What does an unexpected flirtation with .500, combined with a farm-system that's almost completely void of power-hitting talent add up to?
Irrational expectations for Pedro Alvarez, the young slugger of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who is almost singularly responsible for me placing "almost" in-front of "completely" in the paragraph above.
Pedro Alvarez pretty much possesses the only power-bat in the Pirates' entire organization capable of putting-up Ryan Howard-like numbers. Sure, guys like Mccutchen, Walker and Tabata will probably improve their power numbers as they mature (Cutch already has with 16 dingers this season), but their bats don't pack the potential wallop that Pedro's does.
But, Alvarez is struggling. In 534 at-bats, his career batting-average is .238, with 19 home runs, 79 RBI and a whopping 184 strike-outs.
You might think that it's normal for a young power-hitter to struggle early-on in his career, and you'd be right. Power-hitters are supposed to have holes in their swings, they're supposed to strike-out a lot (especially as youngins'), and they're generally an "all-or-nothing" proposition when they step in the batters box. Howard struggled early in his career. Heck, Ryan Howard holds the NL record for most strikeouts in a single-season by a lefty, and he accomplished it twice!
Even as they mature into Hall-of-Fame players, power sluggers have a tendency to whiff a great deal. Reggie Jackson is the all-time leader in strike-outs; I'd say he had a pretty decent career.
Alvarez struggling should come as no surprise. He barely has a year's experience in the big leagues. However, in today's day-and-age of 24/7 sports coverage, it's almost impossible for a young player with the pedigree of a Pedro Alvarez to struggle without facing boat-loads of scrutiny and ridicule.
On his blog the other day, John Steigerwald compared Alvarez at his age to players like Clemente, Stargell and Bonds, and how they were light-years ahead of where Alvarez is at the same age.
Of course, those players had much more experience at 24 than Alvarez does now.
On Smizik's blog, the Pirates' faithful mercilessly refer to Alvarez as "Kdro," a bit mean-spirited, but a perfect example of the high-expectations of an impatient fan base.
Alvarez is in a tough-spot being the lone mega-bat in the Pirates' organization. The front office made a huge-splash in '08 when they drafted him 2nd-overall out of Vanderbilt. It was a sign that the Pirates were going for the best player available and not the easiest to sign as they had done in the past.
Alvarez was labeled the "savior" of the struggling organization, and that would weigh heavily on any young player.
Last year, it looked like the Pirates had the real deal as Alvarez hit 16 home runs and looked really great down the stretch.
Unfortunately, as often is the case, Alvarez has struggled in his 2nd season and is completely lost at the plate.
Now people are starting to call Alvarez a bust, and I think that's way premature. I think it's pretty easy to forget how inexperienced Alvarez is. 534 at-bats is less than what most full-time players get in one-season, let alone two.
I don't know if Pedro Alvarez will ever have a bust in Cooperstown like Clemente and Stargell, but my gut tells me he won't be on any "all-time biggest busts" list any time soon.
Pedro Alvarez should still be in Indianapolis right now, but when your organization lacks a lot of muscle, sometimes you're called-upon to do some serious lifting even if you are still trying to find all of your strength.