McNeil Does All He Can Do To Beat You
Maybe it is a function of being a 12th round draft pick and coming from a school, Cal State Long Beach, which is not exactly a baseball hotbed. Perhaps, this is the result of being a player who has dealt with his share of injuries. Certainly, 26 year old rookies usually have a little extra to prove. It’s always possible this was instilled in him as a child, and he continues to play the game this way.
No matter what the explanation, Jeff McNeil never takes a play off, and he does all the things he can do to beat you.
At the plate, McNeil makes contact with nearly everything. He doesn’t get fooled making contact on nearly 90 percent of the pitches he swings at, and he has only struck out 10.6 percent of the time, which is the sixth lowest rate in the majors. He has improved his walk rates, and he is hitting the ball harder than he did last year.
In the field, he has not just been versatile, but he’s been good wherever he’s been put. So far this year, he has a positive DRS at second, third, and left field. This is partially due to his having good speed. It’s also the result of his hard work and dedication to getting better.
If you break it down, McNeil has been Ichiro Suzuki like at the plate, and he has been a better version of Ben Zobrist in the field. Given his hard nose mentality, his moving around the field, and his ability, it would not be a stretch to say McNeil is reminiscent of Pete Rose, you know, without the gambling and being a complete jerk.
With McNeil, it’s not just how he comes to beat you at the plate or in the field. He does the little things well too which mostly go under the radar. We saw that last night on Amed Rosario‘s game winning RBI single:
And they say Jeff McNeil isn't known for his defense. pic.twitter.com/ZvOMCSgTqs
— Roger Cormier (@yayroger) May 22, 2019
There’s a couple of things to remember here. First, McNeil didn’t have to move an inch on the play. With their being two outs, and Adeiny Hechavarria being on third base, his lone job was not to do something stupid and make an out. Taking that into account re-watch McNeil on that play.
The entire time he is facing Trea Turner. His eyes are fixed on Turner’s eyes, and he is shifting down the line. At the last moment he slides into Turner’s throwing path. Turner’s throw was a little high, and Rosario, who as David Sadler of MLB.com points out, was running at a speed equivalent to Billy Hamilton or Byron Buxton. Rosario deserves all the credit in the world, and if not for his hustle, there’s zero chance he’s safe.
That said, you can’t help but wonder what impact McNeil had on the play. Rosario beat out that throw by a hair, which means event he slightest hesitation by Turner could have led to his being safe. You could argue McNeil’s dancing around created that split second.
And maybe it didn’t. It doesn’t change the fact McNeil didn’t take that play off. Just like he does at the plate and in the field, he found a way to try to impact the game and give his team the best chance to win. In that moment, we saw just what a special player he is and just how lucky the Mets are to have him.