Was Pete Alonso On The Opening Day Roster Worth It?
As we are now well aware, the Mets bucked conventional wisdom by putting Pete Alonso on the Opening Day roster. The decision was apparently driven by the belief every game counts, and the Mets were not willing to miss out on October to gain an extra year of control over Alonso. Seeing what happened in 2007 and 2008, you could understand the decision.
However, given how this was a departure from conventional wisdom, this is a decision which should be scrutinized. Really, the only way to do that is to measure Alonso’s performance over the subject time frame:
Score: Mets 2 – Nationals 0
Line: 1-4, 2 K
Impact: Alonso had a key two out single to continue an eighth inning rally which provided the Mets with an insurance run.
Quick Synopsis: Like some predicted, Alonso struggled against Max Scherzer and his slider, but then again, who doesn’t. His single moved Dominic Smith to second. Smith started the rally with a walk against Scherzer, and he stayed in the game for defense.
Score: Mets 11 – Nationals 8
Line: 3-4, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB, K
Impact: Alonso got things started with a single in the first setting up a three run inning. He helped expand the lead with an RBI double in the second. When the game had tightened, Alonso gave the Mets some breathing room with an RBI double making it 8-4.
Quick Synopsis: Alonso did not look remotely phased by Stephen Strasburg, and he would say after the game his facing Strasburg in Spring Training helped him for the game. Certainly, his being in the lineup was a difference maker in this game.
Score: Nationals 6 – Mets 5
Line: 2-4, 2B, RBI, BB
Impact: Alonso was the one bat in the lineup who was working, and he would play a part in one of the two runs the Mets scored before their bats woke up in the eighth (he did not come up to bat). He would ground out leading off the ninth.
Quick Synopsis: Alonso was undaunted by Patrick Corbin reaching base all three times he faced him. With the game tied in the ninth, he would ground out against Sean Doolittle.
Score: Mets 7 – Marlins 3
Line: 1-5, R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 K
Impact: Alonso struggled for most of the game, but he did put the game away with a massive three run homer capping off a four run top of the ninth.
Quick Synopsis: Alonso did not fare well against Marlins starter Caleb Smith striking out two and flying out in his other at-bat. To put it into perspective, the Mets as a team only recorded four hits and struck out eight times against Smith in his five innings of work.
Score: Mets 6 – Marlins 5
Line: 0-1, K
Impact: Alonso made his first pinch hitting appearance with runners on second and third with two outs. He struck out against Marlins reliever Wei-Yin Chen on three pitches.
Quick Synopsis: With the Marlins starting Jose Urena, and Smith getting off to a terrific start as a pinch hitter/defensive replacement, the Mets opted to give him the start. Smith was 2-5 with run, RBI, and strikeout.
Score: Mets 6 – Marlins 4
Line: 2-4, R, RBI, K
Impact: With Jacob deGrom starting, Alonso effectively put the game out of reach with an RBI double in the third which made the game 3-0 Mets at the time. He was also in the midst of a seventh inning rally with a single and eventually scoring what proved to be a much needed insurance run.
Quick Synopsis: After being 1-6 with three strikeouts to start the series, Alonso rebounded having a good game against Trevor Richards and the Marlins bullpen.
Score: Nationals 4 – Mets 0
Line: 0-4, 2 K
Impact: Alonso only came up to the plate with a runner on base in the eighth. At the time, it was 2-0 Nationals, and it would stay that way as he would strike out against Nationals reliever Matt Grace.
Quick Synopsis: Like the rest of his teammates, Alonso struggled after the team flew out late from Miami and had to play a day game. While he had his first hitless start, he did reach base in the first after Strasburg made an error.
Score: Mets 6 – Nationals 5
Line: 2-4, R, 2B, HR, RBI, 2 K
Impact: Alonso sparked the game winning rally hitting a homer to lead off the eighth inning.
Quick Synopsis: The Mets were staring down losing two in a row to start their first home stand of the season before Alonso sparked a rally. His homer was the springboard for a Mets offense which began hitting a series of homers in the ensuing games.
Score: Nationals 12 – Mets 9
Line: 2-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB, K
Impact: Alonso doubled and homered for the second straight game. His homer in the seventh helped charge a Mets offense trying to overcome an 11 run deficit, and his ninth inning walk set up another rally which would fall short.
Quick Synopsis: After having been dominated by Scherzer over his first few career plate appearances against him, including a double play and strikeout in this game, Alonso finally broke through with a double against Scherzer in the sixth.
