About this time last year, we were still reveling in the remarkable season that Rookie-of-the-Year Pete Alonso had, led by a remarkable barrage of 53 HR, which set a rookie record and led the major leagues. I decided to analyze each at bat leading to all 53 of Alonso’s home runs. Much to my surprise, he covered a lot of the plate, in particular the outer half, and from low to up in the zone. What looked like a hole was the inner part of the plate, although perhaps this was him being pitched away more than his inability to cover the inner half. Although the 2020 season classifies as “unusual” relative to any major-league season any of us can recall, it was still worth the effort to review the 16 home runs Alonso had in 2020.

Like last year, I watched each home run pitch multiple times in order to see the entire context of the pitch he hit out. In 2020, SNY displayed a K-zone box (much to my viewing unhappiness, but great for this work), making charting the location a lot easier. Like with my previous analysis, this article will feature a five-zone map to locate pitches (inner upper, inner lower, outer upper, outer lower, and middle middle) instead of the conventional 3×3 matrix. Factors looked at include the pitcher throwing arm, count, home v. away, NL v. AL, and inning the HR occurred. Unlike last year, pitches leading up to the home run were not considered. Part of the goal is to see what, if anything, changed from 2019 to 2020 seasons.

Comparing these two seasons is of course difficult for obvious reasons, but also because the numbers are quite imbalanced. Everyone could see the outward frustration with Alonso’s at-bats in 2020, with a tendency to chase outside, even way outside, to the point he looked like a minor leaguer. Interestingly, Alonso was on pace to have 30 or so fewer strike outs in a projected 2020 full season relative to 2019. So many of the at bats looked like he was totally lost, which magnified the agony to watch, but a strike out is a strike out. Other things were really similar, too, on an adjusted basis including games played and at bat totals.

As the accompanying figure shows, and unlike last year, nearly 60% of Alonso’s home runs in 2020 came on pitches to the inner half of the plate. There is clearly no concern whether Alonso can cover the inner half, he can. Similar to last year, his home runs came equally in both the upper and lower part of the strike zone against fastballs and breaking pitches. He hit about 70% of the homers in 2020 against right-handed pitchers, which is similar to 2019. Nearly two-thirds of Alonso’s homers came against NL pitching. He hit one more home run on the road than at Citi Field.

Some aspects of his home run at-bats in 2020 caught me a little by surprise. In 2019, Alonso hit the most home runs in the first inning (first at bat), followed by an even distribution in later at-bats. By comparison, Alonso was most prolific in the middle innings in 2020, hitting 50% of his dingers in innings 4-6 (second and third at bats) with an even distribution between his first and last at bats. Alonso continues to be most homer proficient seeing fewer pitches in an at-bat, with 80% coming with fewer than four pitches, and nearly 50% coming on a 0 – 0 count. He clearly was hunting first pitches. This expands a bit further to count, where he was much most effective on even counts (this was biased by seven of 16 HR coming on 0 – 0) or ahead in the count.

It is sort of easy to drop the hammer on Alonso’s sophomore season relative to his 2019 Rookie-of-the-Year campaign, especially in light of the “breakout” season by Dominic Smith. However, Alonso still had a pretty solid effort despite looking like he was pressing non-stop for the magic of 2019. He was on track for a 43 HR season and the accompanying RBIs. Yes, there was a more than 100-point drop in OPS, but he still finished with 123 OPS+. I would have been ok with that OPS+ and adjusted “on-pace” numbers. Alonso mashes homers at home, on the road, against lefty or righty pitching, up or low in the zone, and on the inner and outer half of the plate. That is a weapon this team needs. My reading is that it is not time to bail on Alonso in any way.

14 comments on “A look at home runs of Pete Alonso in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season

  • Wobbit

    A really nice work, Chris. My observation of Alonso was that he went through a very bad stretch for far too long (more astute and experienced managing would have helped), pressed way too hard, and that it was exacerbated by his DH role. He hated the DH, and his subsequent rise out of his slump came with returning to the field… unmistakeable. Given the extra hundred games, he would have done better than the 43 HRs, and gotten his average to a respectable .250… I’m sure of it. He was red hot as the season ended. Still, he cannot afford such prolonged slumps… but he is a generational talent that needs to be recognized and built around.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • Chris F

      Thanks Wobbit. I agree that the DH role was a big downer for Pete and something after earning the RoY trophy only months before must have been a jolt to the system. I also think that a streak a player may go through is irrelevant to the total number of games played in a season. Put in another way, just beciase the number of games was scaled back, does not mean streaks will similarly be scaled back. As Brian notes below, his bad run was not all that different from a rough go in 2019. With less game, such streaks are wildly magnified, not to mention the agonizing body language we had to see in his Ks. He was on track for a solid sophomore season had it all played out like normal.

  • Brian Joura

    Is there a huge difference between these two streaks?

    A: 18 games, 79 PA, .632 OPS
    B: 19 games, 86 PA, .655 OPS

    A is what Alonso did at the beginning of the 2020 season and B is what he did at the start of the second half of 2019. It’s just that in 2019, he had a full season to cover up a 3-week bad stretch. He didn’t have that last year.

