The 2020 season was a rough year for Mets slugger Pete Alonso. Following a memorable rookie season, the Mets had high hopes for the Florida native. Not only did his bat decline, but he played poorly in the field. This has caused many Mets fans to wonder if the Mets should trade Alonso. A look through Mets Facebook groups will show that this feeling isn’t some one off. It is shocking to see how many fellow fans were suggesting this. While most of these posts didn’t gain traction, it is shocking to see how many fans feel this way.
Not only should the answer be a resounding NO, but the stats simply don’t back it up. Alonso didn’t perform to our expectations, but he actually had a good season at the plate. Have a look at some of his statistics. They aren’t actually all that bad.
To begin, look at Alonso’s power stats. In 57 games, Alonso hit 16 home runs and drove in 35 runs. If you project that over 162 games, Alonso would have played in 154 games hitting 43 home runs with 95 RBI’s. Those 43 home runs would have put him in second on the all-time Mets single season home run list, trailing only Pete Alonso of 2019. 95 RBI’s is also somewhat uncommon for the Mets. In the 58 proceeding seasons of Mets baseball, a player has only hit 95+ RBI’s 37 times.
When you start looking at his sabermetrics, the numbers aren’t that bad either. Alonso’s OPS+ was 123. This means that he is still considered to be significantly better than the average first baseman / DH, even when having a bad season. In addition, Alonso led the Mets with an Rrep of 8 in 2020. This is an interesting metric that factors in production based on playing time.
However, the best thing to look at is how well he hit the ball. Using baseball savant, we can see that Alonso did not hit the ball as well as in 2019. Nevertheless, it wasn’t terrible. If you look at batters who had at least 100 batted ball events in 2019 and 50 in 2020, it becomes clear that Alonso declined but not to an extreme degree. See the following numbers:
As you can see, his average exit velocity and hard hit rates declined slightly. The big drop off came in the barrels rate.
Despite the decline, you’d have to be crazy to get rid of Alonso, even with his bad play at first base. Let’s not forget that he was one of the Mets top prospects two years ago. In 2019 Alonso won rookie of the year, was the home run derby king, set an MLB record for home runs by a rookie and the Mets single season home run record. Furthermore, he is still in the pre-arbitration phase of his career and will not become a free agent until 2025. Alonso is the type of guy you don’t trade away unless you are blown away by the offer.
More importantly, it is hard to make real judgements from this past season. 2020 was simply a bizarre year. There were only 60 games. The summer training was very limited. There were many rule changes. The Mets hitting coach, Chili Davis, tried his best in helping remotely. There were no fans in the stands. While one shouldn’t completely discard the 2020 season, take it with a grain of salt.
It is obvious where this notion is coming from. Dom Smith had a breakout season. Smith slashed .316/.377/.616 in 50 games. His 1.7 WAR, 10 homers and 42 RBI’s project to 4.6, 27 and 113 over a 162 season. In fact Dom’s 169 OPS+ is a good indicator that he was the best hitter on the team.
The problem the some Mets fans have is thinking that you can only have one or the other. For 2021, the Mets should have both Smith and Alonso in the lineup on most nights. Both guys should be critical pieces to the puzzle. While it is unclear if there will be a DH in the NL next season, the Mets need to have as much depth as possible. Pete Alonso has been able to stay healthy over the course of his career, but Smith has struggled with injuries. Look at the Dodgers. One of the reasons that they just marched to the World Series title with the best records in baseball is because they have tremendous depth. That is something the Mets will need as well to compete moving forward.
(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)