One of my favorite things to do early in every MLB season is to overreact to hot starts by seeing what numbers players are on pace to finish with. Mets first baseman Pete Alonso and his polar power are the subject of today’s conversation.
During Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres, Pete slugged this missile, which was his MLB-leading sixth dinger of the year:
Pete Alonso CRUSHES his league-leading 6th homer of the year! 🍎 pic.twitter.com/Hc1bJHnscT
— MLB (@MLB) April 12, 2023
When discussing my takeaways from New York’s series win over the Padres, I compared his current start to what he did last April. The results are favorable from the standpoint of pushing the needle forward in 2023.
Through Alonso’s first 55 plate appearances, he’s slugged six homers with 12 RBI. By the end of last April, he had four homers and 17 RBI in 84 plate appearances. And don’t forget that the first baseman has only just caught fire over the past week.
In his first six games, Polar Pete was hitting .136/.269/.318 with one homer and two RBI. But since his two-homer performance against the Brewers, the slugger has been red-hot. Five of his homers and 10 of his RBI have come over the past seven games. It also includes a .346/.414/.923 triple slash and 248 wRC+.
But just how many homers is Alonso currently on pace for? More than Barry Bonds in 2001, folks:
Pete Alonso leads the majors with 6 home runs (on pace for 75), but there are also interesting notes (SSS) like a career-best 12.7 BB% and career-low 16.4 K%.
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) April 13, 2023
Are we overreacting? Well, yes — most definitely. But it’s still fun to think about, right? Alonso does already have a 53-homer campaign under his belt and is the only Mets hitter with multiple seasons of 40-plus homers and 120-plus RBI. If there’s anyone in Queens who could get into Aaron Judge territory, it’s obviously him.
The second part of Michael Mayer’s tweet is interesting, though. Mostly because it’s been something Alonso has been working on for years. Heading into the 2021 season, the first baseman specifically said he wanted to work on his plate discipline. The results were great then, and they’ve only gotten better:
- 2019: 10.4% walk rate, 26.4% strikeout rate
- 2020: 10.0%, 25.5%
- 2021: 9.4%, 19.9%
- 2022: 9.8%, 18.7%
- 2023: 12.7%, 16.4% (so far)
Alonso has been swinging a lot less overall. His 39.2% swing rate is more than 10 percentage points lower than where he finished last season (49.9%). A lot of that has come on pitches inside the strike zone (74.2% to 61.0%). However, his chase rate has improved dramatically (36.0% to 26.5%). It’s led to a slight uptick in contact rate and a decreased swinging-strike rate.
These are all positive signs for Alonso as his rise through the Mets’ all-time home run leaderboard continues. Will he challenge Bonds’ single-season home run record? I mean, probably not. But while the Mets are off on Thursday, it’s OK to dream about how ridiculously awesome that would be.
You can reach Matt Musico at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.