Prior to Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Pedro Alvarez had virtually the same amount of plate appearances in 2012 as he did in his injury/performance-marred 2011 campaign. Here’s the stat lines for those two seasons:
2011 Pedro (262 PA’s) — .191/.272/.289 (561 OPS), 9.2% BB, 30.5% K, .272 BABIP — 4 HR’s
2012 Pedro (263 PA’s) — .226/.297/.497 (794 OPS), 9.1% BB, 30.8% K, .276 BABIP — 15 HR’s
His same basic, surface-level stats are virtually the same (walk rate, strikeout rate, batted average balls in play), so why is Pedro hitting so many more home runs this year as compared to last year?
In 2011, Alvarez was hitting like he was a lead0ff hitter trapped inside a cleanup hitter’s body. In 2011, Alvarez hit ground balls 55.2% of the time, as compared to 45.7% in his debut season in 2010. Now in 2012, he is back to 42.8%.
In 2012, his fly ball rate was 25.3%, as compared to 39.6% in both 2010 and here in 2012.
Remember how passive Alvarez was at times last year — watching pitch after pitch sail right through the heart of the plate? He has increased his in-zone swing percentage (Z% Swing) from 64.8% to 70.3% from 2011 to 2012. Additionally, he making more contact on those pitches in the zone when he swings. That rate (Z% Contact) has jumped from 81.4% to 86.6%.
Alvarez appeared lost inside his own head at times last year. That was the main reason I was fine with him not playing winter ball. I felt like stepping away from the game for a few months would be more beneficial to him than continuing to bang his head against the wall.
The key for the rest of the season will be to see if Alvarez can maintain this more aggressive air-based attack approach. Although Andrew McCutchen is the engine of this team, it desperately needs Pedro Alvarez to hit for power as well.