First Pitch: Should Pedro Alvarez Be Starting Over Ike Davis at First Base?

Pedro Alvarez has been making the transition to first base in the last few weeks, after a season full of throwing problems at the third base position. Alvarez made his debut tonight at first, batting fifth against right-handed pitcher Ervin Santana. The move puts Ike Davis on the bench, with Davis previously representing the left-handed half of the first base platoon.

The first base platoon hasn’t been the most productive pair this year. There have been times where Davis and Gaby Sanchez have looked great, but largely they have been inconsistent. That said, Alvarez doesn’t look like a big upgrade at the moment.

This season, Alvarez has a .757 OPS against right-handed pitching. Ike Davis hasn’t been great, but has much better numbers, with a .776 OPS against right-handers. The difference isn’t just limited to this season. Alvarez has a career .790 OPS against right-handers, while Davis has a career .818 OPS. Whether the scope is the current season, or their entire careers, Davis has been the better hitter for this half of the platoon.

You also have to factor in the defense. Davis isn’t putting up the best numbers defensively, with a -4.3 UZR/150. That’s similar to what he’s done the last two years. It’s not out of the question to suggest Alvarez could post similar or better numbers one day. But will that happen over the final six weeks of the season, when Alvarez is basically learning the position on the fly?

When Alvarez was drafted, he was viewed as a guy who would carry the lineup in the future. The reality is that this hasn’t happened. He’s been a good player the last two years, but not a great player. He hits a lot of home runs, which draw attention, but that’s about it for his game. This year he isn’t hitting home runs, and the fact that there’s no other value he brings is really starting to show, especially when he starts to detract with his throwing issues.

Over the weekend, I wrote about the first base position, wondering what the Pirates will end up doing this off-season with Alvarez, Davis, and Gaby Sanchez at the position. If it’s a choice between Alvarez and Davis for the spot, the position should go to Davis. Alvarez is the bigger name in Pittsburgh, and has bigger expectations because of his history with the team. The reality is that Davis has been better throughout his career, and is better this year. If Alvarez wasn’t once viewed as the guy who would save the franchise and anchor the Pirates’ lineup (that player ended up being Andrew McCutchen), then there would be no debate at all between him and Davis.

Links and Notes

**The 2014 Prospect Guide is on sale in the Pirates Prospects store. The paperback version has dropped to $14.99 plus shipping. We currently only have one case of books remaining, and the offer is only valid while the books are in stock. There is also an eBook version available for $9.99. The 2013 Prospect Guide is on clearance for $1.

**Prospect Watch: Andrew Lambo Homers Twice, Nick Kingham Goes Eight Strong Innings

**Tyler Glasnow Expects to Remain in Bradenton the Rest of the Season

**Tyler Glasnow Earns Second Straight FSL Pitcher of the Week Award

**2014 Pirates Draft Pick Suspended For HGH

**Clint Barmes Has His Rehab Transferred to Indianapolis

**Top 10 Hitters: JaCoby Jones Has Huge Week, While a Second Baseman Makes Third Straight Top 10 List

**Toronto Blue Jays Claim Matt Hague

**Morning Report: Remembering Roberto

  • You pretty much have to run Pedro out there and hope he finds his power stroke I think. If for any other reason so you can prove he can play 1B and get some of his trade value back…just in case…and they really need his pop. I am worried about Pedro doing anything he is not comfortable with though. it is obvious he overthinks, and is oversensitive about his slumps. He has big power, he will figure it out with reps…no matter how painful it is for all of us to witness.

  • Why isn’t Lambo back in the discussion at 1B? Yes he’s been playing in the outfield but he showeed in the Spring that he can play 1B. His offensive swoon in the Spring really started when he went to Venezuela. But he seems to have righted himself offensively and since none of the three pretenders now: Davis, Sanchez or ALvarez is doing much why not give Lambo a try?

    • He is probably as good as the other 3, but that only gives us 3 nothings and one maybe. IMO, the Pirates need to get a real 1st basemen and keep Sanchez as a bench player. They also need to get a real 3rd basemen and use Harrison the way he should be used and that is a utility player, but play him more than the normal utility player.

  • By putting Pedro at first now, you lower both his and Ike’s value during the off-season.

  • Monsoon Harvard
    August 19, 2014 11:41 am

    Yes, Pedro Alvarez should be starting at first base over Ike Davis AND Gaby Sanchez.

  • Jason DeTesta
    August 19, 2014 11:33 am

    I’m praying the organization decides to pull the plug on Pedro and dump him when his value is at it’s lowest and it has nothing to do with the actual decision. I think it will be so entertaining listen to all the fans that want to run him out of town now whine and complain that they gave him away for nothing when he tears it up somewhere else just like they have in the past with guys like Brandon Moss & Jose Bautista.

