If there’s one thing we’ve learned this year about Pedro Alvarez, it’s that he doesn’t just have one good game. He’s been a very streaky player, and in most cases when he has a big game, it is usually the start of a nice hot streak.
We saw this in mid-April. Alvarez snapped out of a 1-for-24 start to the season by going 1-for-3 with a homer on April 18th. From then until May 4th, he hit for a .367 average and a 1.224 OPS in 49 at-bats, with six homers.
Alvarez had a few good games after that, but didn’t see another streak until June 16th. After seeing his average drop to .189 and his OPS drop to .627, the third baseman went 2-for-4 with two homers. It was the start of a hot streak that lasted over a month, seeing Alvarez hit for a .308 average with a 1.115 OPS in 104 at-bats, along with 13 homers.
He started to cool again in late July, and carried that cold streak in to August. In the first 15 games in August, Alvarez hit for a .200/.289/.200 line in 40 at-bats. Then on August 16th he went 3-for-4 with a double and a homer. That started a streak where he hit for a .342 average and a 1.058 OPS in 38 at-bats, heading in to tonight’s big game.
Those hot streaks can be defined through the benefit of hindsight, and we can’t exactly use that to suggest Alvarez will continue hitting this way. Or, for that matter, we can’t say how long he will hit this way if he does.
What we can say is that if there’s ever a time the Pirates needed a hot streak from Alvarez, it’s now. The win over St. Louis tonight moved the Pirates to two games back in the Wild Card race. A win tomorrow puts them one game back, and still very much in the race. From there, the Pirates have an advantage over St. Louis. They only play one winning team between now and September 28th, and that’s a three game series in Cincinnati. They play the Cubs and Astros a combined total of 13 times, the Brewers six times, and the Mets four times in that stretch. The Cardinals have games against losing teams, but not as many (18 vs 23 for the Pirates).
Even with 23 games against teams with losing records, wins won’t be guaranteed. We saw that this month. But it will be much easier to get those wins if Alvarez is hitting like he was from mid-June to mid-July. He’s the type of guy who can change the game with one swing, either giving the Pirates a big lead, or bringing them back in to a game. Andrew McCutchen is the MVP of the team, but when Alvarez is swinging the bat well he might very well be the better option, especially if the team needs a homer.
Perhaps tonight (and the performance over the last week) is the start of another Pedro Alvarez hot streak. It would be a great time for that to happen, since the team needs his bat more than ever with some of their other top players slumping lately.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates beat the Cardinals 9-0.