Alvarez, McCutchen Seeing Good Results with New Batting Stances

BRADENTON — Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen both tweaked their batting stances this offseason. McCutchen hit just .216 after the second half of the season in 2011 after a strong first half that named him to the National League All-Star team. Alvarez appeared in just 74 games with Pittsburgh with a .191 average after a solid 2010 where he was named Rookie-of-the-Month in September.

With a goal to improve upon their 2011 seasons, both Alvarez and McCutchen are already seeing great results this spring.

Looking to bounce back from a disappointing season, Alvarez has been working on a different stance at the plate. Alvarez, has exaggerated the toe tap that he started incorporating towards the end of last year.

“Pedro was working and searching for some things to do last season,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “He talked to some people, talked to some guys similar body types that he thought might be able to get a feel for. It was a small toe tap at the end of the season. Now he took it out to California, exaggerated it a bit more.”

A former first-round pick by the Bucs in 2009, the Pirates need Alvarez to swing the bat like the player who hit 16 bombs over 95 games his rookie season in 2010.

“He’s just really collecting himself by coming back and holding that position,” Hurdle said. “He’s got the toe, ankle, knee moving the ball, a little bit of body position, he’s getting a swing off it.”

McCutchen had a huge first half for the Pirates, where he hit .291 with 14 homers, 54 RBI, scored 54 runs and stole 15 bases over 88 games. McCutchen, who is looking to sustain that success over an entire season, changed his batting stance over the off-season by moving his left foot back. The decision was made by Andrew himself.

“Andrew took ownership of that, evaluated some things last year,” Hurdle said. “[He] was looking for a position that he could establish early, just to get himself in a better hitting position.”

Hurdle said the first guy he ever saw using an exaggerated open stance was Andres Galarragra, a former first baseman who played 19 seasons in the big leagues. How the new stance can help McCutchen will tell, but so far this spring, Hurdle likes what he sees.

“After he had some challenges to try and find a way to get back to better square position when it front foot hit’s the ground, different body types can present different challenges, and Andrew just feels really comfortable now with that little opening in the front side, setting it down soft,” Hurdle said. “It’s getting him back towards the pitcher at first step, back towards the middle but he’s not crossing himself. It’s getting him squared up, keeping the barrel in the zone longer from back to front.”

“He worked hard at it during the winter and brought it in here and we like what we’re seeing.”

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  • Nate

    Not sure what the toe tap does, but if it helps him to not swing at pitches 3 feet off the plate and in the dirt, well, it’s a win-win.

    • Ian Rothermund

       The toe tap probably won’t help with the mental aspect of going out of the zone.  Unless, you’re talking about the toe tap improving his overall timing, allowing him to make contact with the good pitches and therefore he isn’t going up to the plate being desperate to prove something.

      Personally I’m glad he took the entire offseason off and just focused on getting into better shape, I think it will do him a world of good come April.  Also, note that I don’t necessarily think that “a world of good” will equate to 30 HR.  However, I think he’ll definitely have a much better K/BB rate, maybe more into a .250 AVG range, and a SLG closer to 2010’s.

      I realize I’m going out on a limb here, and by no means am I really expecting a “break-out” season by Pedro.  I’m just of the opinion that this will be the year that Pedro reinstills some confidence to; himself, his teammates, and the fans.

      • Ross

        if pedro churns out a .250 avg, 20 HR, 70-75 rbi, you have no idea how much wonders that would do for the buccos lineup…..i would call that stat line a successful year if he got that

        • Ian Rothermund

           Most definitely, especially considering the fact that he’ll probably be working out of the 5/6 hole for most of the year, and I would lean towards him being a 6.  The pirates haven’t had production like that from that particular part of the lineup in……19 years?

  • dcProject

    I don’t care if Pedro wants to stand on his head at the plate, as long as he can duplicate what he did in 2010 throughout this season, I’ll be happy.

  • salempirate

    Any changes these guys make on their own is bound to improve them as long as they don’t get any involvement from the “hitting” coach. PA can’t possibly be any worse.

  • Pghkid

    The only way Pedro will improve if he tries to hit the other way, that way he stays in the strike zone longer

  • J.P. Greenland

    So…they are having “success” in batting practice? Ooooooooooooo.K. ………

    • Tim Williams

      They do live batting practice. They’re not facing batting practice fastballs. They’re facing a pitcher who is throwing just like he would throw in a game.

      • J.P. Greenland

         “Just like in a game” Timmy? I think not.

        • Tim Williams

          Have you observed something different over the last week in Spring Training?


    Uneducated baseball “fans”…have you ever heard the terms, making an adjustment?  This is a great step in the development of both Pedro and Cutch.   Every great player has to do this…

  • BarryJT

    I worry a little about Cutch fiddling with his stance, but if it keeps him from over swinging…

    Regarding one of Hurdle’s comments – what, he never saw Brian Downing?

  • ElGaupo77

    Cutch got pitched around a ton in the last half of the season.   He pressed instead of taking a lot of walks.  Understandable.

  • leadoff

    McCutchen is key hitter for this year offensively IMO, with Presley and Tabata in front of him, he is going to have a lot of chances for RBI’s, the top three in this lineup can cause a lot of problems for opposing pitchers.
    The question for Hurdle is, Who starts the year as your 4 hitter? If it is Alvarez, McCutchen can take a lot of pressure off of him if he hits well in front of him.

  • Lee Young

    I’m just happy to see Pedro’s ears. I didn’t know he had them. :)  :)  :)

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