    • You can’t go by what players do when they are playing for other teams, the only criteria that is available concerning Pedro is what his is doing for the Pirates, people fueled by the media love to keep track of what a player does when he leaves Pittsburgh, this is an easy way to take cheap shots at the Pirates. IMO, they should try to move Pedro in the off-season. Even if he starts to produce, he will not be someone they can pay. You have 3 factors concerning Pedro.
      1. His offense, spotty and very poor with RISP

      2. His defense, Awful

      3. His money, with arbitration, he will get a raise.

      • Jason DeTesta
        August 19, 2014 12:04 pm

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that they should be playing Pedro or that they should move him and I agree completely that it’s difficult to compare what a player does with one team to what he does with another. I’m simply pointing out the hypocrisy of most Pittsburgh fans in that many of the people gathering with pitchforks to run Pedro out of town will be the same people chastising the organization if Pedro tears it up elsewhere and Harrison reverts back to the player he has been before this year.

        I agree that Pedro has no long term future in Pittsburgh and will need to be moved but I’m not a fan of selling a player at his lowest value when there is a chance his value will increase before the move has to be made. Whether Pedro plays another game or not this year I would not rush to move him in the offseason for a bag of balls, I would spend the summer, camp next year and even the first few months of the season next year trying to get Pedro going again and making sure that Harrison can repeat his performance from this year and at that point if Pedro can’t figure it out and increase his value I’d dump him for a bag of balls.

        • I agree with you about the fans gathering with pitchforks, but keeping Pedro beyond his arbitration period and having to pay him the raise he surely will get is something that I don’t wait on. His stats are still good enough and his potential is still there to trade or package him and possibly get a good prospect for him, maybe a 3rd basemen that is blocked in some other organization. At this point I don’t know of a 3rd basemen they can get. Then the Pirates still have the problem of a weak 1st base situation. Could be they need to trade Ike and Pedro.

  • Fair arguments and analysis all around, but if I may add…

    -It is misleading to divorce the stat sheet from the player when looking at Ike Davis’ career. The player that put up the past and peak numbers used to judge against Pedro simply isn’t the same guy on the field right now, and that can be backed up from a statistical and scouting point of view. The swing has changed, the quality of contact has dropped, and there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that pre and post swing change Davis can be combined. This is the new normal for Davis.

    -One has to really, realllllyyyy trust sabermetrics to DEFINITIVELY say the new Ike Davis is a more productive hitter than Pedro Alvarez, and that is because Davis derives such a huge portion of his value in the form of walks. Davis is a low average, low power hitter meaning he’s never going to drive in runs. He’s also an awful baserunner, meaning it will be more difficult than average to convert him getting on base into a run. It is a difficult profile to fit into a real-world lineup where sequencing does matter.

    This is not an argument for Pedro Alvarez, mind you, because nobody frankly knows who Pedro Alvarez is moving forward. This is why, in my opinion, both players must be tendered this offseason.

    • I’d argue that Ike pre-2013 demotion was not a particularly productive hitter, the home runs overstated is actual offense similar to Alvarez’s 2012-13.

      2009-June 2013: .239/.323/.433 wRC+ 107
      July 2013-Present: .246/.378/.393 wRC+ 124

      In addition his K% – BB% dropped from 13.4% to 1%. Now a significant portion of this improvement in the overall line can be attribute to being hidden from LHP. However prior to 2014 Davis had 128 wRC+ vs RHP, this season 124 wRC+, so effectively his production is very similar overall even if the way he has gone about is different.

      For their careers versus RHP by wOBA, (both should be platooned) Alvarez .340 Davis .355. If you assume 450 PAs vs RHP over a season that .015 wOBA gap converted to runs 5.2 runs, over a season.

      I consider 5 runs significant and I trust the linear weights, neither hitters’ running ability is rated well Davis -4.9 base running
      runs, Alvarez -4.5 for their careers. If you consider ability to score base runners an ability Alvarez is 15% for his career, Davis 14%. (This season Davis 12%, Alvarez 11%)

      I agree, I think you tender an offer to both and if Alvarez is done at 3rd you attempt to move one from some return. I think going forward Alvarez is a flawed hitter with raw power, if he sells out for pulled power or is strictly platooned like Davis and develops the ability to walk as much as strike out with occasional power, I think he maxes out at about 15% above average.

      • Much appreciated, as always, Andrew.

        I respect your trust in linear weights and don’t claim to be trying to convince you otherwise, but my understanding is that the concept is based on run expectancy(which assumes no impact from sequencing) and is less trustworthy in extreme environments.

