Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pirates Hot Topics: Pedro Alvarez, Matt Hague

Today I was on TribLive Radio and I was talking Pirates baseball with Daniel Dudley and he asked me about two players that I knew he was going to bring up. Those players were Matt Hague and Pedro Alvarez. I know there is a pretty dead set opinion about both of these players, Hague should come north with the team and Alvarez should be sent down to AAA and pretty much labeled a bust. Now I know with the Alvarez assertion that might be going a little far for some but I have seen more than enough people use the b word when talking about Pedro.

I knew DD was going to ask me about Pedro so I had something things to bring up but there but I also had done some research on Hague thanks to a few tweets that Pat Lackey from WHYGAVS threw out on twitter one day. DD did ask me about Hague and if you listened to my interview on Trib Live then you know where I am going with this but in case you didn’t hear it I am going to break down that as well as some interesting information on Pedro that I got from Brewers blogger Ryan Topp while we were doing my NL Central Podcast Preview series that will be starting on Monday.

So let’s break down both of these situations. Let me begin by saying that I don’t have an answer for either player. I can’t sit here and tell you one way or the other with Hague or Alvarez but I think that there are different ways to look at it and this is just ONE of those ways and this is just the way I am looking at them. Both could turn out to be All-Star players for the next six years or they could both be out of baseball in the next 18 months. Who knows. Whatever.

Hit the jump for the rest of the post

Matt Hague

Before we get into any information let’s take a look at two different players through their minor league careers:

Player A: 565 games, 2,081 at bats, .292/.367/.519, 95 home runs

Player B: 462 games, 1,739 at bats, .302/.371/.442, 41 home runs

By now I think you know that one of those players is Matt Hague, but which one? Looking at the triple slash lines you could argue that these players are pretty similar outside of a little higher slugging percentage for player A and more than double the home runs of player B in around 100 more games.

Matt Hague is player B. You want to know who player A is? Steve Pearce. While Hague has yet to play in the majors Pearce was with the Pirates for 185 games in his career that spanned 465 at bats for a .232/.302/.366 line and is now not in the organization and is with the Twins. What does all this mean though? To be honest, I have no idea.

Here are the stats, first for Pearce (minors then majors) then for Hague (minors)


2006232 TeamsA+-APIT13155648883133402269884997.273.353.523.876255
2007243 TeamsAA-AAA-A+PIT1345514879416240431113144770.333.394.6221.016303
2010272 TeamsAAA-A+PIT37166136274516231772528.331.428.544.97274
2011283 TeamsAAA-A+-RkPIT11443971020380512.256.341.538.87921
7 Seasons56523792081343607168109540244227371.292.367.519.8861080
AAA (5 seasons)AAA2561069940132264695371522596169.281.352.483.835454
A+ (4 seasons)A+11448041671116332258694781.279.363.548.911228
A (1 season)A411791603546131123811532.288.363.606.96997
AA (1 season)AA813352905797272147273345.334.400.586.986170
Rk (1 season)Rk143020002011.667.750.6671.4172
A- (1 season)A-72312272488226075223543.301.381.474.856129
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/24/2012.

5 Yrs185521465501082939525145104.232.302.366.66879170
162 Game Avg.1624564074495253846413991.232.302.366.66879149
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/24/2012.


2008222 TeamsA-A-PIT64272242317817063212333.322.386.467.853113
200822State CollegeA-PIT73027693003035.333.400.444.84412
4 Seasons4621955173924352611434124311171230.302.371.442.813769
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/24/2012.

What really brought this up was a tweet from Pat last week:

Overall the differences between Hague and Pearce are nearly nothing minus the power that Pearce had that Hague doesn’t. So why should we expect that Hague is going to be so much different than Pearce when he gets to the major leagues? I am a guy that would like to see Hague up in the majors at some point this year but I don’t think he has to be on the team when they break camp.

The reason that Pearce isn’t with the Pirates anymore is because he couldn’t get the job done in the majors. Hague could be a total hit in the majors and I would be happy with that but I am not expecting that. He has had great success in the minor leagues hitting for a high average and getting on base and while he doesn’t bring a lot of pop he has improved in that aspect over the past three years (.412 in 2009, .442 in 2010 and .457 in 2011).

In my personal opinion I think Hague is going to be a serviceable first baseman that can get on with average but might never transfer a lot of power into a first base position that is associated with power. I don’t think that Hague is a make or break for the Pirates future but I think he can be a pretty nice piece for the Pirates at first base. I don’t think he has to start with the team right out of camp because I think I would like him to get regular at bats at AAA. With Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee platooning first base there would be little space other than a bench spot for Hague unless Alverez starts in AAA which would then open up a spot for Hague to platoon with Jones.

I guess the general thought in my head is that we’ve seen a player like this before and it ended badly. A pair of alike players aren’t guaranteed for the same result just as the same as a great spring training doesn’t mean a player is going to make the All-Star team if he goes North with the team. Getting overly excited about Hague isn’t something I am interested in even though I would like to see what he can do against major league pitching. Only time will tell and I hope this isn’t Steve Pearce 2.0 but if it is I won’t be totally shocked.