Score: Twins 14 – Mets 8
Line: 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 K
Impact: After failing to reach base in his first three at-bats, Alonso homered in the seventh to pull the Mets to within three. He’d then homer again in the ninth, but that would only pull the Mets to within eight. That is partially because his eighth inning error led to the Twins scoring three unearned runs against Robert Gsellman.
Quick Synopsis: Not too much emphasis should be placed on that error because Gsellman was bad otherwise, and balls were flying out of Citi Field. If there is anywhere to criticize him, it is his inability to deliver in an RBI opportunity in the fifth against a weakening Kyle Gibson, but that is probably going too far considering how well he has been playing.
Score: Mets 9 – Twins 6
Line: 0-2, R, RBI, 2 BB
Impact: This would prove to be Alonso’s first hitless game in his professional career, but he did contribute by being one of the several Mets who walked in the six run fifth inning.
Quick Synopsis: For seemingly the first time all year, Alonso wasn’t one of the driving forces of the Mets offense, and yet despite that he still contributed to the win.
Score: Mets 6 – Braves 3
Line: 2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 2 K
Impact: On a night where it seemed Steven Matz and Amed Rosario were going to be the story, everyone was talking about Alonso and the monster home run he hit providing the Mets with additional insurance runs in their 6-1 win.
Quick Synopsis: Like he has been more much of the season, Alonso struggled against the starter before feasting on the poor relief pitching thrown his way.
Through his first 12 games, Alonso is hitting .378/.452/1.037 with six doubles, six homers, and 17 RBI. With Alonso hitting second in the lineup, the Mets are 8-4, which is not only good enough for sole possession of an already tight National League East, but it is also good enough for the best record in the National League.
Clearly, Alonso was good enough to make an impact this early in the season, and so far, he has been a real difference maker. We can dicker over his level of impact, but he has played a role in all eight Mets wins this season. Also, while Smith has gotten off to a good start himself, it is not fair to either player to say the Mets would be better, worse, or the same.
Whether this is the right decision is still up for debate.
The main reason why it is still up for debate is the Mets theory behind putting Alonso on the Opening Day roster was they were going to carry their 25 best players, and they were selling their fans that every game counts. Right now, Jason Vargas is the fifth starter with little to no real depth behind him. If every game counts, the Mets need an answer for why they’re over-focusing on Alonso’s 12 games while punting on at least 30 games from your rotation.
As for Alonso, he’s been great, but there are warning signs. As noted by Mark Simon of Sports Info Solutions, Alonso is hitting just .233 with no homers and 14 strikeouts in 30 at-bats against starting pitching. There are more troubling signs like his striking out in 30.4% of his plate appearances, and even with how hard he is hitting the baseball, his .455 BABIP is going to eventually regress to the mean. Even if you still believe the talk was a bit overblown, we have also seen talk of his struggles against the slider were real.
On defense, he’s getting all the balls thrown to first, but we are seeing some cracks in his game. He’s already botched two groundballs. On one, it helped lead to a tough inning for his pitcher. On the other, he was bailed out by Robinson Cano and Noah Syndergaard.
Of course, the negative is not the full story. Simon also notes Alonso is killing relievers hitting .643 off of them with six homers. He’s also had the knack for the big moment going 9-14 with all six of his homers happening in the seventh inning or later.
If you look through all that has happened, you can see Alonso has largely been what scouts have said of him. He’s struggled against better pitching, and he has feasted on weaker pitching. He’s going to hit the ball hard, have good plate discipline, but he’s also going to strike out at a high clip. Defensively, he’s a liability who is not going to kill you because he can handle throws well.
What is unknowable at this point is whether some time in Syracuse would have benefited him in the long run or if he was better seeing Major League pitching and working with Chili Davis. Based upon his start, it’s very fair to say the latter is the much more stronger argument.
Overall, Alonso and the Mets have passed the first test. Alonso has been the best player on this team, Jacob deGrom included, and he has been a driving force in the Mets having the best record in the National League. From this 12 game snapshot, which is very relevant, the Mets ABSOLUTELY did the right thing.
However, going forward, the jury is still out. Ultimately, we will know if the Mets did the right thing if they back this up. They first have to back it up by addressing at least one of the rotation and bullpen. To that point, it must be noted Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel are still available. Also, since the Mets have willfully done away with a year of control over Alonso, they must back it up by doing the right thing when the time comes. Should that happen, it would be very difficult to argue against their decision.