Pedro Alvarez is one of baseball’s greatest mysteries. The 2008 second overall pick, out of Vanderbilt University, showed power that not many can replicate. Although troubling at times, his fielding wasn’t a major issue his first two years as a Pittsburgh Pirate at third base; frankly, toward the end of his tenure at third the issue wasn’t fielding either, it was throwing the ball and hitting left-handers. Pedro had caught a bad case of the yips, and it was impacting his fielding and hitting abilities.
It has happened to players like second baseman, Chuck Knoblauch, Rick Ankiel, and even Rube Baker from Major League 2. It can happen to anyone, at any time, and there may be no fix.
Alvarez recorded 106 errors at third base in 419 games appeared in for the Pirates. With the emergence of Josh Harrison as an everyday player, manager Clint Hurdle made the decision to work Pedro out at first base; a position that comes with its learning curves, but is relatively the same concept of his familiar third base with less of a throw.
That proved to only make matters worse as Pedro committed 23 errors at first during the 2015 season, good for a shared fifth-most errors in the Majors. For a position that relies mostly on the glove, Pedro’s 23 errors is an astounding number. To put it into perspective, the second most errors committed by a first baseman was Jose Abreu’s 11. Alvarez also posted a -14 DRS, or Defensive Runs Saved; in simple terms, Alvarez’s errors allowed 14 runs to cross the plate for the other team throughout the season.
Those numbers got to Pedro’s head, and it was obvious. You could literally see him second guessing himself on the field, and it bled into his effectiveness at the plate. “Daydro’s” numbers in the daytime were higher than in night games (117 daytime at-bats: .291 BA, 13 HRs +.350 ops compared to nighttime, V.S. 320 nighttime at-bats: .225 BA, 14 HRs). Significant? Probably not, but less time to question yourself throughout the day could have been a factor. The “yips” are a serious psychological issue and we may never know just how much it impacted Alvarez’s mind.
The solution? A solidified Designated Hitter position. The National League doesn’t offer the designated hitter spot every day like the American League, but that may be the solution for Pedro’s woes. The Orioles seem to be moving to the “power-hitting out-performs pitching” method, as Pedro makes four position players on the team who have hit at least 33 homeruns in their career (Pedro, Machado, Trumbo, Davis). Although there isn’t enough for them to all get the same amount of opportunity, a part-time DH-job could prove to best move of Alvarez’s career and could save his career.
For example, Boston Red Sox DH, David Ortiz, has made a living off of his bat and not his glove; Ortiz has appeared in 1889 games as a DH compared to 277 at first base. That could be the career Pedro needs to try to replicate from here-on-out, as well as a backup for Davis at first and Machado at third.
If Davis stays at first, and doesn’t move to Right Field, then Trumbo and Alvarez could play a major role as split Designated Hitters. Trumbo is a better hitter against lefties, hitting a career .267 to Alvarez’s .203; Alvarez slightly trumps Trumbo against righties hitting a career .246 to Trumbo’s .243. Taking Pedro Alvarez’s mind off of the defensive side of the game, so he can focus on offense, should ultimately increase those numbers.
Alvarez has always been humble as well as a man of few words. Pirates-nation, although harsh at times, should be nothing but thankful for what he has produced for that team over the years. For his sake, I hope the AL can salvage his career so he doesn’t go down as one of the most infamous “What Could Have Been” players.
This is a statement year for him, and no one knows that more than he does.
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