By Jason Shetler
After coming off an All-Star season in 2013, in which he tied for the National League lead in home runs with 36, Pedro Alvarez had a forgettable 2014 campaign, as throwing problems at third base resulted in him committing a league high 25 errors. His defensive issues at third certainly affected his offensive game, posting just a .717 OPS in 122 games. This past offseason, a decision had to be made on who would be the first baseman heading into 2015. The Pirates decided to trade Ike Davis to the Oakland Athletics, thus keeping Alvarez in the first base mix.
As expected, the transition for Alvarez to first base has been very rough to this point, as he’s already committed eight errors along with a .981 fielding percentage, which is 12% below the league average. To his credit however, his poor defense has not affected his numbers at the plate. Alvarez has been facing primarily right-handed pitching, and has taken advantage of it, as he’s posting an .843 OPS vs RHP. He’s also hit nine homers, which is already half of what he had all of last season. During the latter part of games whenever the Pirates have a lead, Sean Rodriguez has been used as a defensive replacement at first base, so it’s not as if they don’t have a solution for above average defense there when the situation calls for it. While it’s obvious that Alvarez’s defense as a first baseman has been frustrating to watch, the reality is that the Pirates must accept his defensive woes, since his offensive numbers against right-handed pitching has been too good to this point in 2015, and because he’s played a vital role in the Pirates scoring a ton of runs in recent weeks.