With 14 games under his belt in 2012, Pedro Alvarez has one of the weirdest stat lines you’re ever likely to see:
|162 Game Avg.||162||614||555||58||125||27||2||21||79||55||192||.225||.296||.396||.691||88||220||17|
To summarize some of the more surreal aspects, Alvarez is on pace to collect just 63 hits in 2012, but he’s on pace for 36 of them to be home runs. Of his seven hits this year, six of them have resulted in no more or less than one RBI. He’s only drawn one walk in 46 plate appearances. In the entire history of baseball, only two players have hit at least 36 home runs with an OPS of below .750: Dave Kingman in 1982 and Tony Armas in 1983. If Alvarez finished the season on the same pace he’s at right now, his OPS would be almost 100 points lower than either of theirs. That would certainly let Alvarez join the duo as the only two to hit that many home runs and finish the season below replacement level.
Of course, that’s a pretty negative cast on things but the reality is that after 14 games last year, Alvarez was hitting .208/.276/.245 with no homers and 18 strikeouts in 58 plate appearances. In the first 14 games after his callup in 2010, Alvarez was hitting .152/.216/.196 with 22 strikeouts in 51 plate appearances. Alvarez only hit four homers total in 74 games with the Pirates last year. It seems weird to say this, but if you’re being strictly technical about this, this is the best start to a season Alvarez has ever had. He does seem to be coming around at least a little bit, too. After he started out the season 1-for-24 with 12 strikeouts, he’s 6-for-21 with six strikeouts and a walk.
That being said, all four of his home runs have come on off-speed pitches that were out over the plate and not far enough down in the zone. He still looks generally overmatched by fastballs that power hitters shouldn’t be overmatched by. I don’t know if that’s because he’s lost bat-speed, as the infamous “American League Scout” said in his report at Baseball America or if it’s because he’s still guessing way wrong a lot of the time and just getting lucky with a few mistake pitches this year or what. It seems pretty obvious that he’s more comfortable in the box now than he was a week ago, but ten games is an incredibly small sample size to try and make observations on.
I guess for now the most I can say is that Pedro’s hitting home runs, even if he’s not doing a ton of other things well. Hopefully the Pirates’ faith in him (manifested in them keeping him on the team) will pay off and eventually the other aspects of his offensive game will evolve, too, at which point it will be OK to start getting excited about him again. Until then, I’ll be doing my best to remain cautiously optimistic.