HOUSTON – After a dominating plate display during the American League Championship Series in which he went 23-12 against the Red Sox and took MVP honors, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez comes to the World Series as the Astros’ most dangerous hitter.
So how will the Astros put together their lineup with Cuban Alvarez, who led the team in home runs (33) and RBIs (104) this season, when they travel to Atlanta’s Truist Park for Games 3, 4 and 5 – if the latter necessary – no BD in a National League stadium?
“It’s a good problem to have,” Astros general manager James Click said. “Trying to get all those guys in the lineup in Atlanta is something we’re going to have to talk about when we sit down with Dusty[Baker, the club manager]to see what the best plan is.”
It’s hard to imagine an Astros lineup without Alvarez among the nine starters in any World Series game, even in Atlanta. In order not to lose him, one possibility is to place him in left field.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” Baker said Sunday.
Alvarez started 39 games in left field in the regular season (and 97 as BD), although he did not start any games in left field until June 2. After undergoing surgery on both knees in August 2020, the Astros wanted to be sure that Alvarez’s problems were in the past before placing him in the outfield. Michael Brantley led the club with 80 games started in left field.
“Yordan has done a tremendous job preparing and working very hard, to the point that he is now a good outfielder,” said Click. “We are blessed to have Brantley, [Kyle] Tucker, [Chas] McCormick, [el dominicano José] Siri, [Jake] Meyers… we have several good options. It is a good problem to have to deal with that and we will try to solve it in the best way ”.
Alvarez started four games on left in NL stadiums in the regular season, with Brantley moving to the right and Tucker to center each time. The Astros could be inclined to move Brantley to the bench and keep two solid defenders in center (McCormick or Meyers) and right (Tucker).
“I think Kyle Tucker can defend very well in the center, but at the same time Chas McCormick has been incredible there,” Click continued. “Jake Meyers can obviously get the job done and José Siri is one of the best athletes we have. It will be a balance between offense and defense. We have to decide what to do ”.
The numbers suggest there is no major difference defensively between Alvarez and Brantley in left field.
According to Statcast, Alvarez had -1 outs above average in 63 chances in left field. It had a 79% success rate vs. an estimated 81% success rate, which means he completed his plays 79% of the time when an outfielder could be expected to make 81% of the time based on the odds of each catch.
Brantley, meanwhile, had -1 outs above average in 158 chances on left, but with an 86% hit rate vs. hit. 86% estimated success rate. Brantley completed more difficult plays, going 9-4 in four-star catches (catches with a 26-50% chance of completion). Álvarez did not make any of more than three stars (that is, none with a probability less than 50% of being realized).
Another factor the Astros will have to consider is this: Based on its size, Atlanta’s Truist Park has the fifth-most spacious outfield in the majors. Minute Maid Park is the second smallest (behind Fenway Park).
Also, in the regular season and playoffs, Alvarez has hit much better when playing defense than as BD. He hit .351 / .432 / 722 with 15 home runs and 38 RBIs in 176 plate trips as left fielder and .266 / .333 / .486 in 459 BD appearances in 2021.
“We have not thought much about that yet because the first two games are here at home, but I think that when the time comes, I will be there on the left,” said Álvarez himself, who has started eight games as BD in the playoffs and two in left field, both in Houston.
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Will Yordan be alternative as OF in SM?