Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Right Approach

I was watching the Mets blow out the Blue Jays in game 1 of their series last night. While I obviously enjoyed watching the  Mets give Jacob deGrom an overabundance of support for the second game in a row, one thing I didn't enjoy was watching Pete Alonso's struggles. One at-bat in particular, where he worked himself into a positive count and then basically struck himself out by chasing 3 bad pitches in a row left me shaking my head afterward.

For what it's worth, I still am bullish on Pete's future in New York. There's a lot of talent there, and players like Pete who embrace playing in New York tend to do well here. And Alonso isn't the first player who took a step backward in his second season in MLB. The sophomore slump is a well-known baseball occurrence. Pete enjoyed a lot of success last season as a rookie, and his greatest success was in hitting home runs. But the Pete I saw last year, although a bit raw, was just a better hitter than the Pete I've been watching this season. For those of you who have been around long enough to remember, the Pete I'm watching this season seems to me a bad imitation of Dave Kingman, a one-dimensional slugger who made baseballs disappear when he got a hold of one but also got himself out regularly with his all or nothing approach.

This is quite an oddball season, as you well know, and I'm sure that has contributed to Pete's struggles. But there's also some opportunity for Pete in the very shortness of this season. He can spend the offseason analyzing where it went wrong for him in 2020, and have a brand new fresh start in 2021. What I hope he thinks about is how to make himself into the best hitter that he can be, not just how to maximize home run totals.

It brings to my mind bigger questions about baseball in general and ties into what I started writing about Thursday, changes I might be looking to implement if I was the billionaire getting ready to take over the Mets later this fall. I'd want my organization to feature an offensive philosophy that would emphasize a balanced approach to hitting, similar to the one Michael Conforto has been enjoying success with this year, hitting the ball where it's pitched rather than trying to pull everything. I'd want hitters in my organization to be taught a 2 strike approach that emphasized cutting their swing down a bit and trying to make contact.

I'm not talking about turning everyone into slappy singles hitters. As much success as Pete Alonso had in hitting home runs last season, he also hit 30 doubles. In this season of repeated struggles, he only has 4 two-base hits. It's been somewhat all-or-nothing for him this year. He's struck out 50 times in 44 games, and he's batting .221. He's not a guy that seems likely to ever be a .300 hitter, but he has the talent to be a better hitter.

Part of the reason strikeouts are up so high in recent years is the high number of pitchers who throw very hard and have filthy breaking stuff to complement their heat. But a huge contributing factor is hitters with a fairly one-dimensional approach that are easy prey for these pitchers. I'm getting mighty tired of watching them in action. I hope Pete takes what happened to him this season and resolves to come back next year as a better all-around hitter. He could still hit plenty of home runs with all of his natural power.

Beyond that, I really do hope the Mets instill a coherent philosophy in their organization that emphasizes being hitters. It doesn't mean everyone would have to be carbon copies of each other, but as a whole, I would love to see just a better approach to hitting become a part of the "Mets way" of doing things.

I'll be back tomorrow with a full post. Until then, please stay safe, be well and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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