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Stats corner: Alvarez in rarefied air among Pirates sluggers

| Saturday, June 29, 2013, 11:51 p.m.

The Pirates' offense has picked up the pace in June, scoring the sixth-most runs among National League clubs after ranking ninth in April and May. No player better exemplifies the team's progress at the plate than Pedro Alvarez.

The 26-year-old third baseman got off to a wretched start, slugging just four home runs in April while falling well short of the Mendoza Line. Alvarez has rediscovered his power stroke since, hitting six homers in May and 10 in June. In his first at-bat Saturday, Alvarez tied Cincinnati's Jay Bruce for the most homers this month.

Alvarez has boosted his fly ball rate each month, and he's driving the ball nearly 50 feet farther in June than he did in April:

Going airborne

Good things happen when Pedro Alvarez hits the ball in the air (through Friday):

Month Fly ball Pct. Avg. distance

April 29.3 256 feet

May 36.4 296 feet

June 40.7 304 feet

MLB avg. for 3B 33.6 267 feet

Source: Trumedia Networks, BaseballAnalytics.org

Alvarez is taking to the air so often because he's no longer rolling over against “soft” pitches — curveballs, sliders and changeups. He hit just 14 percent of breaking and off-speed stuff skyward in April. He raised that to 20 percent in May and 39 percent in June.

Alvarez's 19 homers lead NL third basemen and rank behind only Miguel Cabrera (24) among all major leaguers. If he keeps going deep at this pace, he will break the Pirates' single-season record for home runs by a third baseman, set by Frank Thomas (35) in 1958.

Power projected

Alvarez is on pace to join some of the Pirates' single-season home run leaders

Batter Year HR

Ralph Kiner 1949 54

Ralph Kiner 1947 51

Willie Stargell 1971 48

Ralph Kiner 1950 47

Willie Stargell 1973 44

Ralph Kiner 1951 42

Ralph Kiner 1948 40

Pedro Alvarez 2013 39*

Brian Giles 1999 39

Brian Giles 2002 38* Projected

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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