New York Mets: Why we shouldn’t worry about Pete Alonso yet

Sep 23, 2020; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) reacts after striking out against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2020; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) reacts after striking out against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2020 season was rough for Pete Alonso. Expect the New York Mets first baseman to rebound next year.

Pete Alonso exceeded all expectations the New York Mets could have possibly had for him in his rookie campaign. He hit 53 home runs, leading the league and breaking the Mets single-season record. This total also broke the record for most home runs for a rookie. He won the Home Run Derby. He was an All-Star. He finished 7th in the National League MVP voting. He won the Rookie of the Year Award. It was just about as good as a rookie year can get.

Alonso became a huge presence in the Mets clubhouse and came up with the rallying cry “LFGM” that all Mets fans used when the Mets went on a huge second-half run last season. Alonso was becoming a budding star and a fan favorite quickly.

Unfortunately, this year has been a whole other story.  In this shortened 60 game season he struggled mightily. Alonso had a .231/.326/.490 slash line with 16 home runs and 35 RBI.

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While this season was pretty disastrous for Alonso, it is not time to hit the panic button quite yet. It is very reasonable to say that Alonso has gotten very unlucky this year.

Alonso currently has just a .242 BABIP. The balls he is putting in play, are finding gloves. Last season, his BABIP was .280. The league average for BABIP is around .300.

The balls he has put in play have been hit hard. Alonso had an average exit velocity of 90.2 miles per hour. Last year, his average exit velocity was 90.7 miles per hour. His hard-hit percentage is down, but not so far away from where it was last season. It was at 42.2% last season compared to 40.5% this season. Had those hard-hit balls found holes instead of gloves, we’d be having a very different discussion.

Alonso’s strikeout rate this year was pretty much identical to 2019. It was at 25.5% this year and was at 26.4% last year. From just watching him every day, my initial thoughts were he was chasing way more pitches than last year and that has contributed to his struggles. However, that is not the case. He was actually chasing more last year as his chase percentage in 2019 was at 32% compared to 30.7% this year.

The issue has been his chase contact percentage. Last year Alonso made contact with 58.3% of the balls in which he has chased. This year, that is down to 47.8%.

Also, his home run to fly ball percentage is way down. It was at 30.6% last year compared to 24.6% this year. While his numbers do appear to be down a tad, the advanced metrics show he has not been as bad as we all think. He’s just been very unlucky. He would be on pace for 43 home runs and 94 RBI. While that isn’t the 53 home runs and 120 RBI from last year, it’s still pretty great production out of a second-year player.

Another reason I believe it’s too early to panic is because of the season we are currently in. It is very hard to play baseball in the middle of a global pandemic. Everyone had limited time to get ready for the 60-game sprint. You can see that this impacted a bunch of baseball’s best players. For example, Christian Yelich has a .205/.356/.430 slash line with 12 home runs and 22 RBI. Those basic numbers worse than Alonso’s. The reigning MVP, Cody Bellinger has a .239/.333/.455 slash line with 12 home runs and 30 RBI. Those numbers on par with Alonso’s.

I think once he got off to a slow start, the pressure started to build. The Mets as a team could not buy a hit with a runner in scoring position and he has left more runners on base than anyone in all of baseball. These struggles can get in someone’s head and with all of the pressure in the world on him after his outstanding rookie year, he has struggled. I think it is understandable. The Mets have played 57 games. In a normal season, that would have them at the end of May or the beginning of June in a normal 162 game season.

Also, Chili Davis, the Mets hitting coach, was working remotely this season from his home in Arizona. J.D. Davis spoke out recently about how that had affected him and his performance this season. I’m sure it had a lot to do with Alonso’s struggles as well. It’s very hard to do the job of a hitting coach via zoom. While that shouldn’t be the only excuse, it certainly doesn’t help.

While Alonso’s 2020 season has been one to forget, it’s very hard to put a lot of stock into this one shortened season when there have been so many factors making it hard for him to produce. Yes, it’s been hard to watch but I am confident it will get better once we get to some more normalcy. Hopefully next season there will be a 162 game season with fans and time for him to get into a rhythm.

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It also feels good to have seen Alonso perform well over the last month of the season. In September, he had a .256/.316/.640 slash line with 10 of his 16 home runs. His BABIP this month was at .216 which shows he actually got unlucky too. Over the last week of the season, he hit four home runs and brought his batting average up from .202 to .231. Yes, this season was a rough one for Alonso. But it is too early to bail. Next season, expect to see more of the Alonso you are used to.