        I could be overstating this, but my argument isn’t a Joey Votto vs Brandon Phillips (RBI vs OBP) situation, it’s Ike Davis as Joey Votto minus the average and power. I’m much more willing to believe Votto’s overall offensive value when it comes through plus contributions in all areas, not just walks.

        And while I absolutely believe sequencing has little effect in the long run, we absolutely know it can vary wildly given even an entire season as a sample. Neither Ike nor Pedro is going to be a Pirate for long enough to ensure sequencing ends up a wash. We’ve seen it happen this season already, but Davis prolonging an inning with a walk doesn’t lead to runs unless the bottom of the order is hitting, and I simply don’t believe the Pirates have guys that can be trusted doing that in the 6-7-8 spots.

        Overall, for me, there’s enough noise in the argument that I just can’t come close to trusting the numbers verbatim. It’s a wishy-washy answer, but only an idiot would claim to know the game of baseball in any more certain terms.

        • Slow day at work.

          A: Ike Davis is better offensively than Alvarez.
          B: Margins to small to tell the difference.
          C: Ike Davis is worse offensively than Alvarez.

          Of I options I’m arguing A. If I understand you correctly you are arguing for B? I can understand that especially
          given the time left in the season. However the question is then why start giving Alvarez starts at first, when the offensive upgrade is in doubt why introduce the uncertainty of a player at a new position. I accept the Pirates know more but from the outside it seems odd.

          • Ditto.

            My argument would be B) and…

            D) Alvarez profiles as a greater impact player in this lineup

            The offense doesn’t NEED either guy, so if that’s the case, then I’m betting on impact.

  • I harp on defense all the time because defense is the Pirates biggest problem, defense got Pedro benched, not his terrible offense. If the year stopped right now, Pedro’s offensive stats would not look that bad, other than the LOB’s. It seems like anyone batting behind Pedro leads off the next inning on a regular basis.

  • Defense has been a major Pirate problem this year and putting Pedro at first base makes it even worse, the Pirates have been weak at corner infield defense all year, they have been strong up the middle most of the year, now with Mercer down and Walker with a bad back, they are weak on defense in the entire infield. Alvarez should be a bench player, someone that fills in on Sunday or someones scheduled off day, until the off season, then they should try to talk him into playing winter ball if he can make one of those clubs. As it turns out, they probably should have signed Morneau or Loney over the winter, hindsight is great.

  • This is more of a comparison of Ike to Morel than Ike to Pedro. To me that is no comparison at all. Pedro should go back to 3rd, and Morel should go back to the minors. Let Ike’s relatively hot bat play, and we’ll have to live with Pedro’s bad defense regardless of where he’s at until the injury and personnel situations on the team improve. He didn’t look very good at first, and that work in progress appears to be a bigger risk than him sailing a few balls from the other side of the field.

    • Should be a moot point now with Cutch coming back. Harrison would get the nod at 3b until such time as Walker goes down yet again, in which case then you put Pedro back at 3b.

      I was at last night’s game. Santana threw Pedro one fastball all night, and that was a 90mph first pitch fastball on Pedro’s 3rd AB. Otherwise, it was all 82-83 mph junk that Pedro could not stay back on.

      My question is, how can you be in MLB for four years and not have the ability to either recognize pitch speed or keep your hands back to be able to hit a breaking ball or changeup? Whomever said Pedro is just guessing and not reacting appears to be correct. Seems to me attempts to get Pedro to use LF have been abandoned in whatever the plan is to revive his power bat.

      • Maybe Pedro needs glasses. He seems to have to go to his knees for every GB hit to either side. And he is not picking up the rotation of the ball when batting. He’s missing 85-90 mph fastballs right down the middle. I know timing is everything in hitting, but to have your timing off for a whole season….I don’t think so. And where is our hitting coach? Everyone except 3 (cutch, walker and JHay) are always looking for a walk. OBP doesn’t mean squat if you RISP avg hovers around .200. This is not only in the majors, but instill in the bucco’s minor league system also. Indy had 5 hits 9 walks 0-9 RISP 13 lob. This is only one game, but i check Minor league everyday, and am coming up with the same things. When you have runners in scoring position, you first job is to drive them in. Not wait for a walk and let someone else do it. And, your leaving border-line pitches up to the umpires to call (Ike Davis, bases loaded) and the have more wrong than right on those types of calls.
        Sorry for the rant. Just finished watching game 7, 1960 WS and if the ball was over the plate it was not taken for a strike. In the ninth, with the Yankees down, they hit the first pitch in the strike zone. Don’t take my word, go watch it.

      • Cutch coming back has more effect on the bench than the starting infield. Your idea overlooks the SS position. That is where Harrison should play until such a time that Mercer comes back, thus leaving Pedro stuck at 3rd.

