And it makes Clint Hurdle a very confused manager. Daily, Hurdle sees Alvarez work and hit hard before games. During them, Alvarez has been a study in frustration.
"His early work can't be any better. There's no room for improvement in his cage work, in his early work, in his batting practice -- none! It can't be done any better," Hurdle said, emphatically and convincingly. "The transition is going to come when he's able to flip the switch in a game."
Alvarez's inability to switch up his game performance has kept him the most polarizing athlete in Pittsburgh. He was on the bench Saturday night with a lefty (Barry Zito) on the mound for the Giants, dooming him for one more day with a line of 10 strikeouts and one hit in 16 at-bats.
"It's like going from the driving range to the tee, with people watching," Hurdle said. "He's got to find a way to clean the slate mentally. Don't wrestle with the game. Just go play it.
"You're seeing what we're seeing once the game starts. I could send videotape of his early work to the 10 best hitting coaches who ever lived -- foot down, hands in the power position, belly button toward the direction the ball goes. It's a blueprint, and he knows it. The hard part is making that transition into the game."