Baltimore Orioles: The Problem with Pedro Alvarez

September 20, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) runs after he hits a single in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
September 20, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) runs after he hits a single in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orioles added a new bat in Pedro Alvarez, too bad it doesn’t solve any of their problems.

Think back two weeks ago, the Orioles were set to add an actual lead off hitter atop their lineup. It was going to be perfect. An already established outfielder? Check. A batter with good on-base numbers to move Manny Machado down the line up? Check. A base-runner with above average speed to keep you honest? Check.That’s what the Orioles need. When that didn’t work out for Dexter Fowler, it was back to the drawing board. That resulted in the newest Orioles acquisition, Pedro Alvarez , about as opposite as you can get.

The Orioles needed an outfielder. The trade for Mark Trumbo early in the off-season and the resigning of Chris Davis meant that the first base position and DH role were filled. Signing Alvarez gives the team a third player for those roles. Alvarez started off his career as a third baseman and when his defensive issues became too much of an issue he  moved to first base last year. The defensive issues didn’t get any better across the diamond. He led all first baseman in errors and it wasn’t close. Alvarez committed 23 errors at first the next closet was 11. You could double the that amount and it would still be less than the 23.

No, I don’t expect Pedro Alvarez to be the Orioles first baseman. He will setting up as the regular DH. The problem with that is it leaves Mark Trumbo to now play the field. Trumbo is a better first baseman than he is corner outfielder. The team has talked up his arm during spring training with how strong it is. Well that’s great. Let me know when he get’s to the ball to show it off. Hopefully for the Orioles, it will consist of a lot of David Ortiz base-running. I think the best option would be playing Davis out in right. Both the Orioles and Chris have stated he is the team’s first baseman and he would still see time there, but the days with him, Alvarez, and Trumbo in the line up, Davis would be the best outfield option.

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  • The reason Davis would still be able to see time at first is because Alvarez has huge platoon splits. For his career against left-handed pitching, Alvarez is a .203/.270/.332 hitter. Ideally the days the Orioles face a lefty, Alvarez should start the game on the bench. He is a better .246/.320/.473 hitter against righties. That’s why the Orioles got him. Alvarez and his left-handed bat have a chance to thrive in Camden Yards. According to ESPN’s  ball park ranking, Alvarez is going from the 26th best park to hit in to the 7th best park, in OPACY. It’s especially strong for left-handers. The Orioles played 117 games against right-handed starters compared to only 45 left-handed starters. Let’s say they do something similar again that means Alvarez could start roughly 70% of the time at DH leaving Trumbo the first-baseman those days. Davis would play in right during those games at start at first the other 30%. That’s not including days off and injuries but just a estimate. Plus Davis would see more time at first during games when defensive replacements occur. If the Orioles are winning a game 6-3 in the 7th inning than you could remove Trumbo, move Davis back to first, and insert a better defensive outfielder in right.

    Pedro Alvarez brings awesome left-handed power to the team. Even if he plays around the 70% time, 30 home-runs should still be very reasonable. As stated above this ballpark should only help his numbers. The other thing going for him is not having to worry about his errors and fielding. Alvarez will get the occasional spot start at first just to keep him interested but most of his time will be spent being the regular DH. He can concentrate on hitting. Being left-handed it would seem he balances out the line-up which is filled with more right-handers. The Orioles though, were already better against righties than lefties. As a team the Orioles on-base/slugging was .752 against right-handers and only .664 against left-handers. That .88 points is a huge difference. Alvarez will help bring up the .752 number but the .664 isn’t going anywhere. So even though he brings more balance to the number of left/right hitter in the line-up the numbers were already skewed towards needing a better that could hit lefties.

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    The other issue surrounding Alvarez is he won’t be solving the teams on-base issues or strikeout totals. Alvarez can hit home-runs with the best of them but like most power hitters he strikes out a whole bunch as well. The Orioles already have a lot of those guys on the team like Davis and Trumbo. It also means Manny Machado looks like the team’s lead off hitter again. Manny performs that very well. It’s hard to argue a .359 average and 20 stolen-bases from the top spot. The problem lies with the 35 homers being wasted from the one whole. Ideally Manny would move down to the 3# spot at worst the #2 spot so he can drive in more runs and be productive. The Orioles don’t have a better option right now.

    If the Orioles could do it all over again, I wonder if they would have traded for Mark Trumbo. That has nothing to do with thinking Trumbo is a bad player. At the time they had no idea Davis was going to be back.They needed a power bat and potential first-base replacement. Even if Davis comes back, Trumbo moves to DH, where the O’s struggled mightily last year. I don’t think they expected to sign Alvarez two weeks into spring training at a reasonable price. But that leads to a lot of redundancy and not solving the problems the team already had. As O’s fans let’s hope they make it work.