Pedro Alvarez

If there is one player that has the weight of the world on his shoulders this season it is Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez had a disasterous year in 2011 in his first full year in the majors after a pretty successful rookie campaign in 2010. While he only has 648 plate appearances there are some people that actually are calling him a bust and giving Alvarez no hope of being a productive baseball player.

Here is what Alvarez has done through his major league career:

2 Yrs169648582601343022083161199.230.304.392.69690228
162 Game Avg.162621558581282921980158191.230.304.392.69690219
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/24/2012.

Those are some pretty bad numbers last year, but with only one full season’s worth of plate appearance I would strongly disagree with anyone that is saying that Alvarez is going to be a bust. I really didn’t think too much about this and didn’t want to write a post about this but Ryan from Disciples of Uecker brought up a pretty interesting point about Alvarez in a podcast that will be up on the site on Friday. He, and the guys on the blog, are pretty high on Alvarez this season and I find that pretty interesting considering how bad Pedro has been so far in his major league career.

Before we get into what Ryan was talking about let’s get something out of the way first: Pedro was brought up to the major league club way too fast. He only had 990 total plate appearances in the minor leagues with only 426 of those coming above AA. That is not a lot of time for a guy that clearly had some things he needed to work on but the instance that he had any success in AAA he was brought up to the big club. For all those people who say that players should zip through the minor leagues this is one of the reasons that maybe some extra time to have them prove they need to be up isn’t a terrible idea. I digress.

The funny thing is that Pedro was pretty productive in his first call up. He mashed 16 home runs in only 386 plate appearences and while his average wasn’t great and he struck out a lot there was a thought that the Pirates finally got that guy who was going to be a power bat in the lineup.

The bad part was that Pedro was awful last year and that is putting it lightly. Between injuries and his 31% strikeout rate in only 262 plate appearances there wasn’t anything good to say about his season last year. It got worse for him in the offseason when he said he wasn’t going to go to winter ball (which I think was a good move for Pedro) and people were all over him. As much as I hate people analyzing spring training stats they haven’t been good for him. He is striking out at an alarmingly high rate and still doesn’t seem to have it all together.

The bad spring training is having some people talking about him being a bust after only a full season’s worth of at bats. That is where Ryan came in on the podcast and gave me an interesting perspective that related to All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks.

He proceeded to tell a story about how Brewers fans were sick of Rickie Weeks and wanted him out of town after four years on the big league roster with Milwaukee. Take a look at what those numbers look like for Weeks through his 25 year old season:

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/24/2012.

Let me preface this by saying that comparing Weeks and Alvarez isn’t what I am trying to do. They are completely different players that play different positions and have difference approaches to the plate. This is merely just trying to illustrate how foolish it can be to consider someone a bust before you even give him a chance to succeed.

Alvarez clearly has a lower batting average and a lower OBP but I think you get what I am trying to convey here. Weeks also had a productive 23 year old season but that seems to be the oulier of the four consecutive seasons we are looking at. Take out the first two years of that and look at Weeks’ 24 and 25 year old season and you get a triple slash line .234/.357/.414 line which is pretty damn close to Alvarez despite the higher OBP number for Weeks. Weeks still is considered a high power guy, maybe not as much as Pedro but still can some the ball out of the park.

The point being is that Milwaukee wanted Weeks off the team and out of the picture. What if they did that after his 25 year old season and not “suffered” through his 26 year old season before he broke out a few years ago and became a mainstay in the Brewers lineup? Just like Ryan said in the podcast he would hate to see Weeks on another team right now putting up the numbers. Also keep in mind that Weeks struggled through his 24/25 seasons while Alvarez is just entering his age 25 season.

I think you understand what I am trying to get at here. It wasn’t that Pedro is going to break out this year and be a hitter like Rickie Weeks. It isn’t saying that he should even break camp with the team this year. Point is that baseball is so different from every other sport. In the NFL you get drafted and you are on the team. In the NHL and you are a first round pick you are usually on the big club the next year. In baseball you usually go through four years in the minors. Pedro’s minor league experience was significantly shorter and while he is older he still needed that time to develop as a hitter.

Pedro hasn’t played good baseball but looking back neither was Rickie Weeks. Sitting here right now would you have thought it was a good idea to dump weeks after a few tough years? I don’t think you would knowing what you know now. Looking at Pedro Alvarez you can’t say that he is going to follow that path just the same as you can’t say that he is going to fall into a hole to never be heard from again.

One year’s worth of at bats is far too few to judge a player on especially a player that obviously has talent like Alvarez does. He is always going to strike out a lot but the hitting ability is there. He should probably start in AAA this season and get some more time down there but calling him a bust is way out of line and you need to give him a little more time before casting him off as a nobody.

As I said before this wasn’t a post to say that Hague and Alvarez are going to be great major leaguers or scrubs that never make anything of themselves but more so to throw out some comparables, whether that be players or situations, for both of them. I don’t know how successful either of these guys are going to be but I sure as hell are pulling for both of them and hope they are multiple time All-Stars. Jumping to conclusions are never good, in my opinion, and I think in both cases there is some of that. I hope this post at least made you think about your position, whatever it may be.

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