        I completely agree with the frustration about Pedro’s plate approach, and it’s something we’ve seen the organization fail to teach time and time again. It’s like a contagious disease that’s holding down great potential throughout the organization, e.g. Pedro, Marte, Lambo, soon to be Stetson Allie, etc.

    • With Morel and Pedro there is only one difference, Morel can play defense, Pedro can’t, Pedro can’t hit and neither can Morel.

      • Pedro has potential and a history of success that Morel never will. And on top of it all Pedro’s still batting nearly 100 points higher than Morel right now. So it’s more apt to say that Pedro doesn’t hit well but Morel can’t hit at all

  • When Pedros bad he really stinks. When he is at his best he is Dave Kingman. He will never bat above 240. He is at least a year away from being an average 1B. He will never take pitches has never in his career been a good hitter with men in scoring position. The Pirates best hope with him is keeping him at 3B, getting his head right so he can throw the ball to first and shipping him out the first decent deal that comes along. Right now no one will give the Pirates a bag of balls for him.

  • Are we really concerned about the difference here? It’s so minimal that it pretty much doesn’t matter. There’s a much higher potential Pedro adds more value than Ike down the stretch if he gets hot. With Ike you’re going to get walks and singles, which are vastly over-valued by OPS. OPS isn’t exactly a logical statistic as it is, anyway. It adds to fractions that don’t even have the same denominator. Walks do not equal homeruns. If you can get Pedro just a touch hot, he’s much more valuable now and for the future. Even in Ike Davis’ greatest season, he had a 111 wRC+ and unless he’s is going to fix terrible pitching, this is pretty much a non-issue.

    • i get what you’re saying about OPS being imperfect with the different denominators, but OPS actually undervalues OBP in comparison with SLG.

      Number crunchers much smarter than me say that 1 point of OBP is about 3x more valuable than 1 point of SLG. At least i think that’s what it was.could be wrong.

      The ability to not make outs is the single most important skill in baseball.

      • Yes, you’re right with the 3x but you’re still adding two statistics that don’t make logical sense. It’s not that Tim is wrong, by any means, just the reasoning behind it doesn’t make sense. And I do agree with not making outs. However, hitting home runs are the single most influential action one can do in a baseball game. I’d certainly say Pedro is due for some of those once he gets more regular at-bats. Ike Davis’ career year was just that. Could Pedro have peaked and never hit 30 HRs again? Sure. But I’d like to see him at least get the opportunity when we’re talking about one or two percent difference in offensive production.

        • Why is Pedro “due”? He doesn’t, honestly, even look like a professional hitter. His at bats are grotesque, he makes no adjustments, shows no discipline…what makes him “due”…because he’s hit homers before? I’m not sure that really has much baring at all…he is a complete mess and doesn’t look like he has a clue. People act like Pedro is Paul Goldschmidt…lets get real…Pedro even at his best in his best seasons is not that kind of player (no matter what the HR numbers say)…he’s not a team MVP caliber guy…he’s not a savior…he’s basically a busted 1st round pick who hopefully will hit well enough to be a platoon.

          • What exactly would you use to explain Ike Davis? Because he was basically Pedro for one season, not two, who lost every bit of power so improved his plate discipline. Why wouldn’t you want to try and develop him in the least?

            May1-July13 when Pedro was getting regular at bats: .262/.344/.421 with 116 wRC+. Should he play if he can’t throw? No. Should he play if he can do that at first after seeing some ML pitching? Yes.

      • Just as an aside, the way I always explain the undervalue of OBP goes like this:
        If you have a team that does nothing but hit a home run every 5 at bats, they will have an OPS of 1.000 and score 6.75 per 9 innings. If you have a team that does nothing but walk, they also will have an OPS of 1.000, but they will score….infinite runs. The only thing working in favor of the home runs, in reality, is that home runs guarantee runs will score, while getting on base does not. But average that out over a season….

    • OPS is pretty crude, but it does treat a HR different than a walk (thus SLG is almost higher than OBP) and it’s commonly understood that it actually penalizes high OBP hitters and rewards high SLG hitters more than it should. But since you brought up wRC+, it’s interesting you say his greatest season was 111 while he had 2 other seasons higher than that (though one was a very partial season). Curiously you recognize wRC+ to be a superior measure, then fall into the trap of saying his best season was when he hit the most HRs, not his highest wRC+. So what was Pedro’s wRC+ in his greatest season (last year, 36 HRs, WOW!)? 111. Umm.
      So it comes down to consistency. In Ike’s terrible year last year, his wRC+ was 90, his career high is 116, he’s at 110 this year and 112 for his career. In Pedro’s terrible season, he was a 58 (ouch!), he’s at 97 this year, with a career high of 114 and a career total of 103. Plus Ike is a natural 1B while, let’s just say, Pedro hasn’t exactly shown the mental fortitude to learn a new position at the MLB level. Is it a huge, franchise saving difference? Probably not. But it’s not really that close and as Tim points out, if Pedro was drafted in the 10th round and did everything exactly the same to this point in his career, he’d be gone. It’s time to realize what he is.

