Pedro is Not Pablo; He’s Pete

There are some who believe that Pedro Alvarez is a similar player to Pablo Sandoval, who just signed a 5-year, $95 million free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox. I don’t see it that way.

Pedro Alvarez was 27 years old during the 2014 season and he has been in the major leagues since his age-23 season of 2010. Here are the respective numbers for Alvarez and Pablo Sandoval from ages 23 through age 27:

Alvarez    :     Sandoval

BB Rate:   9.2%   :   7.5%

K Rate:     29.6%   :   13.4%

Isolated Power:  .201   :    .159

wRC+:   104   :   116

Batting Average:  .235   :   .283

On-Base Percentage: .307   :   .336

Slugging Percentage:  .435  :   .442

OPS:  .742  :   .778

In the key predictive areas of BB%, K%, and Isolated Power, Sandoval is just 68.6% comparable to Alvarez from ages 23 through 27.

The fielding numbers of the two players are also vastly different. Fangraphs rates Alvarez defense at 22.2 runs below average from ages 23-27. Sandoval is rated as 18.3 runs above average. Alvarez’s Defensive Runs Total is -17.0. Sandoval’s Defensive Runs Total is +10.0.

From ages 23 through 27, Sandoval was 14.8 Wins Above Replacement. Alvarez’s WAR was just 5.9.

Now, let’s take a look at the player who is most comparable to Alvarez, from ages 23 through 27, in the key areas of BB rate, K rate, and Isolated Power.

Alvarez   :    Player C

BB Rate:   9.2%   :   8.0%

K Rate:  29.6%   :   27.9%

Isolated Power:  .201   :   .200

wRC+:  104   :   104

BABIP:  .295   :   .300

Batting Average:  .235   :   .242

On-Base Percentage:  .307   :   .309

Slugging Percentage:  .435   :   .443

OPS:   .742   :   .752

In the key predictive areas of BB rate, K rate, and Isolated Power, Player C was 93.6% comparable to Pedro Alvarez from ages 23 through 27.

Alvarez’s fielding is also more similar to that of Player C than it is to that of Pablo Sandoval:

Fangraphs:  Alvarez -22.2  :   Player C  -36.4

Defensive Runs Total:  Alvarez -17.0  :  Player C  -7.0

From ages 23 through 27, Player C’s WAR was 5.5. Alvarez’s was 5.9.

And who is Player C?

Pete Incaviglia.

McCutchen Hits Back After Being Hit

Andrew McCutchen may react angrily when he is hit by a pitch – as he appeared to do last night when he was nailed twice by Brewers starter Matt Garza. But the numbers say that neither being hit nor raising his ire comes close to throwing Andrew off of his game.

McCutchen has been hit 9 times this year. These are the dates when he was hit and his numbers in the game after he was hit.

9/9 vs. Philadelphia: 2-for-4 with a HR and a BB

9/5 vs. Cincinnati: 3-for-5 with 3 singles

8/2 vs. Arizona:  1-for-2 with a BB and a sacrifice fly.

7/22 vs. Los Angeles: 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI.

5/22 vs. Washington:  0-for-4

5/1 vs. Baltimore:  1-for-4 with a double and 2 BB.

In the games after being hit by a pitch, McCutchen’s batting line is .333/.406/.593 — .999 OPS.

We might expect a big performance from him today against the Brewers. But it could be a mere coincidence that he has done well in the 7 previous games that followed his being hit by a pitch.

Expect Extra-Base Hits Against Cubs Starter Wada

Starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, who will take the mound against the Pirates tonight, has been hit for a .218 Isolated Slugging (ISO) by right-handed hitters this year.

What is “isolated slugging” and why does it matter that Wada’s is .218?

Isolated power is slugging percentage minus batting average and the league average is .143 for right-handed hitters versus left-handed pitchers.

Tsuyoshi Wada’s ISO is 75 points higher than league average . . .  He has been getting pounded with extra-base hits by right-handed hitters – even though his batting average on balls in play against them is 25 points below league average. He has essentially turned the average right-handed hitter into Miguel Cabrera, who has a .206 overall ISO.

Here are the ISOs of Pirate right-handed hitters versus LHP and the Expected ISOs that they would have against Tsuyoshi Wada:

Andrew McCutchen:  .258 /  .393

Gaby Sanchez:  .186  /  .284

Jordy Mercer:  .159  /  .242

Josh Harrison:  .158  /  .240

Starling Marte:  .122  /  .186

Neil Walker:  .105  /  .160

Jose Tabata:  .051  /   .078

Russell Martin:  .015  /  .023

How high is McCutchen’s .394 Expected ISO vs. Tsuyoshi Wada? Babe Ruth’s career ISO was .348.

