As of Sunday, the Astros have played only three games of the 2021 regular season. But we know something for sure: Pitchers are afraid of Yordan Álvarez. With his early performance at the plate, the Cuban slugger has cleared any possible doubt about his health and is haunting opposing hurlers.
Despite the small sample size, Rival pitchers want to stay out of the danger zone when they face Álvarez and they’re approaching him differently compared to 2019, when he destroyed the opposition and won the AL ROY unanimously.
Two years ago, Álvarez saw 46.1% of his total pitches away in the zone. This time, that number has climbed to 55.9%, the highest for any Astro in 2021 and the third-highest mark in baseball (minimum 60 total pitches), only behind Adam Eaton (60.0%) and Matt Olson (57.4%).
While Álvarez is seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone (41.2%, lowest percentage of his career), the good thing is he’s chasing at a lower rate. His chase percentage has gone down from 28.6% in 2019 to 17.5% this year.
During his debut year, fastballs were thrown to him across the strike zone, as you can see in the following image:
That has changed in 2021. Not only are pitchers throwing more scattered fastballs, but they’re also preferring going away against Álvarez:
That new trend has a reason. In 10 at-bats that have finished with a pitch qualified as fastball, he’s already recorded four hits, including a double and a home run. And the best part of everything is that he’s whiffed just at 7.1% of the fastballs he’s seen so far.
Even though there were some concerns about Álvarez’s health after he missed almost the entire 2020 season and underwent surgery on both knees, he’s back to BEAST MODE with a 91.5-mph average exit velocity.
The 23-year-old designated hitter began the campaign with five hits in 13 at-bats. He’s recorded two doubles and a mammoth homer on Saturday. Also, Yordan owns six runs batted in, tied with six other players, including teammate Kyle Tucker.