Alvarez: Platoon Splits Set Him Apart From Other LHB’s
Even the most dangerous left-handed batters in the sport can be handicapped by their ability to hit lefty pitching. Yordan Alvarez doesn’t have that issue.
It’s well-known by now that Houston Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez is one of the most impressive talents in baseball. His numbers since he entered the league are almost completely unmatched and he’s arguably the best pure hitter in the game. Baseball fans have been blessed with a plethora of elite left-handed hitters: Ohtani, Soto, Harper, Freeman, Devers, and Schwarber are just a few, with Alvarez among that group. However, Alvarez can claim to be capable of something that almost none of those players can: he crushes left-handed pitching.
Throughout baseball history, left-handed hitters have been easily neutralized by left-handed pitchers. Recently, San Francisco’s Joc Pederson has proved to be a prime example, with a career OPS of .796 but a weak .617 mark against southpaws. It’s hard to beat Yordan Alvarez that way, though. In fact, he’s one of the best left-on-left hitters in MLB.
In 2022 so far, he is slashing .268/.374/.537 in 147 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. Another way of interpreting his production against lefties would be his wRC+ against them, which currently sits at an impressive 161. Only the Rangers’ Nathaniel Lowe (163) has a higher wRC+ in left-on-left situations.
As well, Alvarez boasts a walk rate of 14.3% when he faces southpaws. Not only is that also considered elite, but only San Diego’s Juan Soto walks more frequently against lefties. He sees the ball extremely well from any angle. None of this is a new revelation either: for his career, Alvarez has a .935 OPS in 512 plate appearances in that kind of matchup, which is a sample of just under a full season.
Alvarez isn’t just dominant against left-handed pitching by the standard of left-handed hitters. He’s dominant by any standard. His wRC+ of 161 against them is top-30 in MLB among all hitters with at least 60 plate appearances in that situation. That’s a list of nearly 300 hitters, and Alvarez, a lefty himself, ranks inside the top 10%. His 9 home runs against them this year is 2nd in MLB behind only Texas’ Corey Seager.
The most remarkable part about all this is that all these numbers pale in comparison to Alvarez’s numbers against right-handed pitching. For his career, he is slugging .600 on the nose and has a .986 OPS against righties. Just this season, that OPS has elevated to 1.072. So, it technically is a more favorable matchup for the pitcher facing him if they throw left-handed, but it almost doesn’t matter in the end. If an OPS in the .900s is what a hitter is producing in unfavorable matchups, then it’s hard to get him out either way.
Yordan Alvarez’s ability to hit left-handed pitching as well as he can is what truly puts him on another level compared to other left-handed batters. He is hardly any less dangerous in that spot than he is against righties and few players from either side of the plate can be successful versus southpaws like him. If you happen to be reading this as a fan of another team and you see Alvarez step in the box against one of your squad’s lefties, it would be best not to take a premature sigh of relief. He is one of the toughest outs in the game no matter what.