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Where Would the Pittsburgh Pirates Be Without Pedro Alvarez?

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COMMENTARY | It's not hard to prove the worth of a player who leads the National League with 31 home runs.

The man known affectionately as El Toro has been on a power tear for most of the season and set a new career high in home runs Aug. 19 when he blasted a ball over the fence in San Diego's cavernous Petco Park.

Indeed, Pedro Alvarez became only the fifth player in the Pittsburgh Pirates' 131-year history to hit 30 or more home runs in two consecutive seasons. He joins a list with names like Stargell, Kiner and Giles. Not bad company. Alvarez, the only real power threat for the Pirates, hits a home run once every 13 at-bats, good for third-best in baseball.

But the Big Bull's contributions to the team are magnified even further when considering just how stagnant the Pirates' offense has been this season. The team scores an average of 3.9 runs per game, which ranks 24th in baseball. In turn, it gives up 3.5 runs per game. Where would the Pirates be in the division race, let alone the wild-card race, without Alvarez' home runs and 82 runs batted in, only three shy of his career-high?

With 38 games left in the regular season, Alvarez is on pace to shatter career marks in home runs and runs batted in. Unfortunately, he's also on pace to set a new high in strikeouts; his 151 whiffs currently rank as the third-most in baseball, not far behind his career mark of 180 set last year.

Despite those strikeouts and a low batting average, it's clear the Pirates wouldn't be leading the chase for their first pennant in decades without him. He is frustratingly inconsistent at times and is known to fall into prolonged slumps at the plate. His 24 errors committed in the field also rank as the most in baseball.

The man is not without faults, but how can fans complain with everything else he brings to the plate? Fans either love him or hate him. But it's clear that the Pirates wouldn't be anywhere close to the top of the National League Central without El Toro's power bat backing up consistently stellar pitching performances.

Let's just hope he doesn't go cold when it matters most. October is coming.

Jared Stonesifer has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates for on a freelance basis since 2010. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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