      • Yes.

      • I wasn’t crowning SLG considering it has faults, too, obviously. I was saying that OPS isn’t the right argument. I also said Tim is probably right in saying Ike, statistically, should play. I missed Ike’s 116 wRC+ season but I think we can all agree he’s five years removed from that and has next to no chance in reaching even 19 HRs again. My argument is that the difference is so minimal that it hardly matters. So why not play the guy who has a world more potential. Did we forget how good he was down the stretch and in the playoffs last year?

        When Pedro was getting regular playing time May-mid July he was the Pirates best high leverage hitter. Saying that’s a skill or a trait is still up in the air and very much unclear, but he gets knocked based on small sample size and consumer bias. His plate discipline has gotten wayyy better this year and to rob him of ABs that might help him over the next two years because of Ike Davis is stupid when the difference might be a percent or two in the long run.

  • William Wallace
    August 19, 2014 8:13 am

    I was at the game last night the whole lineup is a mess. The Huntington/Hurdle mettle down 3.0 has started. Why would Morel even be on this team? Cannot figure Hurdle’s lineup and that is obviously driven by the talent afforded him by Huntington. I accept the fact that injuries have decimated our options but please their has to be better option than Morel, Martinez and Nix. How about having Grilli and Morris in the bullpen also!

    • There are better options for sure. And I don’t understand taking Harrison out of the leadoff spot either. He was producing nicely there. Ultimately the Pirates are flailing like a wounded bird. If the Pirates do anything the rest of the way it will be because of McCutchen and we will again see that he’s an MVP bc if we make it it will be because of him. I doubt we do make it, however.

      • ResistanceIsUseless
        August 19, 2014 9:54 am

        Someof the reason that Polanco was in the lead off last night was probably the leftie-rightie game. Also, while he’s not in a full blown slump, Harrison has cooled off recently.

        • It’s interesting that Polanco is getting a pass on worse OPS production than Pedro. I am not saying that that isn’t fair giving Pedro’s service time versus Polanco’s. BUt it does point out the foolishness of some who expected Polanco to be a Savior in April and May. The League is tough! It is good for Polanco to be making his necessary adjustments now rather than next year. Pedro on the other hand has had plenty of time to make adjustments if he has the capacity to make them. His OBP is simply too low. He needs Lasik eye surgery.

    • Let’s not pretend this slide has anything to do with hitting. Yes, it’s unfortunate that the Pirates are giving so many ABs to Nix, Morel and Martinez. But look at how they’re losing:

      – Continued shoddy defense from the worst defense in the National League. 2 critical early runs last night. 3 more in the extra-inning loss Sunday, 2 more on Nix’s error Wednesday to give up the lead.

      – Bullpen meltdowns. Melancon & Cumpton Sunday. Watson & Wilson Saturday. Cumpton again Thursday. Stolmy Wednesday.

      – Starting pitching. Morton and Worley’s last 4 starts combined: 19 1/3 innings, 30 hits, 21 R, 18 ER, 1.91 WHIP, 8.38 ERA.

      With league average pitching and defense, the Bucs are 4-2 or 5-1 over their last 6, still in the #1 wildcard spot and a game out of first in the Central.

      These are the same problems they’ve been having all year.

  • if there was a player who could Chris Davis-ify (circa 2013) himself, it’s pedro alvarez.

    But other than that tiny tiny possibility that he turns into chris davis (circa 2013), i gotta go with ike Davis if Pedro is done at 3b.

    Ike Davis is precisely the kind of player that the casual fan will underrate (low avg, high obp, low HR) and Alvarez is the kind of player that the casual fan will overrate (dingers, no obp).

    A theoretical DFA or trade-for-peanuts of Alvarez would be an absolutely fascinating experience to witness. Will be absolutely polarizing among the people that call into the radio shows. some people just hate. his. guts. and some people overrate dingers.

    • Low HRs? Ike hit 32 HRs in 2012.

      • Ike can hit for power or he can get a high OBP. He’s proven unable/unwilling to do both. So if you want the HR-hitting Ike, then you’re also getting the high-K rate Ike. In his 32 HR season, Ike’s OBP was a paltry .308.

      • Ike hasn’t come close to hitting half of that since.

    • In this lineup we either need an OBP guy or an RBI guy. Pedro is neither…Davis at least is the former.

      • There is no skill “good at RBIs.” Just a happenstance of random variation and lineup construction.

