I still have the Aramis Ramirez experience fresh in my mind where I dumped him in frustration mid-June 2010 as he was struggling to hit even Congressional approval ratings. And then you know what he did in the second half — he turned into, well, Aramis Ramirez — hitting .276/.321/526. Ergo, I’ve become particularly attentive to the don’t-overreact approach.
While not having the major league success nor pedigree that Aramis Ramirez boasts, Pedro Alvarez and his start to the 2011 season reminds me a lot of this situation. Being your third base guy for the season, I wanted to take a deeper look at his struggles (sample size be damned) and see whether or not he’s planning on pulling an Aramis Ramirez on you going forward. For good measure, we’ll also peek at Chone Figgins and his continued struggles.
That he was going to have some contact issues was no secret as Alvarez has a long history of high strikeout rates. He hit .256 in 2010 with a .341 BABIP, but his expected BABIP was just .284, so regression was something owners had to be prepared for. The tantalizing part of Alvarez was his 29 home runs between AAA and MLB last year, and that he maintained an ISO over .200 at the major league level suggested he could hold his own and all that power in the minor leagues might just translate well in Pittsburgh for seasons to come.
To date, he’s hitting .213 with 1 HR, and just 7 RBI, striking out more than a third of the time, and having an ISO of only .074. His ISO is the lowest of any qualified third baseman to date, worse than even, ahem, Chone Figgins. He has the highest K% of any third baseman at 34% and the 4th lowest wOBA among third basemen at .260, competing with the likes of Brandon Inge and Chris Johnson for superiority of the wretched.
Alvarez has swung and missed at a full 14% of the pitches he’s seen, which is Mark Reynolds territory. His expected BABIP this season is .293, so his .311 BABIP might be for real, which is really bad news since he’s struggling to hit .200. His ground ball rate is up fairly significantly thus far at 57.4% and his BABIP on ground balls is .278 and the NL average for ground balls is .238, so he’s not getting cheated there either.
In general, it has been just a miserable, no good, very bad, start for Alvarez. There’s really not anything to point to that would suggest he hasn’t fully earned it either. What’s worse is the current presence of Brandon Wood which might not necessarily impact Alvarez much, but has the potential to cut into some playing time and also might register on the consciousness if he continues to struggle.
ZiPS seems to still have a lot of confidence in Alvarez going forward, predicting a .257 batting average, 21 HR’s, and 89 RBI. That’s a pretty big year considering April is a total loss, so if you’re the gambling type, you might just grab Alvarez if he’s available and see if he can right the ship. If you’re an owner, see if you can find any degree of replacement level talent to hold down the fort until Alvarez catches fire. I’d be surprised if he was sent packing to the minors to rediscover his stroke, but in a world where Jose Lopez is preferred to Ian Stewart, anything can happen.
The good news on Figgins is that he’s already matched his entire 2010 home run total, the bad news is pretty much everything else, and of course that his entire home run total from 2010 was one.
Consider me among the many who thought we would see the Figgins that we saw in the second half of last year: .286/.349/.339. That started to resemble career averages for Figgins after a woeful first several months in Mariner blue. But after a strong Spring, we’re seeing the the same Seattle-tarnished version of the speedy infielder, with just a .206 batting average and a .252 OBP. That OBP is good for second worst among qualified third basemen. And while 2010 was bad, at least he was good enough to stalwart owners to provide 42 stolen bases, but thus far he has but 3 swipes.
His hit trajectory is virtually the same as last year, with a handful more fly balls and while he is striking out far less this year than last (11.2% vs. 18.9% in 2010; 17.2% career) he’s also setting a career low in walks which isn’t doing anything for his ability to get on base. And last I checked, in order to steal a bag, you have to be standing on the bag before it, so if Figgins is going to contribute anything to his one redeemable quality, he’s going to need to start being more selective.
One dim, distant star might be the whole luck thing. His BABIP is just .221 whereas his expected BABIP is .341. So he’s not getting any favors from the game of inches fairy and if things start to trend towards his career .334 BABIP, he ought to start looking far more palatable to fantasy owners.
ZiPS predicts .255/.340/.320 the rest of the way with 60 runs and 27 stolen bases. I’m not sure that’s too valuable in standard leagues, but for those of you on the AL-side or deeper leagues, those steals could come in handy.
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