Pete Alonso’s Biggest Problem
When you look at the 2020 season, there were many who called it a sophomore slump for Pete Alonso, and we have seen some articles indicating the New York Mets need him to rebound. These articles are being written and the discussions are taking place because Alonso was not the same player in 2020 that he was in his record breaking Rookie of the Year season in 2019.
Despite that, Alonso was very good at the plate in 2020. Over the course of the season, he had a 118 wRC+ and a 123 OPS+. That rated him as a top 10 hitter at first base. Alonso was on a 162 game pace for 45 homers and 99 RBI. Those 45 homers would have been second only to himself for the single season mark in Mets history.
Looking at Baseball Savant, Alonso still had very good exit velocity numbers and an even better barrel rate. His whiff rate was poor, but that was counter-balanced by a good walk rate. Overall, these were promising numbers for a second year player who turned 26 years old.
Of course, the problem is that’s not how it is perceived. The reason is that all of Alonso’s numbers had regressed across the board. Honestly, that should lead people to question the reason why that happened. There are several possible reasons.
First and foremost, 2020 was just a bizarre season, and it left players in a strange place to get ready for the season and to get into rhythm. Alonso had served as the DH fairly often, which was a departure from his routine. There was more of a book on him than there was during his rookie year. Of course, while it was not often discussed with Alonso, the ball was no longer juiced. Well, it wasn’t as juiced as it was in 2019.
There’s also the possibility the 2019 season was Alonso’s career year. Really, it is no slight to say a season with a 5.2 WAR is a career year for a player. That’s an excellent season. Alonso can realistically fall short of ever repeating that while still being a very good 3-4 win player for the rest of his career.
We also shouldn’t discount Alonso being better. As we sit here, no one can really know which way his career is going to go. The only thing we do know is Alonso’s 2019 set the stage for Alonso having fairly unrealistic expectations. Expecting a player to hit 50+ homers a year is just an unfair and unrealistic expectation.
Whether people will admit it or not, that is the bar Alonso set for his rookie year. It is where people expect him to be because they really don’t know him to be anything other than that. Really, it is unfair to put him on that because he doesn’t have to be that in order to be an All-Star caliber player. He doesn’t have to be that to continue to emerge as the face of the Mets.
What Alonso needs to be is Alonso. Whatever that proves out to be will be a good player and an even better teammate and person.