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Stats Corner: Alvarez heading for position switch?

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By David Golebiewski
Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 9:42 p.m.
 

Since the Pirates selected Pedro Alvarez second overall in the 2008 draft, pundits have questioned whether the 6-foot-3, 235 pound slugger could stick at third base. Alvarez seemingly proved he could last year, displaying range belying his burly frame, but questions about his viability at the hot corner have cropped up again because of his record-setting — and potentially season-altering — throwing woes.

Alvarez has committed an MLB-high 23 errors this season through Friday, putting him in position to challenge the Pirates' single-season franchise record during the Expansion Era (38 by Dick Groat in 1962) and the Brewers' Robin Yount (44 in 1975) for the record since 1961. Twenty-two of Alvarez's errors are of the throwing variety — already a single-season high since Fangraphs started keeping track in 2002.

While Alvarez still shows decent range, his errant throws have cost the Pirates almost a win in the standings. His errors have allowed about nine extra runs to score compared to an average defensive third baseman. That's the third-worst single-season mark dating back to '02, with two months of play remaining.

Costly miscues

Player Year Error runs

Mark Reynolds 2008 -12.5

Aramis Ramirez 2003 -9.0

Pedro Alvarez 2014 -8.8

Ryan Braun 2007 -8.4

Edwin Encarnacion 2006 -7.6

Source: Fangraphs

Braun was booted off third base for good following the 2007 season, and Reynolds and Encarnacion have spent considerable time at first base and DH during their careers. Could Alvarez follow suit by moving down the defensive spectrum?

Alvarez already has bucked precedent by remaining at third base this long, as Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Scott Rolen, Wes Helms and Chris Johnson are the only players of similar size (at least 6-3 and 225 pounds) to appear in 500-plus games at the position. With Josh Harrison proving adept at third and the Pirates generating grounders at an MLB-high 49.7 percent clip, it might be time for Alvarez to switch corners.

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