A deep dive into what's gone wrong for Mets' Pete Alonso in 2020

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311756488 110519 PETE ALONSO Treated Art - V3 - BLUE
311756488 110519 PETE ALONSO Treated Art - V3 - BLUE

The Pete Alonso the Mets have gotten in 2020 is not the Pete Alonso who took baseball by storm in 2019, when he smacked a rookie-record 53 homers as he became an exit velocity King and embraced his Polar Bear persona.

But to simply call what Alonso is going through in 2020 a sophomore slump would be both lazy and unfair.

In a season as strange as this one, this has to be looked at in a layered and nuanced way. So here it goes...

Alonso, who slashed .260/.358/.583 in 2019 is slashing .215/.317/.430 in 2020. Why?

A look at the advanced numbers, via FanGraphs

The difference in Alonso's strikeout rates (26.4 percent in 2019, 25.6 percent in 2020) and walk rates (10.4 percent in 2019, 10.1 percent in 2020) the last two seasons are negligible, but a look at what he's doing when he puts the ball in play tells a different story.

Alonso's hard hit rate of 29.5 percent is down substantially from where it was in 2019, when it was 42.2 percent.

His fly balls are also leaving the ballpark at a much lower rate (20.8 percent this season, compared to 30.6 percent in 2019).

Due in part to the type of contact he's making, Alonso's BABIP (batting average on balls in play) has dropped from .280 in 2019 to .234 this season.

A glance at Alonso's "clutch" stats show that he doesn't seem to be putting any added pressure on himself in key spots (he's hitting .368 in high leverage situations), but the sample size is too small to draw any kind of conclusion.

What do the Statcast numbers tell us?

A look at Alonso's numbers via Statcast/Baseball Savant tell a similar story to his advanced numbers via FanGraphs. His approach from 2019 to 2020 hasn't changed a ton, but the type of contact he's making has. And there's one other key difference there, too.

While Alonso's chase rate in 2020 is nearly identical to what it was in 2019, he's making contact in those instances far less -- 47.3 percent in 2020, compared to 58.3 percent in 2019.

So even though the strikeout rates in 2020 and 2019 are similar, Alonso is swinging and missing more often.

Additionally, Alonso is in the top 25 percent of major league hitters in only one key metric -- barrel percentage. In all others, including hard hit rate, exit velocity, and expected slugging percentage, Alonso is in the middle of the pack or below.

What can be said for slumping in the season of COVID?

Nothing about this season has been normal due to the global pandemic that caused Spring Training to shut down and for the regular season to be delayed roughly three months. It has also led to some teams -- including the Mets -- having their season paused due to positive tests.

Some players have complained about the stops and starts and the very limited amount of time they had to get ready for Opening Day being a hindrance. But clearly, this has impacted some players more than others.

A glance at the Mets' roster shows five players -- Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, and J.D. Davis -- who have excelled offensively this season.

A look at other rosters, including the Milwaukee Brewers, where superstar Christian Yelich is hitting .208/.338/.440 -- shows other upper-echelon players who are having trouble like Alonso.

Earlier this week, Mets manager Luis Rojas said Alonso has been working incredibly hard but simply hasn't been able to get into a rhythm. It was one of the reasons why Alonso was not in the lineup on Wednesday.

During SNY's broadcast on Wednesday night, Keith Hernandez suggested that it could be hard for slumping players to get out of their own heads since they aren't able to hang out with one another after games and unwind.

Instead, they go right back to their home/hotel and get ready for the next day. 

In a normal season at the 49-game mark, it would be around the third week of May with over four months of games to be played -- plenty of time for a player to break out. This season at the 49-game mark, there are 11 games left.

The above means that for Alonso, barring a torrid finish, 2020 will be a season to forget. But unlike past seasons, it will be hard to draw conclusions.

That there will likely be more questions than answers for Alonso heading into 2021 is frustrating, but he can take solace in the fact that he's not alone. And, like the rest of us, he can hope that next year and next season brings a return to normalcy -- or close to it.