Jordan, the best? the numbers say

Yordan Álvarez, without making much noise, is gradually becoming the best hitter in the Major Leagues.

One tends to hear the names of other superstars – and especially other young superstars – much more frequently: Venezuelan Ronald Acuña Jr., plus Dominicans Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., among several others.

Well, Alvarez is hitting better than all of them, he’s been doing what he’s been doing since he got to the big leagues and he’s only 24 years old, so we should see this level of offense for a long time.

Perhaps the fact that the Cuban is a full-time designated hitter is one of the reasons why he does not receive as much publicity as Soto, Acuna and Tatis. He does not have the profile of the typical young superstar. Or maybe it’s because the Astros have always had other stars around them. But wow, how Álvarez hits.

First of all, there are your numbers. Alvarez has 17 home runs, a 1.025 OPS and a 195 wRC+, right up there with Aaron Judge at the top of the league and that means in layman’s terms that he’s basically been twice as good as the average major league hitter the league is 100).

But let’s go a little further than that. The Alvarez data we found on Statcast is even more impressive.

Statcast has three key expected stats that are based on the quality of contact a hitter makes: How hard he’s hitting the ball and how well he’s hitting it up. Each hitter has an expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, and expected wOBA, which is the most important stat on Statcast when evaluating offensive production.

Álvarez leads the majors in all three categories.

Best xBA in 2022
Min. 150 visits to the plate
1. Yordan Alvarez: .361
2. Tim Anderson: .332
3. Bryce Harper: .328
4. Joc Pederson: .325
5. (tie) JD Martinez: .324
5. (tie) Ryan Mountcastle: .324
MLB xBA: .254

Best xSLG in 2022
Min. 150 visits to the plate
1. Yordan Alvarez: .773
2. Aaron Judge: .756
3. Joc Pederson: .696
4. Bryce Harper: .675
5. Mike Trout: .648
MLB xSLG: .437

Best xwOBA in 2022
Min 150 AP
1. Yordan Alvarez: .497
2. Aaron Judge: .463
3. Joc Pederson: .453
4. Bryce Harper: .438
5. (tie) Mike Trout: .427
5. (tie) Taylor Ward: .427
5. (tie) Willson Contreras: .427
MLB xwOBA: .329

That last department should get some attention, and here’s why: wOBA, weighted on-base percentage, is run on a scale like traditional OBP, except it puts more value on better hits. A home run is worth more than a single, and so on. Think of a top-tier OBP – 400 or better, for example – and rate the wOBA that way. And the xwOBA says how good a hitter’s wOBA should be based on the quality of the contact he’s making.

Alvarez would be doing very well if he had a .400 xwOBA. Only about the top 20 hitters in MLB right now are over .400. But his xwOBA is much better. He is close to .500.

If the season ended today, Alvarez would have the best xwOBA in a season since Statcast started tracking everything that happens on the field in 2015. The quality of his hits is second to none.

Best xwOBA in a season, 2015-2021
Min. 200 visits to the plate
1. Freddie Freeman, 2020: .466
2. Mike Trout, 2019: .460
3. Bryce Harper, 2020: .454
4. Aaron Judge, 2017: .450
5. Miguel Cabrera, 2016: .449
Alvarez: .497 xwOBA in 2022

Look at what Freeman and Harper did in the 60-game 2020 campaign if you want a benchmark for what Alvarez is doing now that the Astros are around 60 games into 2022. And Alvarez has more than 30 more than them. points in xwOBA.

Alvarez is a complete hitter

Alvarez may be at the peak of his hitting career right now, but he’s been an elite slugger for a long time. Since he debuted in 2019, only Mike Trout has been better.

Best wRC+ since 2019
1. Mike Trout: 176
2. Yordan Alvarez: 160
3. Juan Soto: 155
4. Aaron Judge: 154
5. Fernando Tatis Jr.: 153

Álvarez is also ahead of other big names like Acuña (141), Mookie Betts (140) and Vlad Jr. (134) by a very large margin. The Cuban is up there with the greatest; the numbers don’t lie about that.

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Jordan, the best? the numbers say