To the unbiased onlooker, it may appear as though Yordan Alvarez just really, really doesn’t like the baseball, and feels the need to hit it stupid hard with a wooden bat. He’s making professional baseball look the same as Triple-A, which is a feat in and of itself, but it’s what he has been doing lately that has brought even more aplomb to his “stickability” in the majors.
Consider: When he was called up, he was batting .343 and lead Triple-A in home runs (23) and RBIs (71). He’s still fifth in home runs and second in RBIs, despite being in the majors for the last month. No big deal.
At that time, he was averaging a home run every 9.26 at-bats and an RBI every 3.00 at-bats. It would have been borderline ludicrous to expect him to continue that streak into the Major Leagues, where everyone is just a bit better, but here he is, at the Major League level, hitting .342 and averaging an RBI every…
That’s right. Since moving to the Majors, he has increased his RBI output while only dropping .001 point in his batting average. Not even enough for me to make a James Bond joke.
The man is a machine. But there is one other area that he has had the audacity to slacken the pace a bit, and that is in big flies.
After averaging a home run every 9.26 at-bats in Triple-A, he has fallen off the pace, now averaging a home run every 10.42 at-bats in the pros. It’s gotten so bad that his power drought has now lasted seven games, extending back to June 23rd, the last day he hit a home run.
And yet, Alvarez has proven that he doesn’t even need home runs to be a successful Major League hitter. In that seven game power drought, he’s had 25 at-bats. In that span, he’s managed nine hits (five doubles), raised his batting average from .333 to .342 and driven in nine RBIs.
A quick finger dance on a calculator will then tell you that he’s driving in a run every 2.77 at-bats during this “power drought,” as opposed to driving in a run every 3.00 at-bats between June 9th when he was called up, and June 23rd, when he hit his last home run. Which means that he has been more likely to drive in runs when he isn’t hitting home runs.
I never thought I’d be happy to see a player not hit home runs (just ask Tyler White), but here I am, celebrating Yordan Alvarez on his current home run drought.
Naturally, Yordan Alvarez’s slugging percentage is going to drop off a bit in the wake of his paltry power drought, but when you dig in and look at all the other numbers, you will see that nothing else is hurting during this home run slump.
His BABIP has actually improved from .321 to a bulbous .529. His ISO, a number specifically designed for power numbers such as home runs, is still a sturdy .200, which ranks in the “Great” range, and his wRC+ is hanging out at .146, which is also…
So our 21-year-old slugger is just as viable a professional hitter when he isn’t hitting home runs as when he is. Now let’s play around a little more and get into how well he is hitting the ball, despite not driving it out of the park.
Needless to say, some of those home runs have been smoked. And by some, I mean all. Like, pig-on-a-spigot smoked. So you may inevitably draw the conclusion that since he isn’t driving the ball out of the park, he hasn’t been hitting the ball as hard, but to that I say, “Nay!”
During his home run days, Alvarez was hitting the ball hard 57% of the time. Which is a ludicrous number to keep up, but hey, he did it, so let’s talk about it. It’s so far above the “Excellent” tier that I feel like we need a new tier, just for him. We’ll call it the pig-on-a-spigot tier.
Since his home run drought claimed his dignity, Alvarez is only hitting it hard 53% of the time, which is still so far above the “Excellent” tier that I feel like we need a new tier, just for him. We’ll call it the… you get it.
More than that, he’s been spreading the ball better. He was pulling the ball 40% of the time when he was still hitting home runs, but since that time, that number has fallen to 29.4% and the majority of his hits (47%) are going right back up the middle. Meaning he is beating the shift with frickin’ lasers.
All these numbers look nice and all, but in a world where the Astros are only hitting .266 with runners on base (11th in the Majors) and and .252 w/RISP (21st), Yordan Alvarez is raising the bar.
He was hitting .333 with runners on base during homer time (June 9th through June 23rd), but a stupid .471 with runners on in his homer drought. He’s hit the ball harder a higher percentage of the time with runners on (67% to 63%) in that span as well.
And in a hard comparison between how he’s doing with runners in scoring position, we see even more positive reinforcement that Alvarez doesn’t need to hit home runs. He is 6-10 with 8 RBIs w/RISP and just one strikeout since June 23rd and 4-10 with 7 RBIs w/RISP and two strikeouts before that.
His wRC+ has even increased from 297 to 311 w/RISP since he stopped hitting home runs. Oh, and by the way, guess who’s fourth in the league in overall wRC+ since Yordan Alvarez’s call-up?
Yeah, Yordan Alvarez.
What the Astros have here is a dynamic player who isn’t an isolated power guy. I’m not going to lie, seeing those home runs made me drool, but since he hit this seven game homer-less drought, I have been even more impressed by his ability to hit screaming line drives.
And I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy who can hit a ground ball through the infield, in between two outfielders, and all the way to the wall. It looks like a video game glitch that would leave me throwing my controller at the “stupid AI,” but this is real life.
The only question is when he is going to start hitting home runs again. My bet is on Thursday.
**All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com**