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Yordan Álvarez has always been a great hitter. 

As a prospect, he tore up the minor leagues and made his way to the big leagues at just 22-years-old. In his first professional season, he hit 27 home runs in 87 games en route to taking home American League Rookie of the Year honors.

From 2019 to 2021, he played in 233 games and hit .290/.371/.577 with 61 home runs. He was named to the All-MLB Second Team in both 2019 and 2021, and was the American League Championship Series MVP last season as well.

Yet as great as he was, there was one way in which the left-handed power hitter was a mere mortal: strikeouts. Over his first few seasons, Álvarez was called out on strikes in nearly a quarter of his plate appearances.

That’s not dreadful, especially for a power hitter, but it's worse than average, and it was the one area where the youngster had real room for improvement. Suffice to say, the man improved.

In 2021, Álvarez ranked 52nd among AL batters in strikeout rate. This year, he ranks 28th. In 2021, his strikeout rate was six percent worse than league average. Right now, it’s 23 percent better.

No hitter with 20 or more home runs this season has fewer strikeouts than Álvarez. He is one of eight qualified AL batters with more runs scored than strikeouts. It's impressive stuff — and it just keeps getting better.

Houston Astros left fielder Yordan Álvarez celebrates with teammate Alex Bregman.

Houston Astros left fielder Yordan Álvarez celebrates with teammate Alex Bregman.

With his strikeout rate down, Álvarez no longer has a weakness. He hits for average, and he hits for power. He walks, and he puts the ball in play. He hits well at home and on the road, and he has been a true threat against both righties and lefties. As such, he has blossomed into one of the best pure hitters in baseball.

There is even a good argument to be made that Álvarez is the very best hitter in the sport right now. He leads all qualified batters in every comprehensive hitting statistic imaginable.

On FanGraphs, he leads in wOBA and wRC+. On Baseball Savant, he leads in xBA, xSLG and xWOBA. On Baseball Reference, he leads in Adjusted Batting Runs and Offensive Winning Percentage. On Baseball Prospectus, he leads in DRC+.

No matter which of these metrics you like best, one thing is clear: Álvarez is tearing the cover off the baseball. 

In fact, he may be playing his way into the AL MVP conversation, an award which a primary designated hitter has never won (Shohei Ohtani excluded). Álvarez ranks fourth among AL positions players in FanGraphs WAR and Baseball Reference WAR, and second in Baseball Prospectus WARP. He is the only player to rank in the top four of all three versions of Wins Above Replacement.

He also leads the league in Win Probability Added on FanGraphs, and ranks second in the Baseball Reference version of the same metric. He is one of two AL hitters with at least 50 runs scored and 50 RBI, and he is tied for second in home runs.

Once again, regardless of which of these stats you like best, it is abundantly clear that Álvarez has been one of the most valuable players in the American League all year long. 

Álvarez has always been good, but this year he's taken it to a whole other level. And while he made small improvements to several aspects of his game, nothing had a bigger impact than cutting down on strikeouts.