Should Pete Alonso Be Guaranteed A Starting Job Over Dominic Smith And Brandon Nimmo?
With the lack of a universal DH, and the Mets pursuit of a center fielder, the discussion focuses around how the Mets will allocate playing time. In those discussions, people are usually debating the impact on Dominic Smith and Brandon Nimmo.
For some reason, the question is never presented as how will this affect Pete Alonso‘s playing time.
There are some reasons for this. First and foremost, Alonso is a right-handed bat which can balance out the lineup. Also, Alonso is tethered to first whereas Smith and Nimmo have played left.
Despite all the assumptions, if the Mets are going to be treated as a meritocracy where the best players play, and they should, there should be an honest analysis as to who should play. In that vein, let’s take a look at it.
A good starting point to look at is 2019. It makes sense because that’s Alonso’s Rollie year. It was also the year of Smith’s breakout and Nimmo’s neck injury. Taking all that into account, here’s a snapshot of the three players in various categories
- Nimmo 27
- Alonso 26
- Smith 25
- Alonso 5.5
- Smith 2.6
- Nimmo 2.5
- Alonso 218
- Smith 139
- Nimmo 124
- Smith 148
- Alonso 136
- Nimmo 130
- Nimmo (LF) 1
- Smith (1B) -1
- Smith (LF) -2
- Alonso (1B) -7
- Nimmo (CF) -8
Looking at these numbers, some things jump off on the page. In terms of defense, Alonso is just as bad at first, his only option, as Nimmo is in center. This means, at least defensively, Smith needs to be at first with Nimmo in LF.
An interesting and unexpected development was Smith has actually been the best hitter. When you look at his defense and offense, you’d be left with the conclusion he should be the Mets first baseman.
That could be the case even with Alonso having a healthy lead in WAR. Even if you extrapolate Smith’s and Nimmo’s WAR over the 218 games Alonso played, Alonso still holds a lead.
Of course, part of the reason why is Smith’s and Nimmo’s WAR have taken a hit due to them playing out of position. Although, that perspective could be viewed as explaining away the difference rather than embracing Alonso being better.
In terms of Alonso being better, he’s achieved things no Mets have before him. His 2019 season was special and record setting. Unfortunately, Alonso was unable to repeat that performance.
There are several reasons why. Those reasons may very well be related to COVID19. Players ramped up, shut down, and had to ramp up again. Players couldn’t access facilities. Chili Davis wasn’t in the dugout or clubhouse.
That said, while Alonso was clearly the best of the three in 2019, he was also the worst of the three in 2020. There are reasons why he was the best, and as noted the worst.
In that vein, Smith wasn’t given a real opportunity to play everyday until 2020. Nimmo was injured in 2019, and he re-emerged late in that season, and he showed in 2020, he could maintain that level of play.
Really, when you break it all down, there are a few things we can state with any clarity. Smith shouldn’t be in left, Nimmo shouldn’t be in center, and Alonso isn’t good at first. Nimmo is an on-base machine, and Alonso has unparalleled power.
Taking everything into account, perhaps the one thing that should be clear is of this trio, Nimmo is the only one who should be guaranteed a starting job. He’s good defensively in left, arguably the team’s best leadoff hitter, and he’s comparable offensively.
This means who plays should boil down between Alonso and Smith. This does not remotely have a clear-cut answer. Ultimately, how the Mets handle this decision will dictate how well the teams performs in 2021 and beyond.