numbers point of view, Alvarez seems to have rebounded nicely from his lost 2014 season. Not only did the power stroke return, but it became more efficient also. As I wrote awhile back, Alvarez’s at bats per home run dropped dramatically against both his career and 2014 numbers. Having needed 19.21 at bats per home run for his career and 22.11 in ’14, Alvarez hit home runs at a 16.64 AB/HR clip last year. Coupled with a lowered strikeout rate, and it’s easy to see real improvement here. With a .245 batting average to boot, Alvarez looked more focused at the plate for most of the year.

Or did Clint Hurdle simply refuse to put him in a position to fail? Not only did Alvarez spend most of his time at the bottom third of the batting order, but he also barely took any hacks against southpaws, as you’ll see below in his LHP/RHP splits:

vs RHP4263755290170246845111.240.322.477.799
vs LHP65628161039320.258.292.419.712

It was standing operating procedure for Alvarez to give way to Sean Rodriguez and even Aramis Ramirez against lefties. This trend of Hurdle’s reluctance to rely on Alvarez extended throughout the season and into the National League Wild Card Game, which saw Alvarez give way to Sean Rodriguez.

Strictly from a numbers point of view, Alvarez seems to have rebounded nicely from his lost 2014 season. Not only did the power stroke return, but it became more efficient also.

Quick – how many other teams in baseball can you name that would sit a guy with 81 home runs over the past three years in a one-and-done scenario?

Game circumstances dictated Alvarez’s re-insertion into the game before Rodriguez ever had an at-bat, but that decision will be debated for months to come. We’re not here to dissect that decision today, but what we do know is that this decision by Hurdle and staff speaks volumes of Alvarez’s standing in the eyes of the organization.

It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Pirates were trying to shop Alvarez for most of the summer. The Pirates reportedly did not have many serious inquiries, and why would they when half of the teams in baseball (The National League) wouldn’t be able to absorb his bad defense? Long-destined for the American League, Alvarez did nothing to help his trade value with another season of 20+ errors (23 to be exact). Technically, Alvarez improved his fielding percentage by a wide margin, ending with a .978 clip. However, this is misleading with the deluge of additional chances afforded to him as a first basemen.

Despite the constant cloud of uncertainty over the first base bag, Alvarez would show flashes, such as this play in the Wild Card Game:

So what grade does one of the most confounding Pirates in the Neal Huntington era receive?

C. Pedro Alvarez rebounded nicely at the plate, but once again was a huge question mark at first despite the occasional spectacular play. Hurdle could not trust him versus LHP, and in the most important game of the year, Alvarez’s offense was considered expendable. That speaks volumes. If we were to split the grades, we would give an A for offense (for what he’s asked to be) and a D for defense. We’ll split the difference and assign him a C.. 1B. Pittsburgh Pirates. PEDRO ALVAREZ

You’ve heard our take. Now it’s your turn. Sound off in the comments below, OR let us know on twitter.

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Next: Projecting the Pirates' Non-Tender Candidates

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