There have been many under-performing hitters in the Mets’ lineup in 2024.

One of them has been Jeff McNeil.

It was only two seasons ago when McNeil finished the 2022 season with a .326 average, which not only won him the National League batting title, but it was also tops in Major League Baseball as well. Ever since then, McNeil hit .270 last season in 2023, and so far this year, he has struggled to a .227 average in the first two months of the 2023 season.

His 2024 struggles offensively have been mind boggling to say the least, among many fans.

There are various reasons for McNeil’s sudden fall from batting champion to someone who’s barely hitting over the Mendoza line this year.

One thing that many people may not talk about, but could quietly be a factor for McNeil’s struggles, could be the removal of the shift.

MLB removed the shift after the 2022 season, which was one of many changes that were made for the 2023 season. The shift did not benefit lefty power hitters who liked to pull the ball in right field, due to moving the second baseman further in the outfield.

McNeil was the opposite. He is a lefty hitter who is not known for his power. and he is a line drive hitter who was adept at hitting the ball the other way. McNeil was not one to constantly pull the ball in right field. Instead, he would spray a lot of hits opposite field to left field or in the middle. The shift benefits hitters like McNeil, who would frequently hit balls the other way because the infielders would move to their right more.

We saw that a lot from McNeil in 2022 when he led MLB in batting average. He only hit 9 home runs and one triple, but he sprayed line drives all over the field, and took advantage of the shift, by hitting the balls the other way. McNeil had a career high 39 doubles that year.

With MLB removing the shift in 2023, McNeil’s production started sagging. He struggled early to begin the 2023 season and he finished that first half, batting under .250, which was nearly .100 points lower than what he finished a year ago. McNeil had a better second half and finished with a .270 average.

This season, McNeil has been undergoing a similar first half as he did a season ago.

I look at his production over the last two seasons, and it seems like the shift ban has taken some of McNeil’s strengths away, especially hitting the ball the other way. With the shift, it was an advantage to lefty hitters who hit the ball the opposite way, as in the case of McNeil. The left side of the infield is wide open with the shift, and so even just slapping the ball the other way is an automatic base hit.

So now without the shift, McNeil has not been able to get base hits the other way frequently, due to the infield being in their position most of their time. He’s been forced to attempt to pull the ball more, which is not his biggest strength, due to his lack of power. As a result this season, every time McNeil even makes contact with the ball, it seems like automatic outs.

With no shift, it also forces McNeil to revert to his past mistakes, of trying to hit the ball hard out of the yard for home runs. That was McNeil’s mistake in 2021, when he only hit .249 and had many of his at-bats result on fly outs.

McNeil fixed that in 2022 and took advantage of the shift with line drives after line drives all around.

But now, McNeil just looks helpless at the plate and doesn’t seem to have a clue of what to do when he goes to bat.

Right now, it is probably a mental thing that McNeil is facing and maybe a confidence issue too, the more he struggles at the plate. Even if the shift removal took away his opposite field hitting prowess, McNeil can still be a good hitter, by hitting line drives to right field, even without much power. McNeil has to not fall back into the temptation of trying to be a power hitter and constantly pull the ball, which will result in fly ball outs again. He got to go back to the drawing board and know of himself as a line drive slap hitter, who can use the whole field, like a squirrel runs everywhere. That’s what got him his nickname “Squirrel” and he’s got to get that reputation back.

Along with McNeil, the Mets also need Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo to be back to the hitters that they’re known for, for the team to be in playoff contention.

But during McNeil’s time in the majors, the Mets best seasons were also McNeil’s best seasons in 2019 and 2023. In 2019, McNeil hit .318 and uncharacteristically hit 23 home runs, and the Mets went 89-73. In 2022, the Mets won 101 games during McNeil’s batting title year.

When McNeil is at his best, getting hits after hits, wherever he is batting in the lineup, it impacts everyone else, like it did in 2022, and the Mets brass hope to get that back from him soon.

3 comments on “Removal of shift is biggest reason for Jeff McNeil’s struggles

  • Brian Joura

    The reason for McNeil’s struggles is obvious.

    H: 121 PA, .164/.233/.200 — .433 OPS
    R: 103 PA, .301/.369/.462 — .831 OPS

    In a year where Citi Field is suppressing offense, no one is more affected than McNeil. Yet Mendoza decides to sit him when they’re playing a road series. SMDH

  • Metsense

    McNeil had a .353 BABIP in 2022 compared to a .246 this year. Lets further the comparison for 2022. He hit 3.3% more infield fly balls this year and less 3.3% line drives. He has 5.1% less medium hit balls but 1% more of hard balls , still a 4.1% net loss. Apparently he is popping up more and not hitting the ball with authority. I’m not disputing your opinion but it would have been clearer if spray chorts were included in the article.

  • NYM6986

    What is the point of having a hitting coach if they can’t work with a hitter, look at thousands of hours of videotape, and come up with an approach to fix what is wrong? Hate to blame the shift on McNeil having a crappy year and while he hits well on the road, he definitely needed a few days off and his replacement has certainly been more than adequate. This team does not succeed with a poor hitting year out of McNeil. It’s a simple as that.

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