    In his final 160 PA last year, Alonso had a .902 OPS. That wasn’t as good as he was in 2019 but if you’re (the plural you, not you Chris) going to complain about a .900 OPS – maybe you just can’t be happy.

    • Chris F

      Thanks for pointing that out. The overall shortened season really magnified what would otherwise be a normal streak. I think we need to show nothing but confidence in Pete. I’ll wager that he will become the Mets all time HR leader by some distance.

    • Name

      The glass half view though is that .902 OPS came with a -0.534 wPA so unfortunately he didn’t have many big hits in clutch situations and most of his damage came during junk time as Chris would frequently say about Duda.

      Nimmo was actually highest on the team

      • Brian Joura

        Where are you getting that WPA from? FanGraphs shows him at 0.01 and I don’t believe B-R carries any stat besides WHIP out to three decimal places.

        Edit: B-R has him with a (-0.3) WPA. And obviously the triple slash categories are three decimal places.

        • Name

          On the game logs when you choose the time period you want to sum up one of the outputs is WPA for that timeframe.

          -.313 for the year but split as +.221 during the first 18 games (when he a 632 OPS) and -.534 for his final 160PA

  • Rich

    Im shocked at the stupidity of Mets fans. He projects 43 HR and 100+ RBI on a down 2 months and we are worried? All kudos to Dom, I love him, but lets see him repeat it. Alonso is a monster who just needs to get back to going the other way and up the middle. They tried to work him inside last season and he finally made the adjustment and boom, he had a great last week.

    The last guy we should be worried about is #20.

  • Wobbit

    A few more things to consider regarding Pete’s slump. Opposing pitchers came into the season with a better take on Pete’s weaknesses… up and in fastballs, e.g.. And the Mets played primarily the Braves, Nationals, and Phillies, who knew Pete better than the rest of the league. Rojas could have helped sooner against the toughest pitchers, helping with plate discipline, and keeping Pete in the field more (at one point, it became predictable that Pete was the DH).
    Pete Alonso will hit 45 HRs a year… try replacing that production. Frank Thomas hit 35 in ’62, which remained the team record for decades… I will enjoy watching Pete for a long time.

  • Ike

    For anyone who followed Pete through the minors the more comfortable he gets the higher he hits as far as average but his power really doesn’t waver and as you can see from the examples up top there is an a part of the field he can’t hit the ball out of, as he gets to know the pictures better and starts to lay off some of the pictures that are getting him out he is just going to become that much more dangerous I’m glad we have him

  • Mike W

    Pete is young. Thank goodness his sophomore slump was only a 60 game season. But, if they played 162 games, his numbers would have improved and he probably would have hit 40+ home runs. It is a game of adjustments and having Chili Davis back in person will help him in 2021.

    On another note, it looks like the Mets are not pursuing Sugano. I am getting anxious to see what they will do next.

  • TJ

    Chris,
    That’s some dedication to assessing big Pete, thanks for the effort. I agree with the take that worrying about Alonso is not wise. It is highly likely he’ll provide very reliable (and much needed) RH pop in 2021, perhaps with a bad streak here or there. While he has looked lousy at times, I think it is more a question of maturity/experience at handling the bad runs and expectations.

    Despite the DH uncertainty and some lack of positional flexibility, I do think the Mets should retain both Alonso and Smith, barring a trade they can’t refuse. Overall, it’s more of a good problem to have.

  • Wobbit

    I really hope this quiet period does not mean the Mets are being passive in the free agent field. As SD has shown, one can lock up one’s roster early and avoid getting stuck with second and third choices. The Mets must pounce on their opportunities, use their financial advantage to ink whomever they truly want. If they want Bauer, make him the offer he’d be crazy to pass up, even if not for full price (he knows he is unlikelyt get it in this season of uncertainty). Lock him up! If they want Stringer (absolutely they should), make it so! If they lose out on these guys for some stupid reason, they will have squandered their best opportunity ever presented… a willing, rich owner ready to make a splash and a new GM with nothing but resources on his plate. Braves, Marlins, Nationals, and Phillies will all be potentially formidable… Mets can’t just wade into the season half-baked. Mediocrity is unacceptable this year.

    • Mike W

      I think the Mets will get the players that they want. I would rather have them make smart moves to improve the team, rather than being impatient like me. Yeah, the Padres got a 33 year old pitcher with a big contract. The padres are ready t go for it now and that is what they are doing. We could go for it now too, but at a very high risk of it coming back to bite us in the future.

      On paper, Sugano looks good, but he is 31 years old. Tanaka was 25 when he came over. I would rather have them take a chance on Taijuan Walker for less money and a shorter contract.

      I think the Mets will make the right deals. It will just take some time. Not worth it to hgo into the stratosphere for Bauer and maybe not even for Springer. Heck, the Yankees are not jumping on their own player, LeMahieu.

      Lets wait and see.

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