Pedro Alvarez – Is the Breakout Real?

Expectations were pretty low for Pedro Alvarez coming into 2012. He had the pedigree of being the second overall draft pick in the 2008 draft, but he only hit four home runs (HR) and struck out (K%) over 30% of the time in 2011 bringing his stock way down. He was able to re-find find his power stroke in 2012 and it gave him some fantasy value.

A couple simple fantasy relevant facts are predictable with Alvarez

1. He has no speed. He has 2 stolen bases (SB) in 3 seasons. A total over 0 should be a plus for his fantasy owners.

2. He is going to strikeout nearly 30% of the time. Here are his K% from his first 3 seasons.

2010: 30.8%
2011: 30.5%
2012: 30.7%

Only Adam Dunn (33%) and Mark Reynolds (32%) have struck out at a higher rate over the last 3 seasons (min 1000 PA).

Besides those two predictable traits, the 25-year-old, left-handed hitter was supposed to hit for power. In 2010, he hit for decent power with a 18% HR/FB% and a .205 ISO. Then 2011 came along. The HR/FB% dropped to 10% and the ISO decrease to .098. Weak hitting, high K% players don’t last long in any league.

He turned it around 2012. Here are a few of the major improvements:

Season HR/FB FB% IFFB% ISO FB&HR Dist (ft)
2011 10% 25% 10% 0.098 279
2012 25% 35% 3% 0.223 305

Three major factors point to his turn around in 2012. First, he had a quad injury that bothered him for most of the year. He got the injury in early May and missed two months of the season because of it.

Second, he became more aggressive early in the strike count as noted by his manager, Clint Hurdle:

But enough with the technical stuff. The real reason Hurdle is happy with Alvarez’s swing is that the Pirates are seeing more of it. Alvarez didn’t bother to take the bat off his shoulder last year more times than Hurdle cares to remember.

“There was just a high percentage of called strikes for the longest period of time, from last season and early on this season,” Hurdle said. “Last season, in 33 percent of his at-bats (actually 28 percent), he hit from an 0-2 count. That’s not a formula for success for anybody.”

I looked a little further myself and found that in 2011, he swung at 0-0 pitches 30% of the time. In 2012, that number jumped to 41%. He was definitely more aggressive at the plate this past season.

Finally, he retooled his swing for 2012 (article and article with video). A new approach at the plate helps to explain the drop in IFFB% which is usually high for long ball hitters.

For 2013, I expect Pedro Alvarez to have a year similar to 2012. The high K%, will limit his AVG to probably a max around 0.260. If Alvarez can maintain the changes he made for 2012, his power numbers will stay the same or even improve as he ages.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

3 Responses to “Pedro Alvarez – Is the Breakout Real?”

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  1. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    last season I picked up Pedro as my 25th pick in a 12 team snake draft. he was a decent steal. Oh and I ran away with the league.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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