Mets’ Pete Alonso has started the year slow, but can he turn things around in a contract season?

Apr 30, 2024; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets are dealing with quite the cold streak at the moment, winning just five of their last 20 games over the month of May. Coming into the season, the state of the starting rotation and bullpen was filled with question marks, leaving many fans and experts alike wondering just how well the Mets could perform in 2024.

However, expectations for the Mets have remained high, largely because this team has the highest payroll in the league and a strong offensive cast that’s supposed to produce. With the Mets sitting in fourth place in the NL East with a 23-33 record, they currently rank 22nd in batting average (.233), 21st in OBP (.305), 21st in OPS (.677), and 19th in RBIs (219).

Though there’s no one player to blame for this offensive dilemma, the biggest stars on the team are typically the first to be scrutinized. And of all the stars the Mets have, first baseman Pete Alonso is one many thought would be off to a much better start, seeing he’s playing on a one-year arbitration deal before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2025.

All things considered, Alonso isn’t playing that poorly, nor is he the star that’s struggling the most. That said, Alonso hasn’t performed up to the expectations he set for himself as a rookie in 2019 and once again in a breakout performance in 2022. Even last season, his 46 home runs and 118 RBIs overshadowed a distinct drop in OPS, OBP, and batting average from 2022, which has carried over into 2024.

In 2022, Alonso finished with a .271 batting average, a .352 OBP, and a .869 OPS. But in 2023, his average dropped to .217, OBP to .318, and OPS to .821. And over 2024 so far, Alonso’s hosts a .235 batting average, a .311 OBP, and an OPS of .771.

His drop in productivity and efficiency at the plate, along with his inability to get on base consistently, have significantly hurt his chances of becoming the big-time paid star he could have been alongside guys such as Francisco Lindor, Nolan Arenado, Matt Olson, and others.

Despite this ongoing reality with Alonso, there’s one big two-part question that still remains: Can he improve his contract narrative, and if so, what does he need to do in order to achieve that? We break down the answers here.

Alonso’s Facing An Uphill Battle

Over the month of May, Alonso hasn’t shown much improvement. Following a concerning start over April, where he posted a .220 batting average to go along with a .313 OPB and a .460 slugging percentage in 100 at-bats, Alonso is now hitting .235 with a .297 OBP and a .441 slugging percentage in 102 at-bats in May. Moreover, he already has 24 strikeouts in May, passing his previous total in April (23).

The good news is that Alonso still has plenty of time to turn his slow start around. However, the biggest key to his success, if he wants to receive the sizable 6–8-year extension he’s likely after, is that he has to lock in on being a pure contact hitter first. Alonso has incredible power, so the home runs will always be there. It just comes down to focusing on making contact and working counts to his favor. If he can do that, there’s a chance he could receive the long-term deal he’s after with the Mets.

How Can Mets’ Pete Alonso Improve?

In order to achieve this, though, Alonso has to be better in two specific areas. The first and biggest issue for Alonso this year has been his inability to hit breaking ball pitches. In 70 plate appearances where he’s faced breaking pitches, Alonso is hitting .164, with pitches such as sliders, sweepers, curveballs, and cutters making for the most challenging for him to connect with. In addition, pitchers have been getting him to swing often against pitches that are down and in, most of which are out of the zone.

As soon as Alonso stays off those breaking pitches and forces pitchers to pound the strike zone, he’s going to cash in on a lot more hits and RBI scenarios. Alonso is already known for destroying fastball pitchers. So if he can prevent the breaking stuff from plaguing his at-bats, he’ll improve immensely.

Lastly, Alonso has to be more aggressive on first pitches that land in the zone. Over 2024 so far, Alonso is only swinging at first pitches 25.4% of the time in comparison to 33.5% in 2022 and 28.3% as a rookie. In this day and age, pitchers understand more than ever how important it is to throw pitches outside of the zone to secure strikeouts and keep power hitters at bay. As a result, pitchers generally avoid pounding the zone. And the rare occasion they do such will typically occur on the first pitch.

This isn’t a complicated issue to straighten out. However, Alonso will have to train his eye and plate vision to improve his first-pitch swing opportunities. Not all first pitches are strikes. But if he wants to take advantage of more fastballs, swinging on the first pitch could lead him to achieve just that.

Does Alonso Get The Contract He Wants?

From how things are playing out, Alonso has taken a backseat in shaping the narrative of his future contract negotiations and probably won’t get the deal he wants. The Mets have been itching for their offense to produce like they’re supposed to, and his shortcomings to start the 2024 campaign haven’t helped at all, nor have boosted his chances of being signed to a long-term extension.

Being an All-Star caliber power hitter that delivers home runs and RBIs will only land you so much. Same with being a strong first baseman, which Alonso has grown into over the years. But the biggest reason why someone like Aaron Judge landed his massive contract extension with the Yankees at age 30 in 2022 (Alonso will be 30 in December this year), was because of his complete, consistent hitting performance, not just the 62 home runs and 131 RBIs.

In short, Alonso has to elevate his hitting to a higher level yet tap into what he did so well over his 2019 rookie season and breakout 2022 campaign. The man is still very much in his prime and has all the tools and experience to continue to transform into one of the best hitters in the MLB.

However, polishing his co,ntact hi,tting and working on his plate discipline will be pivotal to his success. Should Alonso turn his slow start around by the All-Star break and have a .250 average with 20+ home runs and 60+ RBIs to show for, he could propel himself back into the driver’s seat with his extension and receive the long-term deal he’s going for. But until there’s any indication of that improvement, Alonso will likely be faced with an extension offer he’ll have to settle for, especially if he wants to remain a New York Met.

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