As many baseball fans are well aware, there has been a lot of controversy within this 2022 season in regards to the “deadening” of the baseballs being used as well as the distances of the outfield wall in numerous ballparks. This all seems to be going in one ear and out the other for Yordan Alvarez who is demolishing baseballs at an alarming rate. He has performed so well this 2022 season that the Astros decided in the middle of the season to sign him to a six year $115 million deal. The question is, what is contributing to Air-Yordan’s success? What changes has he made from years prior? And where is the individual in the Dodgers front office that let Yordan Alvarez go for Josh Fields?
Where does Yordan sit comparatively?
A quick look at Baseball Savant and MLB.com will tell you almost everything you need to know about Yordan’s start to the 2022 season. He has improved dramatically in all major statistical categories in comparison to years prior in his career. The following statistics depict just that:
- Top 100 percentile of current MLB players in xwOBA, xBA, xSLG and HardHit%
- Top 99 percentile of current MLB players in Avg Exit Velocity
- Top 96 percentile of current MLB players in Max Exit Velocity
- Top 95 percentile of current MLB players in Barrel%
- Top 91 percentile of current MLB players in BB%
- Top 86 percentile of current MLB players in Chase Rate
- Top 82 percentile of current MLB players in K%
- 3rd in the MLB in AB/HR with an 11.82 average
- 4th in the MLB with 17 Homeruns
- 4th in the MLB in OBP % with a .409
- 4th in the MLB in OPS % with a 1.031
- 5th in the MLB in ISO% with a .308
- 6th in the MLB in SLG % with a .622
- 8th in the MLB in RBI with 43
- 9th in the MLB in Total Bases with 125
- 10th in the MLB in BB/K with a .838
The main question I am sure many of you will have when reading this article is; if you are going to write about a guy hitting for power, why are you writing an article about Yordan Alvarez and not Aaron Judge considering Judge is leading the MLB in HR, SLG, and OPS?
Well, one reason would admittedly be bias (my Houston ties run deep). However, the main reason would be in the plate discipline between the two power hitting outfielders. Everyone loves a guy that can go deep, but there is something to be said about a guy that can consistently hit the ball hard while also laying off bad pitches and taking the free passes when they come.
That is the biggest difference between Aaron Judge and Yordan Alvarez. Both mash the baseball at similar rates. Both individuals have an AVG and OBP that varies at max by 4 points. However Judge strikes out a lot more, and walks less in comparison. Statistically, Judge K’s 8.9% more than Yordan and walks 2% less as well (Judge has 64 Strikeouts and 29 walks to Yordan’s 38 Strikeouts and 31 walks). Judge also has a higher Whiff% for each pitch type. Judge’s Whiff% is higher than Yordan’s by 0.6% on fastballs, 5.2% on breaking pitches, and 8.9% on off-speed. All of this leads to Yordan having an On Base Percentage that is 22 points higher than that of Aaron Judge.
Now all of this shouldn’t take away from the monster start that Aaron Judge is having with the Yankees. Judge has already hit 24 homeruns for the Yankees (given the fact that his home ballpark is 8 feet farther than Yordan’s in terms of pull side distance) and has an OPS of 1.059. However, I do not feel like his plate discipline comes close to the plate discipline of Yordan Alvarez.
Where is the Success Coming From?
When looking into Yordan’s 2022 season, there are a couple of intriguing things I noticed in comparison to previous seasons. For starters, he is seeing more fastballs and less breaking balls than he did in years past (2022: 57% FB, 26% BB ; 2021: 53.7% FB, 29.6% BB). The reason for the increase in fastballs could be due to the fact that in the 2021 season Yordan had a 19.6% PutAway percentage on the fastball. However, this season, that percentage has diminished to 12.1%. He has also chased a lot less pitches this year in comparison to years prior. Currently, Yordan sits a healthy 4.3% lower than his career average in Chase%. This directly correlates to his lowering of K% by 8.6%. With the strikeouts decreasing and the walks increasing, it is obvious that Yordan has made some adjustments to his approach and his plate discipline. But on top of that, he also has made an adjustment in the contact that he is making with the baseball as well. Neglecting Yordan’s 2020 season (only saw 35 pitches) in his other two active seasons he had an average launch angle of 13.75. This season, he has a launch angle of 11.1. His sweet spot percentage has stayed around the same 40% clip, but his HardHit% and Barrel% has dramatically increased with an increase in average Exit Velocity of 3 MPH. Hard hit ground balls and line drives almost always have a direct correlation with run production and overall success. All of this together has contributed to Yordan Alvarez being one of the most dangerous cleanup hitters in the Major Leagues.
What Does the Future for Alvarez Look Like?
As many Baseball fans are aware, the offseason was absurd. One big thing that was discussed during the meetings between the MLBPA and the MLB was the banning of the shift. If this were to happen, I am very intrigued in how Yordan Alvarez’s numbers could possibly look. Taking Statcast shift statistics into effect, it has been determined that Yordan has been shifted in 86.4% of his at bats this season. Luckily, this hasn’t effected his wOBA much due to the fact that it is a .437 with the shift vs a .434 without it. However, his groundball and pull percentages are a little bit higher this year than they normally are. Luckily enough for him, his weak contact percentage is 4 times lower than his career average. So, in essence, he is mashing balls straight into the shift and simply beating it. My question is what differential could there be in batting average for Yordan if a shift ban were to be implemented? Would he begin to see more backdoor breaking pitches to account for a less stout right side of the infield? Would his fastball percentage go down to account for the fact that there are no longer 4 people on the right side of the infield? Considering his Whiff % is very middle of the road in comparison to the rest of the league, what would that percentage end up looking like if he began to see less fastballs?
Final Thoughts on the Astros $115 Million Dollar Man
At the end of the day, I do not think it is a stretch to state that Yordan Alvarez is one of the most dangerous hitters in the league at this current point in time. The adjustments that Yordan has made in his approach at the plate has directly contributed to his ability to strikeout less and get deeper into counts. This of course has allowed Yordan to get pitches that he is looking to do damage with which has led to 17 homeruns, a .314 batting average, and a .623 Slugging percentage.
Oh, and lets not forget the fact that his average Exit Velocity is 96 MPH. If you are on the right side of the infield, watch your lips! And if you are the individual in the Dodgers front office that exchanged the keys to a Lamborghini for a Toyota Camry, I am sorry for your everyday agony.