Sunday, May 5

Is Pete Alonso the Biggest Home Run Hitter of All Time?

Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

Pete Alonso is a specialist. He’s not a kind of boring varieties, although: defensive alternative, pinch-runner, lengthy reliever, LOOGY, the listing goes on and on. He’s the type of specialist that each group would take extra of: a house run specialist. You may not discover it, as a result of each star hitter is seemingly additionally a slugger today, however Alonso isn’t like the remainder of them. He’s on the market for the house runs, and all the pieces else about his recreation merely works in assist of that.

That’s a imprecise assertion, however I actually assume it’s true. To me, there’s no participant in baseball in the present day who’s a extra pure dwelling run hitter. Given that we play in one of many homer-happiest eras in baseball historical past, and that gamers in the present day practice tougher than at any level previously, he is likely to be the very best dwelling run hitter of all time.

Let’s begin with a easy truth: since Alonso debuted in 2019, nobody has hit extra dwelling runs. He’s 13 homers away from Aaron Judge in second place, with a whopping 156. This isn’t a case of a pile of extra-base hits with some going over the wall, both. Of the highest 15 homer hitters in that span, solely Judge has the next proportion of dwelling runs as a share of all extra-base hits. Alonso isn’t up there spraying balls into the hole; he’s up there making an attempt to offer followers souvenirs:

Top 15 Home Run Hitters, ’19-’23

Want a catch-all description for the sorts of batted balls that flip into dwelling runs? You must hit the ball within the air, however not too excessive, and you must hit it laborious. More particularly, 98.2% of dwelling runs hit because the begin of 2022 have had a launch angle between 15 and 40 levels, and 98.5% of dwelling runs got here off the bat at 95 mph or tougher. In the air, laborious: it’s a easy recipe.

Across all of baseball, hitters attempt to do exactly that. Since Alonso debuted, 15.4% of all batted balls have happy these standards. Alonso checks in proper round 20%, within the high quintile of all main league hitters on this specific metric. He’s additionally nice at much more doubtless dwelling runs; slender these bands to 100 mph or tougher and 20–35 levels, and he stands out simply as a lot. Six p.c of all batted balls match these buckets; Alonso is within the 88th percentile throughout all batters with a ten% charge.

You’ll discover that these numbers aren’t the 99th percentile. Alonso is de facto good at lifting the ball, however not the very best. He’s actually good at hitting the ball laborious, however not the very best. He has one thing else working in his favor, although. Many dwelling run hitters replenish on empty energy — walks and strikeouts that might by no means flip into dwelling runs as a result of they’re not even a ball in play. Strikeouts are clearly unhealthy, and in case your goal is to hit a house run, walks aren’t significantly better (they’re barely higher as a result of they make it extra doubtless that you simply’ll get to bat once more). Alonso doesn’t have that downside.

Let’s check out that listing of the highest dwelling run hitters once more. This time, I’m going so as to add one other column: proportion of plate appearances that finish with out contact. That means walks, strikeouts, and HBPs. You can see two classes of hitter on this listing: highly effective guys like Judge and Schwarber who stroll and strike out pretty usually in pursuit of launching bombs; and bat management varieties who hit their dwelling runs as a result of they put a ton of balls in play total, like Semien, Devers, Arenado, and Ramírez:

Homers and Non-Contact Rate, ’19-’23

Player HR % HR Non-Contact %
Pete Alonso 156 61.9% 34.3%
Aaron Judge 143 65.3% 41.6%
Kyle Schwarber 132 60.8% 41.3%
Matt Olson 129 52.7% 36.3%
Eugenio Suarez 128 60.4% 41.9%
Rafael Devers 116 41.6% 28.4%
Max Muncy 115 59.6% 40.7%
Nolan Arenado 115 47.9% 22.4%
Marcus Semien 115 44.9% 27.0%
Mike Trout 115 56.9% 41.2%
Shohei Ohtani 110 51.6% 38.8%
Manny Machado 109 49.8% 28.5%
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 109 49.8% 26.8%
Paul Goldschmidt 108 46.6% 33.8%
José Ramírez 108 42.4% 24.9%

Alonso stands proud. No one else who crests the 50% mark when it comes to homers-per-extra-base-hit places the ball in play extra continuously than he does. And he’s not precisely sneaking over that fifty% line, both: he’s second solely to Judge in dwelling run share, as we already mentioned up above.