        • To be fair, Jared never said anything about “skill”. RBI may not be an abstract skill, but hitting for average and/or power is. And those skills have a direct impact on a player driving in runs.

        • I think that some players are definitely better than others in driving in runs. It is not a physical “skill”, but a mental toughness. For some people the opportunity to drive in runs focuses their mental abilities on hitting. For other people the opportunity to drive in runs is a mental distraction, reducing their performance.

          Let’s not forget that Pedro drove in 100+ runs last year, mostly from the #7 position. So his low RISP production this year is related to a collapse in his whole approach, it’s not like he hasn’t done it in the past. I think Pedro just isn’t seeing the ball the way he did. Somewhere on PP someone suggested Pedro needs glasses, and I think that is probably a good guess. If his vision has dropped from 20/20 to 20/30 he might not notice it in day to day life, but the baseball would just disappear. Certainly his swing has slowed down. What other explanation is there?

          • Success with runners in scoring position is not a skill. It’s not predictive. You can go year to year and see correlations in homeruns, batting average, OPS, etc. Thus, making it a skill to produce such numbers. Hitting with RISP is not predictive whatsoever. See Allen Craig, or every Cardinal hitter, this year to last year. On the other side, see Casey McGhee this year to the rest of his career. It’s just random variation and highly based on factors outside the hitters’ control.

            Yes, those who are better hitters will have more RBIs. They get more opportunities from hitting in the middle of the lineup and have more hits and extra base hits because they are simply better. Hence, more runs score. Everyone just wants to believe there is a more mental game in sports, especially baseball, for some reason. You can certainly be “clutch” but that doesn’t mean you can sustain that ability.

            • I can agree that a lot goes into RBI production that is outside the batter’s control, position in the lineup, batters on base ahead of you etc. Guys don’t have the same opportunities. But players do respond to pressure differently. An analogy to basketball is that some guys can make the free throws at the end of the game to win, and other guys can’t regardless how they do in practice. Now the better practice shooters will do better in the games than the poor shooters for sure. But pressure plays a big part in performance, as very (former) athlete knows.

              • You’re essentially referring to the hot hand fallacy. Google it. There’s a common misconception that because a guy gets a hit in one situation that he will continue to get hits in similar situations because he recently had success. It’s a complete fallacy, we just notice it more often when it happens or doesn’t happen through our own biases. Getting hits with runners in scoring position are really no different than getting hits with no one on base. It purely depends on random variation throughout the course of a season or career. Obviously, better hitters get more hits in better spots in the lineup and create more scoring.

                There’s more at play in Pedro’s case, though. Considering how bad he is at hitting lefties, he does lose opportunity at the end of games to drive in runs. However, when Pedro was getting regular playing time, he was the Pirates’ top hitter in high leverage situations. I tweeted about it a while back actually because it surprised me. We just confirm our biases when he doesn’t succeed.

                • No, I am not referring to a hot hand fallacy Frank. I am referring to a mental ability to handle pressure. RISP creates it in batters minds. That pressure either heightens a players hitting ability or diminishes it depending on the player and how they respond to pressure. The phenomena occurs across all sports, not just baseball. Though you seem unwilling to acknowledge it and I won’t try further to persuade you of it.

          • Most MLB players have 20/12 vision some even 20/10. Later I will try and post a link to great article on that very topic. FWIW, as I was always a great Pedro booster, I have to admit that after reading the majority of the comments here, those in favor of sitting Pedro down have the most convincing arguments, and by a lot.

          • piraddict ,or anyone interested, here is a great article that gives us a better idea about MLB players and their vision.

            • Thanks for the read, Leo.

              • I am glad you liked it NMR. I remember when I first saw it, I thought ” now THAT explains how those guys can pick up on pitches ” ! I thought it also might give us insight in that it isn’t lack of effort or stupidity that some guys don’t hit well, they just don’t see as well as the Ted Williams,Tony Gwynns and Roberto Clementes.

            • Fascinating article Leo! Thanks for posting it. How do you get it in the hands of the Pirates?

              • Oh I am sure the scouts, FO etc. have all been aware of that for a long time piraddict. I know this much though, I have had a different perspective on players abilities since I saw that a couple of years ago. I’m glad you appreciated it too.

  • Wabbit_Season
    August 19, 2014 7:57 am

    The recent frustration with Pedro is understandable but the Pirates didn’t get here giving up on potential. I’m as frustrated with Pedro as the next guy, but I think he is capable of hitting .250 with power. That would be an MLB caliber first baseman, I think. That he appears to be a head case is something else. Saw DK’s article the other day and he’s basically calling him out, saying: “Man up.”

    He did hit 36 bombs last year and when he is right, he can be useful.


