Yordan Alvarez, almost quietly, is raking his way to the title of best hitter in the world.
You tend to hear the names of other superstars -- and especially other young superstars -- more often: Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and so on.
Well, Alvarez is hitting better than all of them, he's been doing what he's doing since he got to the Major Leagues, and he's also only 24, so this caliber of hitting should be happening for a long time.
Maybe it's because Alvarez is already a DH that he doesn't get as much hype as someone like Soto or Acuña or Tatis -- he doesn't profile quite like the prototypical young star -- or because the Astros have always had a lot of other stars around him but … wow, can Alvarez hit.
First, there's just his regular stat line. Alvarez has 17 home runs, a 1.025 OPS and a 195 wRC+, which is right at the top of the league next to Aaron Judge and means he's been basically twice as good as a typical big league hitter (league average is 100).
But let's go beyond that. Alvarez's Statcast data is somehow even more impressive.
Statcast has three key expected stats based on a hitters' quality of contact -- how hard they're hitting the ball and how well they're driving it in the air. Every hitter has an expected batting average, expected slugging percentage and expected wOBA, the big Statcast stat for overall offensive performance.
Alvarez leads the Major Leagues in all three.
Highest xBA in 2022
Min. 150 PA
1. Yordan Alvarez: .361
2. Tim Anderson: .332
3. Bryce Harper: .328
4. Joc Pederson: .325
5. (tie) J.D. Martinez: .324
5. (tie) Ryan Mountcastle: .324
MLB xBA: .254
Highest xSLG in 2022
Min. 150 PA
1. Yordan Alvarez: .773
2. Aaron Judge: .756
3. Joc Pederson: .696
4. Bryce Harper: .675
5. Mike Trout: .648
MLB xSLG: .437
Highest xwOBA in 2022
Min. 150 PA
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 one should catch your eye, and here's why: wOBA, weighted on-base average, is on a scale like on-base percentage, except it gives more value to better hits. A home run is worth more than a single, and so on. Think of what a top-tier on-base percentage is -- say, .400 or higher -- that's also a top-tier wOBA. And xwOBA tells you what a hitter's wOBA should be based on how good his contact is.
So Alvarez would be doing great if he had a .400 xwOBA. Only the top 20 or so hitters in MLB have that right now. But his xwOBA is way beyond that. It's approaching .500.
If the season ended today, Alvarez would have the highest single-season xwOBA in the history of Statcast tracking, which goes back to 2015. His quality of contact is second to none.
Highest single-season xwOBA, 2015-21
Min. 200 PA in the season
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 season if you want a point of reference for what Alvarez is doing now in the Astros' first 60 or so games of 2022. And Alvarez has them beat by over 30 points of xwOBA.
Alvarez is a complete hitter.
- He rips the ball -- Alvarez's 64.5% hard-hit rate is the best in the Majors, meaning almost two of every three balls he hits is 95 mph or harder. Over one in every four of the swings he's taken this season, a Major League-best 26.6%, have produced hard contact.
- He's disciplined -- Alvarez is walking nearly as often as he's striking out, with a 13.0% walk rate that's in the 89th percentile of MLB and a 15.3% strikeout rate that's in the 82nd percentile, and he doesn't swing at bad pitches, with a 21.0% chase rate that's in the 91st percentile.
- He drives the ball to all fields -- Alvarez has seven pulled home runs, eight home runs to straightaway center and two home runs to the opposite field.
- He can square up any pitch type -- Alvarez has a .336 xBA vs. fastballs, .396 xBA vs. breaking balls and .383 xBA vs. offspeed pitches.
This might be peak Alvarez right now, but he's been an elite hitter for a while. Since he debuted in 2019, only Mike Trout has been better.
Highest wRC+ since 2019
1. Mike Trout: 176
2. Yordan Alvarez: 160
3. Juan Soto: 155
4. Aaron Judge: 154
5. Fernando Tatis Jr.: 153
Alvarez is also ahead of other marquee players like Acuña (141), Mookie Betts (140) and Vlad Jr. (134) by a pretty significant margin. Alvarez stacks up with the best of the best, the brightest of stars -- the numbers aren't lying about it.