New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso is slumping through the first few games of his sophomore year. Has the pressure gotten to him?
Last year, New York Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso took the National League by storm as he led all rookies in home runs, RBI and, almost single-handedly carried the Amazins offense to victories through certain stretches of the 2019 season.
When it was all said and done, the Polar Bear ended up having one of the best offensive seasons in the team’s history, posting a .260 batting average with 53 home runs, 120 RBI, 103 runs scored, and posting an OPS of .941 in 161 games.
However, less than two weeks into the newly abbreviated season and the Mets, as a team, look to be off to a very lethargic start.
Many of us knew coming into 2020 that their relief pitching and maybe a few of their newly signed starters would struggle somewhat coming out of the gate. But not the star jewel of their high powered offense in Pete Alonso. At least not this much.
At the end of his first ten games to start off 2020, Alonso is hitting a paltry .175 with just one home run and three RBI while recording 15 strikeouts. This is in stark comparison to the way Pete began his 2019 rookie season, where he amassed a .384 batting average with 5 home runs and seven doubles through his first ten big league games.
Many stats indicate that pitchers, for the most part, are pitching him similarly to the way they did in 2019, trying to the throw a lot breaking pitches that move low and away from his power. The main difference between Alonso this year and Alonso from 2019 seem to be that last year he would either foul off a lot of those tough pitches to stay alive or go the other way with them for line drive singles or doubles in the gap to right field. But this year he’s just missing them completely. His contact rate on both off-speed pitches and fastballs have declined by about 15 to 20% from last year’s at this same time.
Judging by his swing mechanics, Alonso seems to have fallen into what many power hitters who tend to have early success in their careers do; that is rely too much on their newly developed image of being a masher. As a result, these hitters try their hardest to just pull every pitch thrown to them down the left field foul lines.
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The mammoth numbers Alonso put up in 2019 garnered him worldwide stardom, fame and recognition as one of the top power hitters in all of baseball.
In just his second year in the big leagues, duplicating a 50 home run 120 RBI type of season is a very hard task to live up to. You can see the weight of the lofty expectations bearing down on the 25 year old as he continues to try and pull everything he sees up at the plate into the left field upper deck.
Also, add to the fact that Alonso sees both his team’s lack of solid fundamental relief pitching late in ball games and continued inability to drive men in from scoring position late in ball games and that just adds more weight on his shoulders to produce as the number one hitter in the lineup.
But what can he do?
This is New York, where every batter, play and on-field situation is constantly put under a microscope and scrutinized by both fans and the media five times over. Add to that the fact that your talented hitting instructor is stuck at home and can’t help you through any mental or mechanical adjustments you need to make, it can be enough pressure for almost anyone to buckle under.
In my opinion, if Pete truly going to get back to doing what he does best, he’s first got to go back to the mentality that got him to be the feared hitter he always has been to begin with. More than likely he’s got to shorten up his swing and focus on just making contact and driving the baseball to all sides of the ballpark.
He needs to forget about trying to hit every pitch he likes 450 feet into the third deck of the nose bleed section of Citifield. All that does is mess up both his balance and his timing.
Alonso showed more aptitude to go the other way last year and it led to tremendous success. Eventually what it does is it forces pitchers to pitch a little more inside and high so as to see if they can jam the Polar Bear a bit more. But when they miss ever so slightly then look out. Opposing pitchers basically serve up fat sliders or change-ups with little movement right down the plate and the Pete, more often than not, makes them pay in a big way.
Perhaps a few games off and a chance to clear his head is all he needs to start back to getting into this new mindset. He can then consciously remind himself to be a little more disciplined at the plate and just look to make contact the opposite way. Within a few games those opposite-field singles and line drive doubles should then start to turn into line drive shots and mammoth home runs to all parts of the park.
Even though very odd in format and under tough circumstances, players have to realize that 2020 is a fresh slate and a brand new season very different from what baseball was even just a year ago. As a youngster with plenty of talent and ferocity still left in that big frame of his, Pete Alonso has to come into the next few games with that hitter’s mindset and show the world again that he’s more of what 2019 Pete Alonso was than what 2020 has made him out to be thus far.
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Then and only then can the Mets regain that spark as a unit and fight their way back to being a playoff contender.