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Pete Alonso

NY Mets: For better or worse, Pete Alonso is evolving at the plate

Jun 19, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) hits a single against the Washington Nationals during the third inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) hits a single against the Washington Nationals during the third inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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Through 247 trips to the plate in 2021, we have seen a different Pete Alonso. I think we can say the same thing about many members of the New York Mets. Almost universally, they have underperformed.

Alonso may be closest to what we expected. His batting average and OBP are close to his career average. He’s driving in runs at a similar rate and has as many runs scored as he had in all of last season in only a few more plate appearances.

Two major things have changed about the back of Alonso’s baseball card. Very noticeable are the decrease in home runs. His slugging percentage is down from last year and behind by a few miles from what he did in 2019.

Fortunately, with it does come a positive. Alonso, who set the Mets single-season strikeout record in 2019, isn’t fanning nearly as much. His 54 Ks in 247 plate appearances/61 games showcases a different approach at the plate. Perhaps a little more selective or maybe just smarter, he has gone from a strikeout percentage of 26.4% down to 21.9%.

What kind of offensive force do the Mets need at first base?

First base is one of the few positions on the field where I think we can accept a major weakness at the plate. Catchers and gifted defenders can get a pass as well.

At first base, many people are cool with a guy who hits .230 but is a perennial home run threat. This was the type of player the Polar Bear was in 2020. This season, he’s kind of caught in the middle.

Certainly still a threat to blast one deep, Alonso isn’t about to challenge anyone for this year’s home run title. While his strikeout rate has gone down a few percentage points, so have his home runs. If he wasn’t the defending Home Run Derby Champion, there’s no chance he’d be in the competition this summer.

Interestingly enough, Alonso does have a career-high of hard-hit balls at 47.2%. This is up over the 46.6% he had in 2019 and 42.1% from last year. We can look at many factors for this. From sticky substances to Major League Baseball messing with the balls, your conspiracy theory is as good as mine.

In only his third year and really only second full season with the Mets, we’re still seeing how Alonso develops as a major leaguer. The 2019 campaign was likely an outlier. Nobody swats 53 home runs with as much ease as he did.

For better or worse, it’s looking like Alonso is less home run-centric and maybe a little better at making contact than he previously was. Things can balance out in his favor over time. Fewer strikeouts mean more balls in play. The more balls he hits (and hits hard) the more chances he has at driving in runs.

I know RBI is an antiquated statistic nobody under 90 years old likes to look at to represent how a player’s year is going. In Alonso’s case, it might be one of the more important ones. It won’t tell us how unlucky he has been or whether or not he’s about to break out of a slump. As the team’s best power hitter and expected run producer, the number of runs batted in can give us a clear image of the end result.

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This year, sans regular home runs, Alonso has managed to find ways to drive in his teammates. It’s a different style than some of us became accustomed to. When the team around him starts to catch up, this improved talent could become a lot more valuable.

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