There wasn’t a whole lot to love about the 2023 New York Mets. One of those reasons was how much certain players declined. Several of those players are now gone or we’ve come to accept by a certain age that a player will begin to fade.
Then there is that other category of player. The ones who take a step back. The difference between declining and a step back is there’s always a chance to move forward again. Mets fans should have at least some belief that these three who did move in the wrong direction this past year can change momentum.
1) Jeff McNeil
Jeff McNeil didn’t have a bad year. His season was just nothing close to what he did one season prior. The reigning National League batting champion went from slashing .326/.382/.454 in 2022 to a much more basic .270/.333/.378. Because he is a player whose best attribute is putting the ball in play and stockpiling hits, the 56 point drop off in batting average was the most disappointing change.
McNeil was only 16 hits shy of matching the previous year’s total. Nearly all of those missing hits were doubles. He went from 39 down to 25.
As bumpy as the year was for McNeil, multiple statistics of his were a near match from the year prior or even better. He scored more runs albeit in 59 more plate appearances to do so. His walk and strikeout totals were almost identical with one fewer base on balls and only four additional strikeouts.
A couple of strange months for McNeil helped to drag him backward. He had 29 hits in May but his one home run was the lone extra base hit for the entire month. June was far worse, slashing .196/.267/.283.
McNeil’s unfortunate step back does raise some doubts because we’ve seen him struggle like this before. It was a near repeat of 2021 with the exception being a strong finish to dig him out of the hole he created. The one fear with McNeil is the possibility of an earlier than expected decline.