Last year's National League home run king is this season's court jester in the infield. Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez leads the league in errors with 23. Of those, 21 are throwing errors.
On Thursday, in a 7-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Alvarez nearly added a 24th error to his stat line on a low throw to first baseman Ike Davis. An error was charged to Davis, though. The ball skipped to the fence behind the foul line, allowing two runs to score.
Alvarez made his first start in in three starts. Manager Clint Hurdle has given Alvarez some much-needed time off to refocus, retool and reenergize himself from a dismal season.
“The repetition is important," Hurdle told Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It’s not just putting time in. It’s putting focused time in, and that can be the challenging part of it.
“Pedro has been focused, continues to work to do the things that you’ve got to do to work your way through it. Outside of that, we just keep focused on hunting good stuff and trying to help him find more consistency.”
Aaron Gleeman of Yahoo.com reports, prior to this season Alvarez committed 85 errors in 3,965 innings at third base, or one every 47 innings.
This season he’s made an error every 34 innings.
"He's trying everything he can to improve his mechanics," Hurdle told Pirates blog, Bucs Dugout. "More often than not, it's the set-up when he throws. And, more often than not, it's one particular play that has been causing him problems."
A Fangraphs study says that Alvarez has single-handedly cost the Pirates 5.6 runs this season based on his fielding miscues.
For a team in the middle of a playoff-push, with a solid chance to win its division, Pittsburgh cannot afford to have a liability at any position.
But it's not just Alvarez's performance in the field that is hurting the team. It's his lack of production at the plate, too.
Alvarez is batting .235 after a 1 for 4 performance in Thursday's loss. He hasn't hit a home run since July 11 - prior to the All-Star Break - and he only has 15 on the season. He tied with Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamonbacks for 36 home runs in 2013, which led the National League.
Alvarez went just 13 for 63 at the plate in the month of July. He hasn't had a multi-hit game since collecting three in a June 24 win against the New York Mets.
In 2012, Alvarez's first full season in the majors, he hit .244 with 30 home runs. He didn't have a sophomore slump, but for some reason he's experience a junior demise.
"Do you know how humiliating and embarrassing it is to go through that?" Blass asked. "The worst thing for any professional athlete is to be embarrassed ...
"I'd love to sit down and talk to Pedro about it," Pirates broadcaster, and former pitcher, Steve Blass told Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette. "But that has to be his call. I would never cross the line and go to him and just start offering advice. That's not my place. I'm not sure what advice I could give anyone, anyway. I never did figure it out."
Blass pitched a complete game, three-hitter for the Pirates against the Baltimore Orioles in Game 7 of the 1971 World Series. He was an All-Star in 1972 and was runner-up to the Cy Young. Three years later, he was out of baseball due to nagging control issues on the mound.
Though they played two different positions, the throwing woes are comparable between the two Pirates.
Blass remains a Pittsburgh legend for his contributions to the team's dynasty of the 1970s. Alvarez has already helped right the ship after 20-straight losing seasons. If he shapes up his all-around game, he has a chance to leave a legacy like Blass did.
He just has to figure it out.
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