New York Mets: Jeff McNeil’s aggressive approach continues to work for him

Andres Chavez
yankees, mets, jeff mcneil
Jul 6, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets right fielder Jeff McNeil (6) hits an RBI single against the Philadelphia Phillies during the second inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff McNeil, the New York Mets‘ hitting machine, has a way to conduct himself in the batters’ box, and it’s pretty evident. He is an aggressive hitter, and the numbers back that up.

According to information provided by’s Mets beat writer Anthony DiComo, McNeil swung at the first pitch at a 44.4 percent rate in 2018, good for 14th in the league. Last season, he did it at a 50.7 percent clip, which not only led MLB but it made him the only qualified hitter to swing at the first pitch more often than not.

McNeil understands that pitchers usually want to get ahead in the count and often throw strikes with the first pitch. It is an approach that he has used since he was very young, and given that he accumulates a career .321 batting average in 815 plate appearances.

In September 2019, McNeil was offering at the opposing hurler’s first pitch 55.9 percent of the time.

“I’ll keep hacking,” McNeil said to “I’ll still walk if they’re going to walk me, but yeah, if I get a good pitch early in the count, I’m going to try to do some damage.”

The Mets’ best spring training performer and a lifelong style

Before Saturday’s games, McNeil was leading the New York Mets in spring training hitting with a .556 average. He had 10 hits in 18 at-bats, and had scored four runs with one RBI, three doubles and a home run.

“There are so many things that are just natural about him,” Mets hitting coach Chili Davis said. “He’s a natural ballplayer. Those are the kinds of guys that — they’re here, they’re in the game, but I don’t think you see as many of them anymore because they’re being coached a certain way from Little League on up.”

As you can imagine, McNeil spent years ignoring coaches’ instructions to see more pitches. In fact, the New York Mets previous front-office regime implemented a policy at the lower levels of the Minors that required randomly selected batters to take a strike with the objective of helping young hitters learn the strike zone.

It worked for some hitters, but for McNeil, it was very annoying.

“You only get three strikes,” McNeil said. “I don’t want to give the pitcher one. I know I’m good enough that if it’s in the strike zone, I can usually put a pretty good swing on it and get a hit. So yeah, you only get three strikes I guess, so why waste one?”

Baseball is not necessarily a game of patience for all hitters. For some, like McNeil, is about taking advantage of the best pitch to hit in the at-bat.