How Yordan Alvarez grabbed the DH spot by the throat

Though it feels like much longer, the Astros have been required to cover the DH position as an AL team only for the last seven seasons. They have had many people rotate in and out of that spot, but in any one year the most ABs might have been given to Evan Gattis, Carlos “The Banger” Beltran, Chris Carter or even (swallow) Carlos Pena. In general, these folks have not been very good.

And then Yordan Alvarez showed up in 2019 and demonstrated that you don’t have to be a veteran to be able to sit on the bench, watch your teammates romp around in the field and wake up long enough to take a few swats every few innings.

Here is a look at Yordan’s DH numbers last year and then the numbers for the Astros’ DHs as a whole in their history

BA   OBP   OPS   Runs   HRs   RBIs
Alvarez – 2019 as DH   .306  .405   1.042   52       23      67
2019 – All Astro DHs     .277 .368   .928     99       42     110
2018 – All Astro DHs     .242  .300  .751     72       28     104
2017 – All Astro DHs     .226  .284  .671     77       19      71
2016 – All Astro DHs     .223  .304  .696     62       19      62
2015 – All Astro DHs     .244  .291  .743     72       27      92
2014 – All Astro DHs     .246  .317  .817     76       38      92
2013 – All Astro DHs     .199  .276 .615      52       16      59

(I apologize if this chart does not look like I intended – they don’t always line up like they are supposed to when they get posted)

Even though Yordan only played 74 games as a DH, he was able to pull up the numbers of the other players who DH’d in 2019 to heights never seen before for the Astros. In every one of those major categories, the 2019 Astro DHs soared past the numbers for any other year.

Note: In case you are interested, the very best DH team last year was the Minnesota Twins riding the big bat of Nelson Cruz. Their DHs in 2019….

.304 BA/ .380 OBP/ 1.003 OPS / 109 runs/ 52 HRs / 145 RBIs

If you projected Yordan’s numbers over 162 games at DH they would look like this….

.306 BA/ .405 OBP/ 1.042 OPS/ 114 runs/ 50 HRs / 146 RBIs

Not too shabby….

Many of us struggled with the Astros having to play in a league with a DH. If Yordan Alvarez can come anywhere close to what he did in 2019, going forward, most of our struggles are over.

27 comments on “How Yordan Alvarez grabbed the DH spot by the throat

  1. As the league gets the skinny on Alvarez, and learns how to keep him guessing instead of overpower him, I suspect we will see his production fall off markedly. Of course, I hope I am wrong, and be becomes the G.O.A.T of all DHs who have ever not played the game.

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    • I am worried about his knee more than anything. He needs to cut back on his Ks, but he does walk a lot and he is not an out of control lunger. Sure, you can’t expect him to not fall back a bit, but it is a heck of a lineup around him and there will have to be times when he gets what he is looking for because they have no place to put him.

      Liked by 2 people

    • As Alvarez gets the skinny on the league, and he learns how to keep them guessing instead of overpowering him, I suspect we will see him producing markedly.
      He is, after all, going to turn 23 next month, with less than a year of experience in the majors.
      Alvarez was amazing as a rookie.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I haven’t seen Yordan play in the field, but would hope he can learn to play first base and take over when Yuli leaves. Maybe the Astros can hire Jeff Bagwell to teach him the position.

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    • You mention you haven’t seen him play. I saw most of his games in Corpus/Round Rock in 2018 and 2019. 1B is not his forte’. Those duties are already pressed with Toro and Jones (Reed DFA’d) having gotten most of the AAA reps. And for good reason since they are dirt devils, corner infielders by trade. Yordan (and Tucker by the way), really aren’t.

      I’d think Yordan will be slated for 1 game out of 3 in a NL series, and possibly 20 other starts in LF in MMP. Tools: he has lumbering speed (not slow), but related to his knees and lack of mobility based on his size/length, he’s not a Plus Arm, and less than average route runner. He has a 35/40 fielding grade.

      If his knees have some sort of mild chronic condition, it would be foolish to play him in the field, and effectively risk losing that bat.

      According to Steve Sparks on Astroline in February, not many in public knew he was battling knee pain. That is why he looked rather gingerly on base paths, seldom stretching out a run.

      As you think about some of his offensive tapering off toward the end of the season, it’s helpful to remember he wasn’t 100%. I had him tracking somewhere between Babe Ruth and Ryan Howard in career ISO. I think he has that kind of potential.

      I know the Astros hold back their great players in S2 like Springer Correa Alvarez and Tucker for the extra year of team control, but I was very vocal about Yordan deserving DH from Day 1. Honestly, we didn’t need him, but the reality is — he could have put up the best rookie numbers ever, if unleashed! To this day, on twitter among East coast young analytics guys, he continues to get snubbed for Tatis, or Vlad Jr. So upsetting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am firmly in the same corner with you on Alvarez playing the outfield.
        With the five outfielders we already have it seems silly to even think about putting him out there.
        This guy is the answer to the prayers of every AL team. He is a generational DH talent and he is ours through 2025. We need to make it as easy and simple as possible for him to be in that lineup virtually every day for the next six years.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Getting ahead of myself and ignoring what type of changes will occur with a shortened season, but there is no reason we need his bat in the lineup during interleague games at NL parks. You pencil him in for some off days and let him know to be ready if we need a pinch hit appearance late in the game. The dilemma is what to do during the World Series in the games at Los Angeles. I say sit him there if Kershaw , Price, or Urias but try to slot him into the outfield against Buehler.

