Pete Alonso had maybe his best defensive season in 2023

The Polar Bear has learned to play first base beyond major criticism.
Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Mets
Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Mets / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

One of Pete Alonso’s goals was to become a really good defensive first baseman. The power was something assigned at birth. His ability to play first base, however, was the first excuse as to why he wasn’t called up by the New York Mets in 2018.

Now five seasons deep into his MLB career, Alonso turned in arguably his finest defensive season yet in 2023.

Pete Alonso had arguably his best defensive season for the Mets in 2023

Defensive metrics, especially for a first baseman, are tough to comprehend because there are way too many factors at play. A good defender may have a negative WAR with the glove. Check out Keith Hernandez’s numbers sometime.

Alonso’s numbers don’t give a perfect look into exactly what type of defender he is now. What they can do is look at how much he has improved.

A career-best .995 fielding percentage this past season is the first to jump out. Fielding percentage isn’t too credible of a statistic, though. And if you don’t buy into it much, there are other numbers showing how much better he has gotten.

Alonso went from -2 defensive runs saved in 2022 up to 6 in 2023. His range factor per game, at 7.67, was yet another one of his career highs.

Worth -0.2 WAR on defense, Alonso approached the average mark here. The -0.4 in 2020 was his previous best. Coming off of his career-worst -1.1 from last year, it was a positive uptick on a roster where defense was not a strength outside of shortstop Francisco Lindor.

In the past, Alonso has balked at the idea of becoming more of a full-time DH. The Mets have given into his wish. By carrying Daniel Vogelbach and continuing to play him at a migraine-inducing rate, they assured Alonso he wouldn’t get too many games at the DH spot whenever the team played a right-handed starter. His 27 starts at the DH spot in 2022 dropped down to only 9 this past year. It’s a more than fair amount just to get him off his feet a little extra.

First base might be considered the “easy” position to field, but that’s only because you have less fair territory to cover and fewer long throws across the diamond like third base. It’s a position Alonso is built to play and has made great strides at. Just watching him, the comfortability factor has changed. He looked like an out-of-place rookie early on. Now, while always on his toes, the heels look down at the same time. He is a major league first baseman.