A crazy thing happened earlier this season: Pedro Alvarez got red hot at the plate and looked like a legit Major League hitter. After some gentle cajoling by yours truly, the Pirates third baseman started smacking dingers and nudged his weighted on base beyond that of a league average hitter! And there was much rejoicing in Western Pennsylvania!
Sadly, it didn’t last. Pedro Alvarez has too much Pedro Alvarez in him to stay above average for long. Just as quickly as it he got over the league average threshold, Pedro Alvarez stopped hitting home runs and slipped below it. A pity, really.
May 3rd represents the high water mark for Alvarez’s season. His OPS stood at a robust .912 that day, his wOBA .387. Getting on base was never a strong suit of the former number one pick but his slugging percentage of .614 took care of a lot of questions. It was a good time to be Pedro, hitting three home runs in his previous four games.
Sadly, the homers dried up on that fateful day. Alvarez plunged into a prolonged slump, managing just eight hits in the next sixty-eight plate appearances. Eight walks, more than double his season total over the first month. But eight hits. No home runs. A paltry .425 OPS. Sigh. Nothing is ever easy for Pedro Alvarez.
Using Fangraphs wOBA guts, we can calculate Alvarez’s weight on base average for each day of the season, as well as over a rolling ten day periods. The ten day rolling method is a favorite of mine as it shows the impact of a hot streak, how long it floats the numbers in the early stages of a season.
The below graph shows Alvarez’s ten day rolling wOBA as well as his cumulative wOBA for the year. League average weighted on base is about .311 (represented by the purple line) so we can track Alvarez’s progress as he reaches for the highest heights of the mathematical center of the league.
Eighteen games. For eighteen games (spanning twenty days), Pedro Alvarez could proudly say he was an above-average hitter in the Major Leagues of baseball. His swagger was that of a man who not only received a $6 million signing bonus but came marginally closer to earning it! But it was all for naught.
Pedro Alvarez is back where he belongs, struggling along with a brutally low on base percentage and slugging numbers consistent with middle infielders like Zack Cosart, Elvis Andrus, and Jason Kipnis. Back to a .299 wOBA. Back on the bench against good left-handed starters (like Jon Niese, pitching today for the Mets.)
Pedro Alvarez is whole again. Wholly below average in just about every way. It’s a shame but it is the will of the universe. So it goes, Pedro. So it goes.