We will make it clear that we live in an era of fraud and suspicion these days, in all aspects of American life. The pursuit of the almighty dollar outweighs the ethics and morals of the past, and thus, we all should look at surprising things with skeptical eyes.
That being said, we are not accusing Oakland Athletics first baseman Yonder Alonso of using performance-enhancing drugs. However, we have to wonder if he is using them, because his production at the plate this year is way out of whack with what he’s done in the past and typical trends for aging ballplayers.
From 2010 to 2016, Alonso hit 39 home runs in 2,103 at-bats, for a HR rate of 53.9 overall. This season, the A’s lone All-Star representative has hit 21 HRs in just 285 ABs, for a HR rate of 13.6 in 2017. That’s a significant improvement at age 30, especially considering Alonso is playing half his games in a pitcher-friendly ballpark in Oakland.
Here is another interesting tidbit. Look at the differences in Alonso’s slash lines between the first seven seasons of his MLB career and this half season so far.
2010-16: .269/.334/.387 (.721 OPS)
2017: .267/.367/.540 (.907 OPS)
Alonso has talent; there is no denying this. He finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting back in 2012, and he’s stuck around in the league this long despite posting underwhelming numbers hitherto.
But look at this “change” in a famous PED user’s slash line around the same age.
First part of career: .290/.398/.556
Second part of career: .319/.505/.721
While Alonso’s batting average has actually gone down and his walk rate has gone up a wee bit—as the result of his newfound power, perhaps, and the opposing pitchers’ adjusted approach to throwing him strikes—the jump in slugging percentage is very suspicious, like the PED user lines above.
Alonso is a good bet to be traded this week (if he already hasn’t been by the time you read this), so we will have to see if his improvements keep pace with a new team in a new ballpark for the rest of 2017 and beyond.
Right now, though, it looks pretty suspicious.