    • Wabbit….and Ike hit 32 TWO years ago. What’s your point? 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Wabbit_Season
        August 19, 2014 9:55 am

        Well. That is a good point. I DID not know that. On the whole, I like that Davis gets on base a lot more than Pedro. Where Pedro is whiffing, Davis tends to look at a lot of pitches and takes his walks pretty often.

        On balance, I like Ike. But, in Pirate World, Pedro is an asset and that asset has to be maximized and I think the Bucs are doing right trying to find him a comfort zone where he can be effective.

        It is too bad that the experiment will cost the Bucs Davis’ more productive at bats in the part of the season where he tends to heat up.

        Tell me. Would you rate this statement as true: “The Pirates are paying three MLB players millions to be replacement level first basemen.”


  • Alvarez should be exactly what he is which is a platoon 3b with Harrison.

  • First base is a mess. Putting Alvarez there just muddies it that much more. I understand the thought behind it, unfortunately I can’t see any good coming from this move this season. Alvarez is an absolute mess right now and I’m doubtful he’ll bounce back this season.

  • Scott Kliesen
    August 19, 2014 5:33 am

    The only point of contention I would make to your argument Tim, is Pedro has the ability to go on an offensive tear which could carry the Pirates offensively for a couple weeks. While Davis has not shown he can.

    The difference between the two now is negligible, as they’re both struggling to get hits. So if I were CH, I’d keep trotting Pedro out there hoping the light comes on before it’s too late.

    • Without HRs what offensive production does Pedro provide?

      • Scott Kliesen
        August 19, 2014 10:59 am

        I’m under no illusion he is going to all of a sudden turn into the hitter we were all expecting him to be when he was drafted. However, he has been productive at times for Pirates, while Davis has not.

        I would ask you, what offensive production does Ike Davis provide at all?

        • post-ASB .835 OPS, which I would gladly take over Pedro’s .474.

          • Scott Kliesen
            August 19, 2014 1:08 pm

            That would be a lot more of an effective stat if it were larger than 56 AB’s.

            • And yet there it is. Despite your statement that Davis has not been productive, we are witnessing a 30-game stretch in which he has been productive. The 20th such 30-game stretch in which he has exceeded league-average production for 1B (Pedro has 15, and none since early July).

              Choose whatever end points you wish, Davis is the better hitter now, has more prolonged stretches of being the better hitter this year, is on aggregate the better hitter for the entire season. It’s 2014, and the season is 3/4 behind us. The likelihood that Pedro will go on the offensive tear that has eluded him the entire season grows more remote by the day.

              Davis may be below average, his skill set is decidedly unsexy, and I think we’re past the point where he can be expected to carry the team offensively. And he’s still the better option than Pedro, the only support for whom is “hope.”

    • ResistanceIsUseless
      August 19, 2014 9:41 am

      That argument has been trotted out all year, and – other than the first week or so of the season – those offensive tears just haven’t been happening. Furthermore, that was the same argument used by many over the winter in the discussions people had about acquiring Davis – “He his 32 HR’s just two years ago, he can do it again.” Well, neither has happened this year. At some point you have to realize that it’s not likely to happen, pull the plug on the “potential”, and put the better player on the field. Not that Davis has done anything great with the Pirates, but he’s the better option playing first base for the team has right now.

      • Scott Kliesen
        August 19, 2014 11:03 am

        So by your logic it makes more sense to insert a struggling Ike Davis into the lineup over a struggling Pedro Alvarez because he hit 32 Hr’s a couple years ago, whereas Pedro hit 36 last season?

        And don’t give me his defense is better BS! Davis is no gold glover.

        • ResistanceIsUseless
          August 19, 2014 11:16 am

          You’re missing the point. Neither is hitting the HR’s that they have in past years, that was my point in saying that Davis did it two years ago.

          While not great, Davis is putting up better offensive numbers than Pedro. Also, Davis seems to be getting better, while Pedro is getting worse.

          Discount defense if you choose, but don’t come back here complaining when Pedro botches a play.

          • Scott Kliesen
            August 19, 2014 1:11 pm

            And my point is Alvarez is reigning HR champ. Maybe he deserves a shot to figure it out at a position he isn’t required to make a throw across the diamond.

            Davis is much farther along the path towards ex-MLB player than Alvarez.

  • Wilbertmatthewsw
    August 19, 2014 4:57 am

    Good post Tim. I dont dislike Pedro but i dont see how we have the luxury of experimenting with him during a pennant race. He did not look good at 1b last night and hit into another double play. We begun a tailspin here and now that cutch and walker are back, its tim to return to business.

  • I know it’s not pertinent to this discussion as to who is less useless at first base, but does anybody know if the Pirates have actually gone ahead this year yet and tried to get their guys through waivers? At this rate they might be selling at the trade deadline and might be able to get a decent return on guys they aren’t expecting back (i.e. Russell Martin, not that he would make it through waivers).

