Just about every Mets fan not in a coma knows that Pete Alonso has set an important record this season. The rookie slugger has smacked 50 (and counting) long balls so far this year to break the old Mets single season home run record record held jointly by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran at 41 homers. Please note all stats cited are through the games of the weekend.
However there is another record that Alonso has set this season that has received far less attention. The presumptive Rookie of the Year has gone down on strikes 169 (still counting) times this season. Nobody is going to argue that striking out a lot is a good thing. For example, if there is a runner on third with less than two outs in a close game, most fans would rather see a Jeff McNeill or a Wilson Ramos at the plate than Alonso. With the first two players you have a decent chance of getting a base hit or a deep enough fly to score the run, better odds than you would have with Alonso. However, the strikeout is not as disdained in baseball as it once was.
Perhaps it was Babe Ruth who started changing some minds when he hit prodigious amounts of homers but also struck out a lot. By the time Mickey Mantle came along, people realized he was a pretty good player even if he was usually among the leaders in K’s. And now, with the great rise in home runs fans have come to accept that if you have a hitter who knocks the ball over the fence with regularity, he is likely to whiff a lot as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the players Alonso passed on the Mets strikeout leaderboard. The previous leader in K’s was David Wright with 161 strikeouts in 2010. That year he put together a line of .283/.354/.503 with 29 homers. Although not his best season by a long shot he was productive, putting up good power and on-base numbers. Number three on the list of Mets’ strikeout leaders is Michael Conforto, who just last year totaled 159 strikeouts. His line was .243/.350/.448 with 28 homers, respectable production as well.
Way back in 1970 Tommie Agee struck out 156 times. That season was arguably Agee’s best regular season as a Met with a line of .286/.344/.469 with 24 homers, and he won a Gold Glove to boot.
Striking out a lot does not always correlate with being a good player, and exhibit A for that would be one Dave Kingman. Kingman’s 1982 total of 156 strikeouts ties him with Agee in fourth place. His line that year was .204/.285/.432 with 37 homers. The BA was embarrassingly low, he didn’t walk much and even the SLG was nothing to write home about. This was Kingman’s second go-round with the Mets, he also played in the mid 70’s and his 1975 season total of K’s was 153, sixth highest total ever for a Met. His line was .231/.284/.494 with 36 homers. Kingman was not a patient hitter, 1975 was particularly glaring as he walked only 34 times.
So how does Alonso stack up compared to the other Mets mentioned? His line this season is 264/.364/.588. The OBP and SLG are higher, and significantly higher in the case of SLG, than the figures put up by the other players.
So what is the bottom line? Too many strikeouts are not good, but high totals seem to come with the territory of being a slugger. If Alonso keeps pounding homers and getting on base at the rate he does, most Met fans would be willing to overlook his high K rate.