Yonder Alonso hasn’t been dazzling for the Indians, but he’s been a serviceable bat in the lineup. At least as far as the season as a whole goes.
After Monday night in Boston and his 1-for-4 performance, though, he’s seen his wRC+ slip below 100 — 99, as of this writing. Which isn’t dreadful of course, right now among non-Yandy regulars it’s the fifth best on the team. It’s not the ideal for a first baseman, but it’s what he’s doing. We judge players based on their seasons of course, at least once it ends. But the problem is, the season is a series of instances, of streaks and cold spells and long stretches of games.
And for a two month stretch, Alonso has been simply terrible.
Alonso himself did a good job of glossing over this fact just after the All-Star break. From the 20th to the 30th of July he hit .324/.435/.824, knocking five of his 20 home runs. It was awesome. It was also a bit of a mirage, where Alonso got to hit in Texas and Detroit, against Texas and Detroit.
Overall, since June 22nd, Alonso’s batting line is a paltry .239/.294/.420, good for an 89 wRC+. It’s a seemingly arbitrary point, but it’s also about half his season, 194 of his 456 plate appearances. It’s two months almost exactly though, and the human brain does love round chunks of time. If we split it back to exactly half his season or thereabouts, over his last 229 at-bats Alonso his hitting .246/.306/.420. So however you split it, he’s just been pretty bad.
It’s one of the reasons some among us have badgered about the need for another bat, whether through a trade or from the farm. The move hasn’t been made though, so the struggles continue. One has to wonder why. Alonso, being left-handed, is quite a bit worse against left-handed pitching with a 72 wRC+ against southpaws compared to 108 against righties. But since mid-June Alonso has actually faced slightly less lefties, 24.2 percent of pitchers since June 22nd compared to 24.8 prior to that date.
The only major shift I’ve seen is a moderate cutting back on fastballs over the last couple months:
This year he’s whiffing on 42.9 percent of the breaking pitches he’s swung at, 24.6 percent of off-speed pitches and just 14.6 percent of fastballs and sinkers. So it’s what adjustment looks like I suppose. I don’t think anyone expected Alonso to recapture the heights he found in 2017, when he blasted a 146 wRC+ in the first half, but the 113 he posted after the break would certainly be nice.
I wrote back in May about how we were waiting for Alonso to erupt. He was doing everything well that leads to big numbers — good exit velo, hitting fly balls, walking a solid amount — he was just a bit unlucky. Not much has changed. His walk rate has fallen to 8.3 percent since mid-June compared to 9.5 prior to that, and a far cry from the 13.1 percent he posted last year. So maybe he’s pressing, or falling back on old habits, or it could be that the balls that he hit last year that traveled over the fence simply aren’t this year. The home run per fly ball rate this year is 12.4 percent, a decent fall from the record 13.7 percent last year. So for someone like Yonder who found his new swing and started hitting dingers in that insane environment, it could be a piece to the puzzle of where his power went.
He can still run into a pitch now and again, and this slump will surely be offset by another mini eruption. Especially since the rest of the schedule is against some pretty terrible teams. Like I said before, the season is simply a series of instances, of chunks of games that cobble together to tell a story of a player’s year. When you start parsing it down it can get a bit discouraging. Alonso will swing back at some point, you just have to hope it’s at the right time.