Pete Alonso is better than expected

If you were like me, you may not have really known who Pete Alonso was before the beginning of the 2019 season. Now, I know as much about him as almost any player as he’s been grabbing all of baseball’s attention this year. He hits the ball so hard and often that he has become a strong candidate for NL Rookie of the Year. I will be more interested to see how his success impacts the Mets and how far he can lead them.

It already seems certain that he’s going to be good so the only thing still up in the air is how the Mets are going to perform this season. Right now they sit a game below five-hundred and five games back in the division. The Mets do have a few players waiting to come back from injuries like Jed Lowrie, Jeff McNeil, and Robinson Cano. When the Mets return to full strength, they are definitely a team with potential. If they continue to float around a winning record come to the trade deadline, I could see them making a move since Brody Van Wagenen has established himself as an aggressive general manager.

I do want to focus though on how good Pete Alonso has been this season. He does a lot of good things, highlighted by ranking in the top percentile of barrel%. His xwOBA ranks 52nd best in baseball, a mark that exceeds his expectations before the season began. In summary, he’s good at hitting the baseball.

If you’ve read articles on this website before, you know that I am one to only use complex statistics that aren’t usually used by other baseball writers. So for a moment, let’s diverge from this theme and take notice that Pete Alonso is tied for third in the league in home runs. He has hit seventeen so far this season, which is obviously a lot for where we are at in the year.

Alonso is also tied for having the second hardest hit ball this season. He struck a ball at a whopping 118.3 mph this year, which sits high in the rankings with other superstars in the league. Take a look below to see how the leader-board looks for hardest hit balls of the year.

Data via Baseball Savant

There is one part of Alonso’s play that I can’t seem to draw a conclusion on. His strikeout percentage is really high and his walk percentage is very low. His strikeout percentage isn’t just slightly low either. It’s approaching a whopping 30%. He seems to resemble an all or nothing hitter with these types of numbers. When he goes up to the plate, odds are he is either going to hit the ball really hard or just strikeout.

This makes him questionable as to if his success is going to be sustainable or not. Usually, if a player is striking out at this high of a rate, it’s difficult for his success to be sustainable. I figured there is one way to see if these strikeouts are going to continue. I wanted to determine if there was any part of the plate he just couldn’t hit. Were the strikeouts coming from all over the plate or just in one designated section?

As it turns out, he can’t hit balls thrown in the upper portion of the strike zone. Those numbers are really high too, indicated by the red coloring. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that this chart is a pretty small sample size. It’s actually rather odd when you take a look at it. None of the pitches he sees are in the locations that he struggles with. He sees the majority of his pitches where he succeeds. I’m sure that this will eventually be discovered by other major league ball clubs and we will start to see a rise in pitches thrown in the upper portion or above the strike zone.

Pete Alonso is by no means a unique scenario but one that is hard to draw conclusions about. To me, he seems like a less extreme Joey Gallo. This may be good, this may be bad. Joey Gallo is no MVP after all. I think that Alonso will continue to produce similar to the rate he currently is performing at.

Odds are he will regress a little bit which should be expected. I think he’ll even regress this season which seems like an easy prediction to make since he is currently playing so well. In the distant future, I think Alonso is more likely to fall off than become an elite player in the game. It’s tough to make conclusions about hitters who have that all or nothing approach. They could fall off at any point or they could turn around and hit the most home runs in the league. Soon enough we will see which side Alonso fall on.