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      • You know Devin he was pretty darned good against left handed pitching – 114 ABs – .307 BA/ .389 OBP/ 1.038 OPS – 9 HRs / 25 RBIs
        I’m sure he might not be that good against a Kershaw, but who will be?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Each of those NL games, if they don’t change the rule for universal DH, Dusty will consider if Yordan is “without question too fierce at the plate,” or “does the LF configuration help his lesser tools?” He can always sub later in the game. All sorts of factors. His knees may well be “good enough” by standards of a close enough to average fielder; or has a particular advantage over a Pitcher. Dusty wouldn’t be so dogmatic as to say Never. Yordan is one heckuva ace-in-the-hole, and one ya hate to see sitting. In a tight series tied 1-1, I’m starting Yordan. Where I’m always leaning, anyway.

        He could be a generational player. HOF Bagwell called him, “Must-See TV.”

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      • No, I agree part of why he was so special last year was nearly as effective against LHP and the comment was only semi-serious and meant to highlight that the Dodgers are going to have a slew of LHP. What I’d probably do in actuality is based more off how he’s swinging at the time. If he’s slashing .412/.524/.588 again in the World Series I’m finding a spot in the lineup regardless. I’d more expect Dusty to put Gurriel in LF in such a scenario and try to hide Alvarez at 1B.

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  3. Alvarez and the Astros need to have MLB go to the DH in both leagues, once and for all. At this point in time, no way those knees are going to be allowed to take a pounding playing defense. He’ll sit during inter league play. In a World Series, maybe left field, but only if the line up really needs him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MLB needs to settle this issue in the next contract negotiations with the players. It needs to be the same in both leagues. It makes no sense to have two sets of rules because teams are built differently due to the rules they are following. It is like you get to the Super Bowl and one conference has been playing with an extra offensive player and the other one has not … it is just plain goofy.

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  4. I saw nothing negative about Alvarez as a hitter. However, I did see “youth” in many at bats. When an umpire made a bad call for a strike, it affected YA for the rest of the AB. When he matures, I think that will change dramatically. He is a BIG guy, so he lets hope he doesn’t put on extra weight (No, not a back hand slap at DaveB).

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  5. Comments about Astros DH:
    * Of the 241 MLB players who had 350 plate appearances or more in 2019, the top 2 players in baseball at the plate were Mike Trout, with a 180 wRC+, and Yordan Alvarez with a 178 wRC+. Trout made $17.6 million and Alvarez made $337,000. Those salaries jump to $36 million and $555,000 in 2020.
    * Alvarez’s knee problem was the result of a ball fouled off his kneecap and not a chronic knee problem. It’s not as though he tore his acl or anything like that.
    * He hits(.313BA). He walks(14.2%,a huge number), He hits for power(.637SLG). He was was not a chronic strikeout guy( his K% was 25% and the league average was 23%).

    Liked by 2 people

    • 1OP, as recently as March 3, his new manager noted that both knees had been bothering him. I’d be very pleased to know that his issue is related to a foul ball off of one knee. All I know is that he’s a heck of a hitter and I do not see much regression from him going forward, unless physical issues get in the way. I love how quiet he is in the box.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was watching when it happened. He swung a a high-inside curve and the ball went straight off the bat to the knee and he went down like he’d been shot. He left the game and was off a few days but the knee was sore for the rest of the year. I’m not familiar with another knee injury.

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      • However, upon further review, replay shows Alvarez saying his pain predated the two foul balls off his knee. My argument is overturned and it is a first down for the opposition. Time out taken away from me and I am down to 1 timeout left in this half. Please add 4 seconds to the play clock.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Four seconds to the play clock? A lifetime! But heck, if he’s got foul ballitus of the knee(s), that is a lot better sounding than chronic or Covid!

    As an aside, my father went to heaven 5 years ago. He would have been 100 today, which separates him from Jose Altuve by 70 years. He sure liked Jose and he was a guy not impressed by many ball players. Happy Birthday Pops and Jose!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Bryce Harper is sure “popular”.
      Funny to see Verlander on there but this is a mix of some “show you up” guys like Harper and Puig and guys like JV who totally dominate certain teams.
      I thought bat toting / HR staring Alex Bregman might show up on this list.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t hate Mike Fiers. He makes me sad. I never wanted him as a piece in that Carlos Gomez trade after seeing him hit Stanton in the face the previous year. It’s not that I felt he was throwing with intent it’s just hard to forget memories like that.

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  7. It seems that a scandal, followed by an attempted impeachment, followed by a pandemic, followed by a postponed world and self quarantine, can dull memory and vision.
    While looking up the data to write about Alvarez in my above comment, I was reinformed about something:
    When arranging players in the majors in the order of highest wRC+, I became aware that the first seven Astros players in my batting order from the previous blog were all in the Top 50 players in the wRC+ category, with three of them in the Top 10. The Astros had seven of the top 50 batters in the majors and those seven players are back with the Astros in 2020.
    2. Alvarez
    4. Bregman
    7. Springer
    16. Correa
    26. Altuve
    38. Brantley
    45. Gurriel
    Seven guys in our lineup in the Top 50 in wRC+ in the majors with at least 300 ABs
    https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=300&type=8&season=2019&month=0&season1=2019&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2019-01-01&enddate=2019-12-31&sort=17,d&page=1_50
    I hope this link works.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. in regard to both leagues going to the DH. when we were forced into the american league i was angry. one because we were forced and two because we had just been deprived of all the strategy that goes with when to pull a pitcher that is going great but cant hit a grapefruit thrown slowly and its a tie game in the late innings etc. how many pitchers do you use? how many pinch hitters? do you run out of bench players? etc etc. well i’ll tell you what, i have not missed that one dang bit. and now i definitely stop what i am doing to watch anytime alvarez comes to the plate. as far as entertainment goes, its a no brainer. i vote for DH in both leagues! (never thought i would say that)

    Liked by 1 person

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