McNeil for MVP? The case to crown the “Flying Squirrel” the best in the National League
The dynamic duo of Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil have taken over the New York baseball scene this season. As the two bright spots in an otherwise forgotten Mets season, Alonso and McNeil have also made waves throughout the league. Alonso is the current Home Run Derby champion and a clear top contender for Rookie of the Year. McNeil is the NL leader in batting average. These two continue to impress with every at-bat that they take.
One thing to take in consideration is the consistency in which they perform, especially McNeil. The 27-year-old 2013 MLB Draft pick is an on-base machine in his first full year with the team. Last season in 63 games he hit .329/.381/.471. This season he is hitting .379/.409/.509. Any time he is at the plate it is a must-watch act. A true energizer bunny, McNeil can liven up any crowd.
With the way he is hitting, it is not far off to say Jeff McNeil can be in the mix for NL MVP.
Now, while he may not be the sexiest pick compared to Cody Bellinger or Christian Yelich, McNeil is a unique hitter in his own right. If he continues to produce hits on a consistent basis (101 hits in 289 at-bats), he could be welcomed into the conversation. McNeil’s hard-hit percentage has also gone up from 28.9% last year to 40.4% this year. When have you not seen McNeil shoot the ball all over the field?
— SNY (@SNYtv) July 7, 2019
Need more convincing? Heading into the All-Star break on July 3, McNeil had 170 hits through 500 at-bats to start his career. The only other two men to reach that mark were Wade Boggs (178) and Joe DiMaggio (171). Additionally, McNeil is 8th in the MLB with a 9.41 plate appearance per strikeout ratio and about 30 multi-hit games, ranking in the top five in the majors.
McNeil also shares a record with a few legendary players when it comes to average:
Since 1940, six hitters have recorded a first half batting average of at least .345 (min. 250 AB) in their first & or second seasons in the majors:
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) July 11, 2019
One of those names is a good example as to what an MVP candidate can be. Ichiro Suzuki won the MVP award for the AL in 2001, slashing .350/.381/.457 with 242 hits and 56 stolen bases. He also had 69 RBIs in 157 games. Now, while the Mariners were considered one of the best teams in baseball at the time, it is worth mentioning just how much the man kept on producing. Who did he beat to become the MVP and Rookie of the Year? Hard-hitters like Jason Giambi (38 HRs, 141 RBIs, .342/.477/.660), Alex Rodriguez (52 HRs, 135 RBIs, .318/.399/.622) and Bret Boone (37 HRs, 141 RBIs, .331/.372/.578).
As the second half of the season commences for the Mets, all eyes are on their young guns. While everyone will be talking about Pete Alonso, keep a close eye on McNeil. The “Flying Squirrel” doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Anything is possible in the baseball world. McNeil may just be focusing on improving his craft, but by doing so he is creating a buzz that hasn’t been felt in Flushing in a long time.
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