That mixture of frequent balls in play and in addition frequent dwelling runs is exclusive. Every different hitter who maximizes their extra-base hits like Alonso does racks up a ton of strikeouts and walks within the discount. Everyone who has a equally ball-in-play-oriented recreation does so by sacrificing no less than some contact high quality. I’m not saying that Arenado doesn’t hit the ball laborious, however he’s not hitting it Alonso laborious. You simply can’t reside in that blissful realm of big harm on contact and frequent contact — except, in fact, you’re Pete Alonso.

We’ve already squarely left the realm of making an attempt to determine who the very best hitter is. Counting walks and strikeouts as equal dealt with that, to say the least. Since I’m trying to find the very best total dwelling run hitter, although, I’m about to introduce some additional proof in Alonso’s favor that’s hardly primarily based on WAR or something approaching it.

One underrated consider launching a ton of dwelling runs is availability. You can’t hit a house run should you’re taking a time off to relaxation or on the shelf with a hamstring pressure, or any variety of different causes {that a} participant would possibly miss time. I’m fully prepared to imagine that managing taking part in time decrease is an effective way to forestall harm, however to be the best dwelling run hitter of all time, you possibly can’t be taking days off. That means taking part in first base, the least taxing place on the sector, and avoiding harm.

Alonso succeeds on each counts. He’s fifth within the majors in plate appearances because the starting of the 2019 season, behind Semien (really exceptional for a center infielder) and three first basemen. To the extent that exhibiting up day-after-day makes Alonso an amazing dwelling run hitter, he has that fully coated. Maybe Mike Trout can be the very best dwelling run hitter of our technology if he didn’t miss a number of time with harm, however, nicely…

When you place all of it collectively, Alonso’s document is tough to high. He lifts and elevates. He doesn’t run a gaudy stroll charge or a hideous strikeout charge, which suggests extra balls in play. He reveals up day-after-day, which suggests extra possibilities to place a ball in play. Add all of it up, and I really feel assured in saying no less than this a lot: Alonso is the very best dwelling run hitter of our technology.

The pure subsequent query: how does he stack up with nice dwelling run hitters traditionally? Is his most up-to-date four-year run one for the historical past books? In a phrase, no. This is tough to understand, however Mark McGwire hit 245 homers from 1996 to ’99, and Sammy Sosa hit 243 homers from ’98 to 2001. That’s 60 a 12 months. No quantity of massaging goes to get Alonso to that degree.

That mentioned, some quantity of massaging is required. The pesky shortened 2020 season makes it laborious to check Alonso’s output to his historic counterparts. I attempted two totally different strategies to account for it. First, I took his common plate appearances per 12 months in each different season and pro-rated his dwelling runs as much as that quantity. That added 29 homers, for a complete of 173 in 4 years. That’s a top-40 efficiency of all time. Second, I ignored 2020 and in contrast his run in ’19, ’21, and ’22 to the very best three-season totals. That’s a top-70 efficiency of all time, although nicely behind McGwire’s ridiculous 193 from 1997 to ’99. In both case, Alonso is a good dwelling run hitter, however he’s not on the very best four-year run of all time.

Given that, I suppose I’d say that Alonso isn’t one of many high few dwelling run hitters of all time but, no less than when it comes to what number of he’s hit to start out his profession. The proven fact that he’s even in that dialogue in any respect is spectacular for somebody who didn’t debut till 24, although, and he has loads of time so as to add to his document. He would possibly by no means attain the wild ranges of the late 90s dwelling run chase heroes, however nobody in baseball in the present day seems like a greater guess to churn out 45-homer seasons 12 months after 12 months for the foreseeable future.

If you wish to make an argument that Alonso is the very best pure dwelling run hitter of all time, there’s nonetheless a case. It boils all the way down to this: baseball gamers are the very best they’ve ever been. Every pitcher throws 95 mph with a wipeout slider, each hitter lifts weights and watches video nonstop. Baseball is professionalized to a degree that dwarfs previous eras, and in that period of widespread enchancment and coaching, Alonso is the very best there may be in terms of hitting dwelling runs.

Really, it’s all tutorial. Where Alonso ranks on some listing of previous retired dwelling run hitters doesn’t have quite a bit to do with what he’s going to do tomorrow. But he’ll most likely hit a house run tomorrow, or the following day if not. He’s constructed for it. He’s constructed for it greater than anybody else taking part in proper now. At the tip of the day, that’s the one factor I can say for sure.

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