Yonder Alonso hit nine homers in 2012. That was his rookie season with the San Diego Padres. He played in 155 games that year and finished sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
It’s safe to say that Alonso isn’t the prototypical slugging MLB first baseman — because those nine homers still stand as his career high. When he takes the field for the Oakland Athletics, nobody is expecting Mark McGwire. But that might be changing a bit in 2017.
Alonso, in 29 games this season, has already tied that career-high with nine homers. Let’s see if he can set a new personal best in Monday night’s game between the A’s and Los Angeles Angels. It’s the MLB Free Game of the Day on Yahoo Sports, starting at 10:05 p.m. ET. You can stream the game on the Yahoo Sports MLB page, in the Game of the Day tab or in this very post once action gets underway.
About that power surge: Alonso has homered in the previous two A’s games, including two in Saturday’s win. He’s hit five in the last six games, which was enough to also win him AL Player of the Week honors. He hit a silly .409/.480/1.136 last week with those five homers and 10 RBIs in six games.
It may not be a random hot streak either. Alonso lit up spring training this year and is hitting .311 in the young season, which is much higher than his .253 average a year ago. The difference? Alonso told Eno Sarris at Fangraphs that he’s tweaked both his swing and hit intent at the plate.
“Did some mechanical things but also intent was important,” Alonso said. “I’m trying to punish it more, get it in the air.”
Punish the ball? Sounds McGwire-ian.
Mechanically, Alonso has started to lift his front foot more and finish his swing higher, both of which will lead to more fly balls. Fly balls don’t always equal home runs, of course. Sometimes they’re just longer outs. But Alonso — for now at least — seems to have cracked the formula within himself.
He may never be McGwire, but consider this about Alonso’s hot start: In 1996, the year McGwire hit 52 homers for the A’s, he hit 10 homers in his first 29 games of the season. If nothing else, we can say Alonso is having a McGwire-like start to 2017.
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