Wada has been hit for a .760 OPS by right-handed batters. That is 27 points higher than the league average for left-handed pitchers vs. right-handed batters of .733.

Could this evening be “Bombs Away in Pittsburgh, PA?”

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The Cost of Moving Pedro to First-Base

Pedro Alvarez provided the Pirates with 3.1 Wins above Replacement Level last season by hitting 36 home runs with a .770 OPS – and playing league-average defense at third-base.

That last sentence is in italics because it makes a difference – and Pedro Alvarez’s 2014 UZR/150 of -18.6 say that he no longer plays anything close to league-average defense. He has simply lost the ability to make the throw from third to first. And if he must be permanently assigned to first-base, it is going to cost him money and cost the Pirates wins and trade value.

Third-baseman, on average, do not hit as well as first-baseman. So, Alvarez – as a 3B – hitting for a .770 OPS and playing league-average defense is more valuable than Alvarez – as a first-baseman – hitting for a .770 OPS and playing league-average defense. Let’s take a look at the difference.

The MLB average batting line for 3B in 2013 was .259/.322/.411 — .733 OPS. The average for 1B was .261/.336/.436 — .772 OPS. As a 3B, playing league-average defense, Pedro Alvarez was provided a lot of value in 2013. As a 1B, he would have been ordinary.

Therefore, the solution to Pedro’s throwing problems is not as simple as permanently assigning him to first-base. There is a cost involved with that move. The questions are how much; and whether that cost is enough to make it wise for the Pirates to give Pedro plenty of time at 3B to prove that he is a first-basemen.

Here is the math.

Alvarez’s 36 home runs and .770 OPS were worth 3.1 WAR last year as a league-average defensive third-baseman. If he had done the same at 1B, he would have been worth 1.7 wins. That’s a big difference, to both Alvarez and the Pirates.

Alvarez’s free agent value at 3.1 WAR is about $15.5 million per year. Moving to first-base and posting a 1.7 WAR would cost him about $7 million per season, giving him an approximate value of $8.5 million/year when it comes time for him to sign his next contract.

If teams don’t believe that Alvarez can play either 3B or 1B and he ends up as a DH with a .770 OPS, his WAR falls to 1.2. That would give him a free agent value of about $6 million per year. (All, of course, assuming that his hitting rebound from his .717 2014 OPS back to his .770 2013 OPS.)

And, for the Pirates, there is a great difference in the trade value of a third-baseman with a 3.1 WAR and a 1B with a 1.7 WAR or a DH with a 1.2 WAR.

Pedro Alvarez should push hard to be given significant playing time at 3B early next season. And the Pirates should give it to him – while promoting “body armor days” for anybody with the courage to sit on the first-base side at PNC Park.

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Episode IV of “The Pitiful Pirate Offense”

The Pittsburgh Pirates had the best offense in the N.L. in June. See the full story at this Link


  1 Andrew McCutchen .343 .410 .686 1.096
2 Pedro Alvarez .299 .396 .483 .879
3 Josh Harrison .317 .358 .465 .823
4 Russell Martin .271 .440 .357 .797
5 Starling Marte .293 .361 .400 .761
6 Gregory Polanco .288 .374 .375 .749
7 Jordy Mercer .267 .299 .436 .735
8 Travis Snider .275 .310 .400 .710
9 Jose Tabata .318 .385 .318 .703
10 Neil Walker .255 .321 .362 .682
11 Clint Barmes .250 .333 .313 .646
12 Ike Davis .183 .330 .268 .597
13 Gaby Sanchez .211 .250 .289 .539
14 Chris Stewart .192 .323 .192 .515


Two Pitchers the Pirates Can and Should Acquire

Gerrit Cole is on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue. Francisco Liriano could be headed there with an oblique strain. Jeanmar Gomez has been banged for 6 home runs in 33 innings. And Casey Sadler is a 23-year-old who has pitched only 56.2 innings at AAA.

So, it might be time for the Pirates to look outside the organ-I-zation. And there just happen to be two pitchers of interest who have become available for next to nothing. At the same place from which they rescued Jason Grilli. See the Rest of the Story at this Link


Baseball Simulator: Should Pirates Change Batting Order

Putting four different Pirate lineups through a “baseball simulator” produced some interesting results.

A Pirate “standard” batting order looks something like this:

1. Starling Marte

2. Neil Walker

3. Andrew McCutchen

4. Ike Davis

5. Pedro Alvarez

6. Russell Martin

7. Jose Tabata

8. Jordy Mercer

The projected results of changing that order can be seen at This LINK.