Three weeks are gone in the MLB Season, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are sitting at 5-7. Impressively, the team got the better of the Phillies and Diamondbacks in their respective series, but suffered a 5-game losing streak at the hands of the Dodgers and Giants. Thus far, the Bucs are having tremendous offensive problems, sitting in last place in runs scored (26), On-Base Percentage (.252), and slugging percentage (.287). Only the Cubs have fewer home runs than the Pirates, who only have 6 jacks. A major offensive problem the Pirates have is at the hot corner, where Pedro Alvarez continues to not produce. Ever since returning from his injury last year, El Toro has not produced in the way that they thought he would when he was given his generous $6 million contract, and it is time to exercise other options at third.
When drafted, Alvarez was a highly touted power hitter with “the best bat in the draft” and the potential to “be a top-5 player at his position”. However, even in college he was known for his propensity to strike out. As he progressed through the minors, his power was apparent, with 27 home runs and a .535 slugging percentage in 2009 followed by 13 and .533 in half of a year in 2010. When he joined the Big Club in 2010, expectations were high due to success in the minors, and the power of his bat was much needed. In that 2010 campaign, Pedro played 95 games, hit 16 home runs and had a slugging percentage of .461, an impressive rookie season.
Despite early success, Alvarez had a horrendous injury-shortened 2011 season, playing only 74 games while hitting under the Mendoza Line (not Luis Mendoza of Mighty Ducks fame, mind you, even though he was also Benny The Jet Rodriguez) of .200 with only 4 long balls and a pitiful .289 slugging percentage. He also averaged over a strikeout a game, with 80 total K’s. He suffered a quad injury early in the season, which led him to the DL, but problems kept springing up with it, and his season was ended prematurely. In the 2012 Spring Training season, Alvarez had shown no improvement, going 9-53 (.171) in 19 games and 22 K’s. 22. Apparently, that is impressive enough to earn a starting role on a Major League Roster, and Alvarez was slotted as the #5 position in the lineup card. In the first three weeks of the season, Pedro has gone 3-27 (.074) with two of the hits being solo shots, and 13 K’s. Looking around the division, Scott Rolen of the Reds has the next lowest batting average, hitting .159, which is a great deal better than Pedro (but to be fair to Rolen, he is about as old as Joe Randa or Al Martin). Pedro’s BABIP cannot get any worse than it is right now, because it impossible to go lower than .000, which is where El Toro is right now. Embarrassing. Pitiful. Disgraceful.
Recently, there has been a call from the fans to replace the six million dollar man. Due to his horrible play, the fans are right, and it is about time for the Pirates to pull the plug and find a replacement at third. In the offseason, the Pirates traded Lead-Blowing extraordinaire Jose Veras for Casey McGehee, who plays both first and third. In 10 games, McGehee has a .290 batting average and has scored three times. McGehee would/should be the leader for relieving Alvarez of his duties. The second option is to play Josh Harrison, who had a decent Spring Training and played for Alvarez last summer during his injury. Harrison doesn’t have nearly the power that McGehee possesses, but when on base, he is a threat to take an extra base. The final option that the Pirates could exercise would be to re-call up Matt Hague and shift him to third. During Spring Training, Hague played at third on a few occasions, but was nothing impressive defensively. Hague offers some substantial power that would replace Alvarez nicely, but only went 1-9 this year when he played at first, and his defense at third is questionable. Obviously the defense will come with experience, but Hague should be used only as a First Baseman at the Major League level right now.
It has been a frustrating year for the Pirates and their fans having to deal with a severely under-performing third baseman that had great power as a minor leaguer and rookie. Garrett “GI” Jones and Andrew McCutchen remain the only players on the team that have any legitimate power in their bat, but the bats have been silent thus far. The Pedro Alvarez Experiment is over. He is a below average, lazy player that refused to play Winter Ball despite management telling him it would be beneficial, and his offensive ‘prowess’ is significantly hindering an already pitiful offense. We have waited long enough. Cut Pedro’s cord.