Pirates looking into “mental component” of Pedro Alvarez’s throwing problems

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Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez’s throwing issues have gotten so bad–including an MLB-leading 21 of his 23 errors on throws–that Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports the team is starting to look into “the mental component to find the root of the problem.”

Alvarez has always been a poor defender at third base and eventually moving across the diamond to first base has long been discussed as a possibility. Prior to this season he committed 85 errors in 3,965 innings at third base, or one every 47 innings. This season he’s made an error every 34 innings. Ultimate Zone Rating pegs him as a career-worst 9.4 runs below average this year.

An easy solution would be moving Alvarez to first base, but a) the Pirates may not want to do that in the middle of a season, b) Ike Davis has been reasonably productive there since they acquired him from the Mets, and c) Alvarez’s current .707 OPS would look even worse at first base than it does at first base. They have to fix him defensively and, if they can’t, they have to decide if his 30-homer power is worth putting up with the low batting average, low on-base percentage, and tons of strikeouts from first base.

There will be a pitch clock for spring training

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball just announced that there will be a pitch clock for spring training. It will be a 20-second pitch clock, phased in like so:

  • In the first Spring Training games, the 20-second timer will operate without enforcement so as to make players and umpires familiar with the new system;
  • Early next week, umpires will issue reminders to pitchers and hitters who violate the rule, but no ball-strike penalties will be assessed. Between innings, umpires are expected to inform the club’s field staff (manager, pitching coach or hitting coach) of any violations; and
  • Later in Spring Training, and depending on the status of the negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, umpires will be instructed to begin assessing ball-strike penalties for violations.

As is the case in the minors, the batter will have to be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with at least five seconds remaining on the timer; and the pitcher needs only to begin his windup before the 20-second timer expires, as opposed to having thrown the pitch. The timer will not be used on the first pitch of any at-bat. Rather, it begins running prior to the second pitch once the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher.

The league has not decided if the pitch clock will be used in the regular season yet. It can do so unilaterally, without union approval, for one year if it chooses to since it first introduced the idea last year.

There will likely be a lot of complaining about this, but as someone who has been to several minor league games with the clock in place, it’s pretty seamless and not noticeable. Minor leaguers had few if any complaints about its implementation.