Mets Lost Faith In Jeff McNeil Again

If we hearken back to the 2018 season, the New York Mets were languishing, and Todd Frazier landed on the IL for the first time in his career. Jose Reyes was just flat out terrible, Wilmer Flores was at first, and David Wright, well, he wasn’t an option. Down in Double-A Binghamton, Jeff McNeil was flat out raking. He just kept hitting and hitting and hitting.

The answer seemed obvious to everyone. Everyone, that is, except Sandy Alderson and the New York Mets. When pressed on calling up McNeil to play third base, the answer was McNeil was a second baseman only. Of course, the irony there was McNeil was the Binghamton Rumble Ponies Opening Day third baseman.

Back then, it was difficult to ascertain how much of personnel decisions were driven by Jeff Wilpon, whomever Wilpon decided to listen on any given day, or Alderson. Whatever the case, McNeil would eventually get the call-up, prove himself, and he would go on to have an All-Star season in 2019.

Since 2019, things have gone quite uneven for McNeil as it has for the rest of us. In the end, what we do know with McNeil is he is an exceptionally gifted contact hitter, and he is a fiery player who you could trust defensively at four different positions.

According to Baseball Savant, McNeil has a career 3 OAA at second, 3 OAA at third, and -1 OAA in left field. DRS has a much better picture with McNeil having a 5 DRS at second, 6 DRS at third, and a 3 DRS in left field. All told, McNeil is not a Gold Glove, but he is a very solid defender at multiple positions.

As noted, McNeil could hit. Entering this season, McNeil had a 139 wRC+. Since his debut, he has been the 13th best hitter in the majors, and he trailed only Brandon Nimmo among Mets players. All told, McNeil has established himself as a very good, versatile, and valuable Major League player. Despite that, we are seemingly back at square one with McNeil.

With the acquisition of Francisco Lindor, and his preference to hit near the top of the lineup, McNeil was dropped from the top two spots, where he thrived, to sixth and seventh in the lineup. Perhaps it was the drop in the lineup, the new baseball, the delay to the season, the typical influence Chili Davis has on his teams, the pandemic, or just the normal ebbs and flows of the season, but McNeil has struggled.

The thing is, he didn’t quite struggle right away. In fact, to start the season, McNeil was tattooing the ball. Unfortunately, he was not getting any luck. Balls he normally hit for singles and doubles weren’t falling in anymore. The Mets reaction to that was to sit him after the Mets first two games of the season.

That has become an emerging pattern for McNeil. So far, the Mets have played 17 games, and McNeil has only started in 14 of them. The only projected starter who has started in fewer games is J.D. Davis, but that was only because Davis landed on the IL after getting hit by a pitch early in the season.

Davis is somewhat illustrative of the problem here. Davis has again been a nightmare defensively. He’s already a -2 DRS and a -1 OAA at third. He made errors directly impacting his team and leading Taijuan Walker and David Peterson to have shorter starts. The end result was just one game off, where he still appeared as a pinch hitter, and he was put right back in the lineup.

For some reason, Davis is able to work through his problems despite them not being fixable. For McNeil, this is very clearly a blip, but he keeps getting relegated to the bench. Instead of getting to see more pitches and get into a rhythms, the Mets are doing to the opposite. In fact, they’re just setting him up to continue to struggle.

Perhaps, this is just Alderson resting back on previous biases towards players from his first stint with the Mets. Taking a broader look, Dominic Smith has had some similar struggles getting into the lineup. In fact, the Mets have begun using him as a platoon bat. That’s despite him being one of the Mets best hitters against left-handed pitching.

To some extent, McNeil is also being used as a platoon player. For example, he was also not in the lineup against Patrick Corbin. More likely, McNeil is just being punished for struggling. For some reason, he is not going to be permitted to struggle and figure things out at the plate while others can go out there being butchers in the field costing the Mets games.

Make no mistake, how the Mets are handling McNeil is a very big problem. They are taking one of their best players, and they are crossing him up further. They are not putting him in a position to succeed in terms of where he hits in the lineup and in terms of getting to play enough to get into a rhythm and figure things out. Whatever the reason for the McNeil benchings, they have to stop, and they have to stop now.

14 Replies to “Mets Lost Faith In Jeff McNeil Again”

  1. WILLIAM R BRODERSON says:

    Luis really makes bonehead decisions…leaves pitchers in too long when they are wild. they never bunt, never play small ball…you need an intelligent winning mgr or maybe keith would manage

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Why would you ever bunt?

  2. SameSame says:

    So the guy batting .188, after batting .107 in spring training, not only shouldn’t be giving up some starts to Villar and LG, but he should also bat at the top of the order?

    I was concerned about McNeil last August. If you take out the two week burst when the wholecteam was putting up football scores, his bat hasn’t even been enough to keep his average glove on a roster. Eight of the ten weeks last year he was a .260 BA, mid 600s OPS bat with no power and no speed. Oh, and since you like to twist teeny DRS samples, McNeil’ rdrs/yr at second last year was -35.

    McNeil was given one start at third in ST and had three errors. In his seven starts there last year he had five errors. JD, the week he came off the IL for an injury to his glove hand, had three errors in two games with the temp in the 30s….and two of them could have been easily prevented by Pete.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Oh, I should’ve known.

      This is Oldbackstop but in a worse form

  3. SameSame says:

    This is actually a good point, it has been proven that outs are far more valuable than an advanced runner in almost every situation. But I guess everybody should at least show it once in awhile to keep the corners and shifts honest. I’d love to see Conforto lay down five bunts the other way into their shift and go 4 for 5 some game.

  4. SameSame says:

    Interesting factoid: Since the beginning of last year:

    McNeil has 32 infield starts, and 7 errors.
    Davis has 42 infield starts, and six errors.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Whatever you say Oldbackstop

  5. SameSame says:

    Interesting factoid: Since the beginning of last year:

    McNeil has 32 infield starts, and 7 errors.
    Davis has 42 infield starts, and six errors.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      You’re awful at this and continue to embarrass yourself

  6. TheGhostofKelenic says:

    Everyone should be bunting away from the shift. Nimmo slapped a ball that way and got a double earlier this year. Helped win a ballgame.

    As per the outs vs. Advanced runners discussion the answer is relative. In the 8th inning of a tie game a runner on 2nd with 1 out is far more valuable than a runner on 1st with no outs. Depends on the pitchers, team offenses, etc. etc. It’s a situational decision. I’d have liked to see Walker get 3 take signs before he hit into that crippling double play a couple starts ago. Everyone saw that double play coming except Luis and Taijuan.

  7. SameSame says:

    McNeil makes errors at a higher rate in the infield and an insamely higher rate at third, that is totally written off. He is batting .188….you don’t think Luis has earned some starts there? Really? What do you have against Luis???

    Yea, I’m OBS, that’s obvious….back to own you, lol..

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Good bye

  8. David Gawkowski says:

    I think McNeil should be back to the top of the lineup soon, but there is genuine reason to be concerned when you couple the slow start with the poor Spring Training. He’s not using left field at all and he’s out in front. He’ll get it sorted out, but batting 6th instead of 1st isn’t the reason for his struggles.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      It’s a contributing factor

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