Can Pedro Alvarez become a more consistent hitter?

Throughout his three major league seasons, Pedro Alvarez has been a very streaky hitter. He grinds through long slumps where he looks totally clueless at the plate, but also has his share of hot streaks where he looks unstoppable. Can Pedro find a spot right in the middle and become more consistent? Manager Clint Hurdle said, “He sure shrinks the ballpark when he puts the barrel on the ball. Time will tell.”  Pedro has hit four home runs over the past two games, and time certainly will tell if he’ll find more consistency or if it’s just another hot streak. Here’s a look at how Alvarez has been hot and cold this season.

After a miserable 2011 campaign in which he hit .191 with 4 HR and 19 RBI in 74 games, Pedro started right where he left off. In the first eight games of 2012, El Toro hit .042 (1 for 24). His lone hit was a home run that came in the third game of the season. It was an absolute bomb off Vance Worley that cleared the right field stands at PNC.

Starting on April 18th in Arizona, Pedro went on a tear. In the next 14 games, he hit .367 (18 for 54) with 6 HR and 14 RBI. From April 18th to May 4th, he had an astounding OPS of 1.124. This hot streak brought his batting average up to .260, his highest mark of the season.

However, Alvarez started to cool off. In his next 15 games, from May 5th to May 20th, Pedro hit just .106 (5 for 47) with 0 HR and 2 RBI. He had just a .149 slugging percentage in those games, and struck out a whopping 24 times. His batting average stumbled all the way to .200 for the year.

Pedro went on a quick six-game hot streak from May 21st to May 28th; the Pirates were 5-1 in those six ballgames. He hit .292 (7 for 24) with a homer, 3 doubles, and 7 RBI. This brought his average up 15 points to .215.

Despite a solid stretch, he once again started to slide. In 12 games, from May 29th to June 15th, Alvarez hit .098 (4 for 41) with no homers, one run batted in, and 13 strikeouts. His average sunk to .189 and fans were calling for a demotion to Triple-A…

…but now there is hope. El Toro looked like a monster the past two days at Progressive Field. On Saturday, he went 2 for 4 with two homers and three RBI. On Sunday, he went 3 for 4 with two homers, a double, and six RBI. Total, he was 5 for 8 (.625) with 4 HR and 9 RBI. In just two games, he managed to raise his average 18 points, from .189 to .207.

Can Alvarez keep it up? Obviously he can’t hit two home runs every game, but the Pirates would tremendously benefit from consistent production. Get this: the Bucs are 15-4 in games that Pedro drives in a run; they are 6-1 when he has more than one RBI. Just a little bit goes a long way. When you have Andrew McCutchen, who is hitting .325, batting a few spots in front of you, chances are you’ll have plenty of opportunities to score some runs. The only question is if you have the ability to cash in, and Pedro needs to step up and consistently produce.

This will probably just be another hot streak for Pedro, but hopefully it will last a few more days. The Twins, who have the highest ERA in the American League (5.12), are coming to town for a three game series. Alvarez’s confidence has to be sky-high right now, and hopefully he’ll keep it up. If we were Clint Hurdle, we would definitely not put him back at the cleanup spot just because he’s hot. He struggled in that spot (12 for 86, .140 avg) and there’s no reason to put pressure on him. This season, Alvarez has batted .375 (9 for 24) out of the fifth spot in the lineup, and a respectable .255 (12 for 47) out of the sixth spot. He’s produced more from the lower spots and you need to keep him where he’s comfortable. While it will be easy to get frustrated with Alvarez when he cools off again, we all need to remember that he’ll probably go on another tear in the near future. Still, it’d be great if he can eliminate some of these streaks and become a consistent hitter.

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