  • No. Alvarez is a valuable player, can be a league average regular, putting up 108 to 114 wRC+ and playing near average defense at 3rd base. Being a league average hitter and some 12 runs below average on defense is replacement level. Alvarez isn’t valuable at first, he needs a platoon partner, Davis has hit better, is 2 runs below average for 1B, and hasn’t even cracked 0.5 WAR.

    • Andrew…agree…if Pedro hadn’t gotten the yips, he’d be a fine 3rd baseman.

      As a first baseman, he is just another pretender.

      • “As a first baseman, he is just another pretender.”

        Not singling you out, Foo, because I’ve read this many other times. But the comment is just plain silly.

        As a first baseman, Pedro would be equivalent or better than James Loney, someone a large portion of the fanbase was ready to pay twice as much as Pedro is making for 3-4 years just this past winter.

  • Pedro alvarez should not start over the bat boy, seriously get this bust out of pittsburgh. He is an albatross. Send him to the american league for whatever they can get, at this point it’s probably either a bag of balls or a bag of base chalk, either one is an improvement.

    • So he follows up back to back 30+ HR seasons with a bad year, and now he’s a bust?

      • Home runs aren’t everything, and for Alvarez, they appear to be the only thing. His bat is much more impressive as a third baseman. If you compare his stats in 2012 and 2013 vs. NL first basemen, he would have been about the 8th-9th best each year. If he could throw, he would be an above average third baseman. Playing first, his bat is about middle of the pack, in his “good” years, and this year would be in the bottom rung. Not quite a bust, but also not a franchise corner stone by any stretch of the imagination.

        • You’re right, HR’s aren’t everything. But they’re still important. They put runs on the board, change the game. Yes, it’s good to have OBP guys in the lineup, but someone has to drive them in and hit the ball out of the ballpark. That’s what Pedro needs to get back to. He’s NEVER going to be a good OBP guy, ever. But as long as he’s driving in runs, that’s fine.

          • Oh, home runs are significant, but people overvalue them for Bermanesque reasons. Last year Pedro had 25 solo home runs, and had a total of 51 RBIs from his 36 home runs, which is barely half of his run production (not that RBIs are necessarily the best stat to measure player production by, anyway.)

            Home runs give the quickest, sure fire way to score, but I don’t know its necessarily the “best” – definitely not the most consistent. Last year the Pirates scored 3.91 runs per game, and hit .993 home runs per game. This year they are scoring 4.21 runs per game and averaging .896 home runs per game. Despite the decrease in home run production, they have improved at run scoring, most notably because of an 18 point increase in OBP.

            • I believe you’ve inadvertently demonstrated that half the runs Alvarez drove in last year came by means other than what many are claiming is his only skill, hitting home runs.

              But anyway, I’d challenge that in this specific instance, Ike’s skill (walks) translate to more consistent run scoring than Pedro’s(home runs). In order for Ike’s skill to contribute to scoring a run, he is fully dependent on at least one other player coming through with a hit. A typical hitter with this skill set is going to be at the top of the order, in front of your best hitters. Ike isn’t. Compound the percentage of Ike drawing a walk with at least one hit following him from the bottom of the order and you’re looking at a very small overlapping event.

              • Well, its not like he never walks or hits a single. My point is that even for Pedro, hitting home runs is only a part of offensive production (and he’s not exactly great at the rest), so how much weight should really be put on it? It’s not like he’s super “clutch” or anything (.776 OPS w/ RISP, .770 in general in 2013.)

                The point about the value of OBP changing by lineup position is a valid one, there’s been a lot of math done out there on this, which hurts my head, but you can get the idea: here:

                That point is, of course, is that OBP is worth more or less depending on what the guy(s) behind you do (and conversely, the value of SLG % is worth more or less based on the OBP of those ahead of you.) OBP is generally averaged across the whole lineup to be worth about 1.7 times SLG, according to Sabr guys.I don’t know that it ever goes below 1. And the guy most likely to be batting #8 (beinhd Ike or Pedro) in our lineup is Jordy Mercer, who’s probably one of the better #8 hitters in the NL (and who also benefits from a high OBP player ahead of him.)

                I’m not going to make a clear cut “you’re wrong, I’m right” here, because I’m too lazy to do the team specific math atm, but I enjoy the convo.

                • Fully agree with your last paragraph. Much appreciated.

                  Unfortunately, Jordy Mercer is exactly why I don’t think Ike makes sense in the bottom of the order. As a lefty, Ike will only start against RHP. Against RHP, Jordy is 20% below average for his career. Lineup construction just doesn’t fit.