Jeff McNeil isn’t a lot of a numbers man.
In the alphabet soup of recent offensive statistics — OPS, wRC, EV, LA and the remaining — he stays keen on outdated reasonable, which is why his batting name this season intended such a lot to him. Manager Buck Showalter says at all times: McNeil loves knocks. Last yr, when the Mets had an analytics-heavy technique to hitting and getting ready for hitting, it was once “a little overwhelming,” he mentioned. This yr, he led all major-league hitters with a .326 reasonable.
But there’s one set of splits he does mull, a favourite that speaks to how he perspectives baseball.
“I like to kind of look at my numbers against the shift versus not the shift,” mentioned McNeil, who decidedly doesn’t hate it when a group places 3 infielders at the proper facet, leaving the left gaping. “It shows that I’ve been able to kind of beat that this year and go the other way. It just shows a lot to my approach.”
An manner that Showalter, via the way in which, a great deal appreciates. In addition to being defensively versatile, enjoying 2d base, leftfield and rightfield this season (and 3rd base in seasons previous), McNeil has served as one thing of a application hitter, too.
Does Brandon Nimmo desire a time off? Slot McNeil proper into the leadoff spot. Showalter did that 5 instances this yr.
Moving round Francisco Lindor? McNeil is excited to take his spot batting 3rd, which came about on 21 events.
Is Pete Alonso likewise positioned in other places? You can be completely positive that McNeil is a contented — and succesful — cleanup hitter. He crammed in for his extra conventional slugging buddy 3 times.
Unable to discover a dependable No. 5 hitter, an issue a lot of the yr? McNeil was once there for 39 begins, his most at anyone spot.
McNeil doesn’t care the place he hits. He cares about hitting.
“I like hitting anywhere. It doesn’t really matter,” McNeil mentioned. “I think I fit everywhere in the lineup this year. I feel comfortable no matter where he puts me. My job is to get on base and have guys drive me in. Doesn’t matter where I am in the lineup. Just going to do my job.”
Incredibly, in spite of his good fortune, McNeil spent a good portion of his season in the ground part of the lineup. That integrated 33 begins batting 6th, 18 begins batting 7th and 23 begins batting 8th.
“His ego about where he hits in the lineup has been key to this,” Showalter mentioned. “His ability to move around and present challenges through the lineup was big for us.”
With the volume of high quality hitters the Mets had this yr — their best 4 in the order remained in large part strong in Nimmo, Starling Marte, Lindor and Alonso — having a contact-focused participant like McNeil proved massive for Showalter.
The advantages of sticking McNeil close to the ground integrated his talent to wash up no matter baserunners the center hitters left on, or simply achieve base and assist flip the lineup over to get Nimmo & Co. again up the plate faster.
Lots of hitters say they like procedure over effects. If they ship a difficult line power at once at a fielder and it turns into an out, so be it, they did what they may do and it simply didn’t figure out.
That has a tendency to be much less true for McNeil, who isn’t frightened of slamming his helmet in frustration over so-called onerous outs. But dribblers and bloops? Ugly hits are hits nevertheless.
“Where could you not hit him in the lineup?” Showalter mentioned. “Sometimes when he would flip the lineup at the bottom was huge for us. The ability to be a weapon — he’s not an out against lefthanded pitching. He doesn’t care about how it looks or how he holds the bat or what his choke looks like.”
Such is the wonderful thing about a throwback like McNeil, a profession. 307 hitter. That is 3rd highest in the majors since he debuted in 2018. He has been an All-Star in two of his 3 complete seasons. He would possibly neatly obtain down-ballot NL MVP votes this yr.
“I take my deep breath before every single bat, which kind of helps me slow things down,” he mentioned. “Once I get in the box, I’m always ready to go, always ready to swing.”