It’s tough to say that Pete Alonso’s 2021 season was a little disappointing, but when you put up counting stats that jump off the page like 51 home runs and 120 RBIs and 4.9 fWAR in your rookie year, a 38-homer, 94 RBI, and 3.0 fWAR season will feel like a letdown to some.
Because of this, what Alonso did in 2021 may have actually wound up a little underrated, especially considering the stifling offensive environment that Citi Field turned out to be. His 133 wRC+ still ranks him among some of the best first basemen in the game, and there’s reason to believe Alonso was actually a better hitter in 2021 than he was in 2019.
For one, Alonso hit the ball harder last year by every single metric. His hard hit rates and average exit velocity were both career highs, and his Barrel% was in the same neighborhood as his 2019 output in that stat. In fact, Alonso had the most barrels turned into outs of any hitter across the league in 2021, and the video compilation of these is quite excruciating to watch. It was a rough season for Alonso as far as batted ball luck goes—and anyone who watched most Mets games could probably confirm that for you with the eye test—rather than an indicator of any lost skill. Keep in mind, he also was playing through a wrist issue for a handful of weeks that appeared to sap his power earlier in the year as well.
What’s more, he struck out just 19.9% of the time, a career-low for him, and not only hit for a slightly higher average than he did in 2019, but he made contact on more pitches (76.7%) than he had in either of his first two seasons as well. Alonso just looked like a far more complete hitter than he ever had at the big league level in 2021, and the underlying stats bear that out. His xWOBA of .377 was only three points off his 2019 xWOBA of .380, and 14 points higher than his actual 2021 wOBA.
So now Alonso enters his age-27 season once again as the anchor of the Mets’ lineup, and the Mets’ success rides largely on him continuing to mash. If he’s healthy, there’s no reason to think he can’t. For all the excitement he provides on the field, Alonso may be the most boring player to project this year—but that’s a good thing. When a player establishes a sustained level of performance at a high level without much deviation, you can’t expect much else. The biggest mystery left with Alonso is how many times he’ll rip his shirt off in any given year.