It is probably more coincidence than anything, but batting fourth is not bringing out the best in Pedro Alvarez. He might be second in the National League in home runs. But he doesn’t come close leading in production from what is considered the most important position in the lineup.
This is Alvarez’s season batting line: .236/.297/.479 -- .776
This is his line in 113 ABs hitting fourth: .204/.260/.398 -- .658
Among the 29 National League players who have 100 or more plate appearances in the No. 4 slot, Alvarez is 25th in OPS. His OPS is 138 points below the league average. A slugging percentage under .400 is laughable for a No. 4 hitter.
But it’s not like the Pirates have a lot of options.
The only player who has done well in the No. 4 spot is Gaby Sanchez, who has a .989 OPS, but he plays only against left-handed pitching, which the Pirates see rarely this season. Still, he has over 100 plate appearances and is ranked fourth in the league. Inxplicably, manager Clint Hurdle batted Russell Martin fourth against a lefty recently instead of Sanchez.
Garrett Jones once was the primary No. 4 hitter but was demoted when Alvarez got hot. He has a .739 OPS batting fourth, which places him 22. That’s better than Alvarez but Jones play has been monumentally uninspiring. He has 15 RBIs in 174 at bats since the end of May.
Martin, who has been tried in the No. 4 spot a few times by Hurdle is not the answer. His regular No. 5 slot is not ideal for Martin either. His .401 slugging percentage is not middle-of-the-lineup stuff.
Alvarez in the batting order:
Slot HR-AB Pct/HRs OPS
3 1-5 .20 1.500
4 6-113 .05 .658
5 5-68 .07 .915
6 11-178 .06 .736
7 5-34 .15 .972
Again, it’s my perception that these numbers are more coincidence than anything. His production is not a factor of his spot in the batting order so much as it is his unpredictable hot/cold streaks.
With no solution, the Pirates should stick with Alvarez at least a bit longer in the No. 4 role and hope that their pitching returns to its more dominant form.