SAN FRANCISCO — Pete Alonso has been garnering plenty of attention through the first 20 games of the 2023 season for what he’s been doing with the bat, but Mets manager Buck Showalter would like for his first baseman to get a little more attention for what he’s been doing defensively.
“The thing that’s caught my eye is how good he’s moving at first base,” Showalter said Saturday morning at Oracle Park. “I think he physically kind of wore on him a little bit last year. And he really went into the offseason trying to gain another advantage.”
Analytics show that Alonso has improved his lateral movement and Showalter said that matches up with the eye test. Part of that might be a result of the shift limitations but part of it might be the offseason “deep dive” that Alonso did into his own game.
But it’s tough to ignore the offensive numbers that Alonso continues to put up: He came into Saturday’s game leading the league in home runs (10), tied for the league lead in RBI (23) and owns the sixth-best OPS in the league (1.047).
“I feel like I’m more of a complete player,” Alonso said earlier this week in San Francisco. “I feel like I’m playing really well on both sides of the ball offensively and defensively and I feel like I’m running the bases well.”
Alonso lost some weight in the offseason, which has helped with the baserunning, but he has become more discerning with his pitch selection as well. He hit two home runs in two nights against the San Francisco Giants and has driven in eight runs over that span.
“I feel really good and I feel in control right now,” Alonso said. “It’s a really good feeling. I’m taking pitches and borderline pitches and capitalizing on pitches in my zone right now.”
The 2019 NL Rookie of the Year isn’t chasing pitches out of the zone as much and he’s laying off some of the pitches on the corner. Showalter has lauded his ability to take his emotions out of his at-bat and instead take a more analytical approach to them.
Questions have persisted about whether or not the Mets need more power to compete in the NL East, but Alonso has been helping to power the Mets past opponents with his clutch home runs and timely run-scoring hits. While the Mets struggled a bit to get the lineup hot over the first few weeks of the season, it’s been scorching on this West Coast trip, with Alonso leading the charge.
“I’m in complete control of when I swing the bat,” he said. “If they make a high-quality pitch on the corner, most of the time I’m not going to do anything with it. Most of the time I’ve been able to not swing at those pitches and I feel like my chase has been pretty consistently down throughout the first three weeks or so. But I feel pretty good and I feel really good with the quality of swing decisions I’m making and I feel like overall I’m just playing really good ball right now.”
Las Vegas oddsmakers have Alonsos listed as an early NL MVP candidate. Should he continue playing like this on both sides of the ball, he’ll continue to be at the forefront of that conversation as the season unfolds.
The Mets will keep left-hander Joey Lucchesi in the lineup through another turn after a dominant performance in their win over the Giants on Friday night, but the Mets’ pitching problems are persisting with another starter needed to take the place of Max Scherzer on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.
Right-hander Jose Butto is not pitching this weekend for Triple-A Syracuse in case he is needed in New York, but he can only be called up in the event of another injury since he was only optioned earlier in the week.
The Mets think Carlos Carrasco (bone spurs in right elbow) is about “two or three days away” from throwing again and Justin Verlander (teres major strain) is set to throw live batting practice Sunday in Port St. Lucie. But the Mets will have to make sure both come out of their workouts without issue before setting tentative dates for their respective returns.