Nearly every great team has that one guy no one wants to face in the ninth inning of a tie game, especially in the playoffs. For years, the Red Sox had David Ortiz, and look at what he did against the Tigers in the 2013 ALCS. Similarly, the Tigers had Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordóñez, the latter of which hit a bomb in the 2006 ALCS to scoot Detroit past Oakland. For the Angels and Cardinals, it was Albert Pujols. For the New York Mets, it’s about to be Pete Alonso.
In his rookie season, Alonso amassed 53 home runs, a figure that set the Mets’ single-season record.
Since 2019, Alonso has 88 home runs, the most in the MLB. To get an idea of just how dominant Alonso has been, Kansas City DH Jorge Soler led the AL in home runs in 2019. Since that breakout season, Soler is batting .200 and has added just 17 home runs to his career total. Alonso is batting .247 and has added 35 home runs.
This isn’t to take anything away from Soler. It’s all too common for players to over-perform then settle back down into the player they used to be.
For the Mets and Alonso, we have all the proof we need to indicate that 2019 was nothing short of what we can expect from him. If anything, Alonso may have performed so well that anything less than a .290 average and 50 home runs per year may seem like a “slump.”
Here’s the cold, hard truth: Pete Alonso will be that slugger for the Mets. He’s the guy you don’t want to face in a tie game, bases loaded, and a trip to the World Series on the line.
Other teams will start to dread facing Pete Alonso, even in low-leverage situations. He’s so strong, if he gets solid contact on anything, forget it, especially for lefties. Alonso dominates left-hand pitching.
After struggling against left-handed pitching last season, the Mets’ slugger seems to have found his groove against them.
His numbers against LHP are nothing to sneeze at, an average of just .264, but 44% of his hits against lefties are home runs. He’s also averaging 8.7 at-bats per home run against them. Likewise, his slugging percentage is .621 vs LHP, compared with .466 against RHP.
Despite all he’s accomplished, Alonso still has yet to hit a big-league grand slam. Outside of this four-run dinger he knocked out to right-center in Port St Lucie back in March, a regular season grand slam is still yet to come. It’s not like the Mets are hitting them, either, as the Mets were the second-to-last team in the MLB to hit one, after Lindor knocked this one out vs Pittsburgh.
How will pitchers adjust to the Mets’ lineup with Alonso in the middle of it?
Alonso’s numbers have dipped since pitchers have begun to approach him differently, such as pitching him inside so he can’t get extended, or throwing him high heat, which is hard for any slugger to get ahold of, even Mike Trout.
In 1998, Barry Bonds was intentionally walked by Diamondbacks pitcher Gregg Olson. A decade later, Rangers star Josh Hamilton was intentionally walked by Rays pitcher Grant Balfour. These weren’t just any intentional walks. The bases were loaded.
That’s right. Teams were so intimidated by Bonds and Hamilton that they would rather walk in a run than risk surrendering a hit or, worse, a home run. In Bonds’ case, it makes perfect sense. The game was on the line, your team is up by two, and if Bonds hits a ball in the gap, this game is tied. For Hamilton, the Rangers were down by four, and a home run would tie the game.
Would teams intentionally walk Alonso with the bases loaded? Probably not. In baseball’s steroid era, it seemed like the Wild West. Players were jacking balls out of stadiums like crazy, pitchers and teams were on high alert.
In today’s game with Alonso hitting near the front/middle of the lineup, the players behind Alonso are dangerous too. That’s not to say Alonso won’t be walked intentionally often, because he will.
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Pete Alonso is about to live up to his nickname, ‘Polar Bear.’ Or maybe not. Unlike the grizzly bear, polar bears are stealth hunters. This means a polar bear’s victims are almost always unaware of their presence until the attack is already underway. For the Mets’ sake, this may just work out for them.