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Shortened Mets season could help Jeff McNeil set a new franchise record

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 08: Jeff McNeil #6 of the New York Mets in action against the Houston Astros during a spring training baseball game at Clover Park on March 8, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 08: Jeff McNeil #6 of the New York Mets in action against the Houston Astros during a spring training baseball game at Clover Park on March 8, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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In a shorter season, John Olerud’s New York Mets batting average record could be in even more danger with a guy like Jeff McNeil around.

A shorter season in 2020 doesn’t mean every record in baseball is unattainable. While it’s nearly impossible for Pete Alonso to best his 53 home runs hit in 2019, there are other New York Mets records that could fall.

Baseball numbers are accumulative and based on a percentage. The ones based on a percentage are actually in danger more of becoming irrelevant. Specifically for the Mets, it’s John Olerud’s batting average from 1998.

In his second season with the Mets, Olerud hit .354. Along with Mike Piazza who hit .348 that same year, each passed a franchise record which had been in place since 1969. During that magical season, Cleon Jones hit .340. It took until 1998 for anyone to knock him off the top of the list.

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Fast-forward to the present and there is one obvious candidate who could challenge Olerud. Jeff McNeil and his lifetime .321 batting average pose a threat, particularly in a shortened season.

Last year, McNeil finished the first half of the season with a .349 batting average. In those 76 games played, he managed to catch our attention. Many began to ask if he would pass Olerud in 2019.

McNeil traded in his batting average for power in the second-half—whether purposeful or not. He completed the season batting .318 overall.

We don’t yet know what Major League Baseball will decide for the 2020 season. However, based on what McNeil did in a near half-season in 2019, there’s a good chance he is able to avoid watching his batting average drop over the course of the traditional 162 game schedule.

Percentage-based statistics work because it averages out a player’s abilities over a longer stretch. Other statistics, like hits, home runs, or RBI do not account for lengthier slumps. One fantastic month for a player can hide several bad ones in these numbers.

Batting average isn’t as valuable as it used to be. Nowadays, the majority of people tend to favor OBP or OPS. How often a player gets a hit out of every 1,000 opportunities doesn’t matter nearly as much as the number of times he gets on base and the quality of the hits he does get.

This doesn’t mean McNeil’s high batting average is worthless. A walk isn’t always as good as a hit. Give me a single that moves a runner first to third any day over ball four.

If there was ever a time for someone to break this Mets record, 2020 seems ideal. Across baseball, we may even see a hitter challenge for .400.

I won’t jump that far ahead for McNeil. First, he needs to slay Olerud’s record. And then depending on how many games they play, we can debate how big the asterisk is.

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