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Pregame: Nick Kingham to the DL, early returns on Pedro Alvarez's defense

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Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Kingham to the DL

The Pirates placed Nick Kingham on the minor-league disabled list. Clint Hurdle had no further information for the media today. We'll likely learn more tomorrow when Neal Huntington meets with the press.

Early returns on Alvarez's defense

Defensive metrics take a long time to yield anything meaningful about true fielding talent. In small samples, they are in no way predictive or a signal of underlying skill. However, just as Andrew McCutchen's OPS tells us that he is not hitting well, but in no way means he is actually a .600-something OPS player, we can use advanced fielding metrics in small samples to describe how a player is performing over the first five weeks of the season.

With that in mind, Pedro Alvarez has played over 200 innings at first base this season, so it is worth taking a look at what objective measures reveal about his performance.

KEY:

UZR/150 - (quoted from Fangraphs) "UZR tells you how many runs better or worse that player has been relative to the average player at his position. A +5 UZR at third means the player is five runs better than the average third baseman."

The ‘150' allows comparison between players with different playing times by scaling everyone to 150 games played.

RngR - is a measure of range. It is part of the overall UZR calculation and is also presented in runs saved/lost to average.

DRS - is another way to measure overall defensive performance and, like UZR, is presented in runs saved/lost to average.

Here is how Pedro Alvarez stacks up with 30 of his peers who have played over 100 innings at first.

Name DRS (Rank) RngR (Rank) UZR/150 (Rank)
Alvarez -2 (26) -0.4 (18) -29.6 (30)

As we can see, Alvarez ranks near the bottom of the league. At his current performance level, UZR/150 reveals that he would cost close to 30 runs compared to average over 150 games.

Of course, this is not terribly surprising, since he is in the middle of a positional switch. For comparison's sake, both Mark Reynolds and Edwin Encarnacion were near the bottom of the league when they started to make their full-time switch from third to first in 2012.

(31 players with over 500 innings)

Name DRS (Rank) RngR (Rank) UZR/150 (Rank)
Reynolds -2 (22) -7.3 (30) -12.5 (28)
Encarnacion -1 (20) -5 (26) -14.5 (30)

By 2014, Reynolds improved to the second-best and saved 10 runs, while Encarnacion still ranked low and cost 10 runs to average (min. 500 innings, 30 players).

Name UZR/150 (Rank)
Reynolds 10.8 (2)
Encarnacion -9.7 (29)

Ryan Zimmerman is also making the switch from third to first. He's performing exceptionally well, saving eight runs and ranking sixth overall.

During this afternoon's press scrum, Clint Hurdle was asked to evaluate Alvarez's progress at first. Here are his comments in full.

He's had a small basket of picks over there. We throw really well, so we're not a team that misfires a lot. The balls that have been down, he's come up with clean.

He's shown some range over there that we anticipated him having based on his range at third. But learning that different angle [is a learning process]. There is not as much going to your left as there is at third base [where] there's more going to your right.

He's made some throws to second base. He's made some dives and flips to first with the pitcher covering. He's overall awareness is getting better. He posts up in and backs up to show the hitter he's taking away the bunt, but he's really not.

So, I think he is developing at very good rate. I see a guy who is becoming more comfortable and confident every day.

Good Throws

Tucked in his comments about Alvarez, Hurdle mentioned that the Pirates were a good throwing team. So far, the numbers bear that out. The Bucs are tied for third-fewest throwing errors, with five. Alvarez is responsible for one of those errors.

(All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs)