Alonso's torrid HR pace continues: 'I feel really, really good'

May 24th, 2023

CHICAGO -- is on pace for 60 home runs.

This is no trick of small sample sizes, nor is it a hot start rooted in the type of luck that can’t be sustained. This is simply Alonso at the height of his powers: arguably the top slugger in the game today, capable of going deep at any time. His solo homer in the fourth inning of a 7-2 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday was his MLB-leading 18th of the season, putting him three clear of anyone else.

Technically, his pace is 59.5, but baseball mathematicians like to round up. In either case, a year after Aaron Judge became the first player since Barry Bonds to hit 60 in a season, Alonso has at least an outside chance to join that club.

“I just feel like I’m in a really good spot,” said Alonso, who now has seven career homers in 12 games at Wrigley Field. “I’m in control of my at-bats, and really just understanding what I can and can’t handle.”

Consider these Polar Bear home run facts:

  • Alonso’s 164 homers since his debut are 14 more than anyone else in the Majors over that stretch. In second place is Judge, at 151.
  • He is tied with Lucas Duda for the most home runs in Citi Field history, with 71. Alonso achieved that feat in 262 fewer plate appearances than Duda.
  • He and Mike Piazza are the only Mets to homer in four straight games multiple times in their careers.
  • The total projected distance of his homers this season -- 7,294 feet -- is roughly the span between home plate at Citi Field and runway 13/31 at LaGuardia.

Alonso’s 18th homer was like so many others in his career, a straightaway shot to center. Part of his ability to go deep so often stems from his talent of hitting to all fields. Much of the rest is a result of his plate discipline, which tends to ebb and flow. When he’s going well, Alonso noted, he rarely offers at pitches outside the zone. That allows him to wreak more havoc with his swings.

“You try not to talk too much about it,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s making a lot of loud collisions. And he’s been pretty consistent. He’s had very few [dry] stretches. That’s hard to do.”

The challenge, for Alonso, will be maintaining this sort of production over 162 games. That means posting up nearly every day, as Alonso has already proven an ability to do. Since his rookie season, Alonso has played in 97.3% of the Mets’ games, most recently homering on four straight nights despite a sinus infection that kept him ill for the better part of a week.

Then there is the matter of staying hot for four more months. The sample size of this 2023 season may no longer be tiny, but it’s small enough that almost anything still can happen.

Consider: in AL/NL history, there have been 63 instances of a player hitting at least 18 homers over his team’s first 49 games. Only five of those players, or around 8%, went on to hit 60 homers -- the most recent being Judge last season. Four others homered 60-plus times without the benefit of such a hot start.

“Every season’s its own entity, but I do feel really, really good right now,” Alonso said. “I just need to stay right here where I’m at, and just try and stack as many good at-bats together as possible.”

For Alonso’s team, the challenge is finding production from anyone else. The Mets are 11-6 (.647) when Alonso homers, with the latest loss going on Tylor Megill’s ledger. They are 14-18 (.438) when he does not.

So dependent are the Mets on their star slugger that their fate rested on him, once again, with the bases loaded Tuesday and no outs in the sixth. Unable to come through on that occasion, Alonso rolled over a Jeremiah Estrada fastball for an RBI fielder’s choice, and the next two Mets went down in order. The team mustered two additional hits all night, neither of those offering anything close to the impact of an Alonso long ball.

“We had a couple opportunities,” Showalter said. “Not many, but you’ve got to cash those in when you’re that far behind.”