Entering his eighth season in the big leagues, we had a lot of data to draw upon when figuring out what kind of hitter Yonder Alonso had been. “Power hitter” definitely wasn’t an adjective anyone would use — until this year.
The Oakland Athletics first baseman had hit just 39 homers through his first 2,343 plate appearances, but things have gone quite a bit differently through 101 plate appearances this season.
It took him a little while, but he’s finally making good on that promise of power when he landed in San Diego with the Padres. Better late than never, right?
There was a great article from FanGraphs early on in Spring Training that detailed some of the changes Alonso made over the winter in preparation for 2017. Outside of a change in mindset, one of the more noticeable differences was how his swing looked.
This article also noted that nobody had seen defensive shifts more than Alonso last season, and they got the better of him most of the time thanks to a 44.1% ground-ball rate. But this year? It’s the complete opposite of what we’re used to seeing with the first baseman.
Throughout his career, Alonso had produced a 44.6% ground-ball rate and just a 33.3% fly-ball rate. So far in 2017, those numbers have changed to 25.0% and 51.5%, respectively. It doesn’t hurt that his soft-hit rate (11.8%) and hard-hit rate (39.7%) are some of the best marks of his career when looking at the years in which he’s received ample playing time.
Hitting more fly balls is preferred in today’s game since everything is focused around power, but simply lifting the ball more often doesn’t mean success will immediately follow — the peripheral stats have to be there, too.
Thankfully for Alonso, they are.
Check out his performance on fly balls in various areas since the 2015 season below.
With the game changing around him, Alonso decided to make a change in his approach, and it looks like he’s on his way to a career year in the power department. He’s also done this at the perfect time — he’s set to be a free agent at the end of this season.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball, contributes to The Sports Daily and is also an editor for numberFire. In the past, he has also written for FanDuel Insider and Bleacher Report. He’s a lover of all baseball, especially the Mets.