Mets head to DC, and Jeff McNeil appears to be back in business
Mets enter play on Tuesday as one of three teams with 20 wins in MLB
What’s Up with the Mets? ⚾️
The Mets were off on Monday, but enter play on Tuesday as one of three teams with 20 wins on the year (Yankees, Angels are the others)
The Mets enter play on Tuesday with a 3.24 team ERA and a .256 team batting average, the second-best marks in the National League, an NL-high 117 wRC+
The Mets are 6-4 during their current 13-game stretch against National League East opponents - they are 11-6 so far this season against the division and their six game lead over Atlanta represents the largest divisional lead in MLB
Today’s Game 🗓
Match-up: Mets (20-10) @ Nationals (10-20)
Where: Nationals Park — Washington, DC
Starters: TBA vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (0-5, 7.16 ERA)
Where to Watch: SNY
When: 7:05 PM EDT
Jeff McNeil’s renaissance could be for real 📝
What a difference a couple of months make.
It was just this past fall rumors began raging about the Mets possibly trading Jeff McNeil to address an area of need. Said rumors continued during the lockout, at one point there being a report in Sports Illustrated the Mets intended to make McNeil available once the lockout was over after a tumultuous 2021 season in which McNeil’s performance plummeted and his temper flared.
But amidst those trade rumors, there wasn’t really a permutation where McNeil’s departure made them better. Among the three players presumably on the block - McNeil, JD Davis and Dominic Smith - McNeil presented the highest upside of the three, thereby making it logical to bet on McNeil actually looking like McNeil in 2022, the player who hit .319/.383/.501 from his debut in 2018 through the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The Mets decided to hold McNeil and take that bet. So far, that bet has proven wise.
"You see your name come up,” McNeil told Pat Ragazzo of SI in March. “But I'm just glad to be back, so I can do what I can to help this team."
"You just kind of put that behind you, and It's all business now,” he said.
Business has in fact been business for McNeil in the early going. In a good way. Through McNeil’s first 28 games, he’s hitting .323/.387/.448 with a 148 OPS+ and a 149 wRC+.
Perhaps the greatest sign this renaissance is for real is that he has just one home run.
Why is that relevant? Because starting somewhere in the middle of the 2019 season, McNeil’s approach at the plate clearly shifted into that which he was seeking to pull the ball and seek more power. In large measure, that approach proved successful for him at the cost of contact to all field - he hit 16 home runs in his final 55 games in 2019 while hitting “just” .272.
McNeil did post an .836 OPS in 52 games during the 2020 season, but it of course all snowballed during the 2021 season when this approach along with his temper at times failed him (he and the Mets can deny or downplay the temper all they want - it was right there in front of the fans to be seen). In the end, McNeil was left with a .679 OPS, unable to hit breaking pitches and adjust to a league which had clearly adjusted to McNeil’s new game.
Now, there are a lot of folks who believe McNeil hit into some bad luck last year. To be fair, most every player who steps into a batters box over the course of 162 games has some bad luck. Someone will rob them of a hit, the player will hit a ball hard somewhere and defensive alignment will plague him.
It’s just what happens - look at McNeil’s luck last Wednesday against the Braves when he was robbed of a home run in right field.
McNeil’s expected batting average (XBA) in 2021 was .257, which wasn’t too far off from his actual .251 average (which, as we know is the actual result). So there wasn’t a whole lot of bad luck built into McNeil’s subpar season. In the end, a bad year is what it is anyway, just that.
But the conversation has very much changed for McNeil now. His swing has leveled out his approach has shifted back to that which McNeil employed earlier in his career, and the results are reflecting that work and discipline to-date. Like his teammates, he isn’t hitting a lot of balls hard, but that’s not McNeil’s game when he’s on anyway. He’s the kind of hitter who will bleed the opposition to death with slap hits the other way, drag bunts up the line, and honestly, “good luck” kind of hits just in front of an outfielder or an infield single too deep in the hole for a play to be made.
That’s the catalyst McNeil needs to be in order to be successful.
The result? 11 multi-hit games in the season’s first 28. An on-base percentage of .387. 21 of his 31 hits so far this season hit up the middle or to the opposite field. A .914 OPS with runners in scoring position.
This is an All-Star in the making. So far.
Down on the Farm 🌾
Francisco Álvarez (C, No. 1 Prospect, Double-A): .215/.315/.443, 4 HR, 14 RBI
Brett Baty (3B, No. 2 Prospect, Double-A): .264/.350/.385, 8 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI
Ronny Mauricio (SS, No. 3 Prospect, Double-A) .255/.293/.447, 3 HR, 12 RBI
Alex Ramirez (OF, No. 6 Prospect, Single-A): Florida State League Player of the Week (.536, 6 XBH)
All Mets minor league affiliates were off on Monday
Around the League 🚩
Yankees LHP Nestor Cortes took a no-hitter into the seventh as he helped his club to a 1-0 victory over the Rangers
Josh Naylor recorded eight RBI - all after the eighth inning - as the Guardians defeated the White Sox 12-9 in Chicago
Shohei Ohtani hit his first career grand slam and Mike Trout also homered as the Angels walloped the Rays 12-3