Karpin’s Korner: McNeil Can Wipe The Spring Slate Clean

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Should there be concern about Jeff McNeil’s spring batting average of .109. I really don’t think so. The talented left handed hitter could wipe away the entire spring with a two-hit day in the opener on Thursday night.

This spring, McNeil is 5 for 46 with 3 doubles, one walk and 8 strikeouts, but he’s also been hit by a pitch, eight times.

McNeil is a career .319 hitter but, at times, he does get carried away with hitting home runs instead of playing to his strength, which is not as a power hitter.

SNY’s Anthony McCarron made the same point when he joined me on Karpin’s Korner a couple of weeks ago. “Jeff McNeil is going to hit and hit and hit and hit,.” McCarron said. “They probably ought to try to talk him out of hitting home runs ‘cause I thought he got a little homer happy in the second half of 2019.”

In the first half of that 2019 season, McNeil had 101 hits with 7 home runs with 36 runs batted in. His slash line was .349/.409/.509. In the second half of 2019, McNeil hit 16 home runs but only had three more RBI’s (39)

McNeil’s slash line in the second half was .276/.353/.561. He also scored only one more run in the second half (42 to 41) So his slugging went up but his batting average and on base percentage went down, so you decide what half of the season was more beneficial for the team.

The Mets actually had a better record in the second half of 2019 but scored 49 less runs in the second half. Pete Alonso’s surge to the rookie home run record keyed a number of those second half wins but the Mets are better when McNeil is hitting less home runs.

“I’d rather have him hitting .345 instead of hitting 23 homers, said McCarron. “Everybody hits 23 homers now because we’re cray with launch angle and everybody’s trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Let him be more of a unique player.” Unique for this era and a weapon that needs to be maximized.

McNeil has gone to the video tape but is it too much?

Mets Mgr. Luis Rojas said about McNeil, “I see him after the game just studying himself, watching himself, comparing past stances and he’s made the adjustment, but it’s been good.” The work ethic is admirable but sometimes a player needs to back off the heavy work load.

That aside, I don’t think McNeil’s offense will be a problem.

This is a big year for Aaron Judge. The 6’7” right fielder needs to stay on the field for more than he has the past three seasons.

There was an uproar on the final day of spring training as Judge was out of the lineup for a third straight day. Judge had not played since Friday, fueling speculation that he may be hurt once again. Yankee Manager Aaron Boone quelled those rumors during the final game of spring training in a TV interview. Boone said Judge was “a little under the weather,” but you saw the “whistles and bells” go off when his availability came under fire, before the manager’s explanation.

Judge was all the rage in 2017 when he set the rookie home run record, (since broken by Pete Alonso) won the Rookie of the Year Award and finished second in the AL MVP voting. Since then, it’s been a procession of injuries that have limited him to 242 of a possible 384 games over the past three seasons.

Judge is a fierce competitor, but he has made a concerted effort to avoid unnecessary hustle plays this spring. The question now, will Judge be “gun shy” in the regular season when it comes to making some of those diving plays in the outfield. Will Judge deem it more important to make an all out dive or play it safe to remain healthy and on the field. That decision will depend on the situation and it will be a split second decision from Judge.

I don’t expect Judge to let up, one iota on the field but, instinctively, he is ultra competitive and has to know when to rein it in.

Luke Voit has been a nice addition since he joined the Yankees in 2018, but he is not indispensable. Adding Jay Bruce to this Yankee lineup may not be the worst thing.

It’s been well documented from myself and others about how the Yankees’ lineup is too heavily right handed. The Yankee brain trust tells you they have the data that indicates their right handed hitters handle right handed pitching and that they’re able to take advantage of the short right field dimensions at Yankee Stadium.

Sometimes, the mere presence of a left handed power bat can be a factor because many right handed pitchers don’t like pitching to lefties.

Karpin’s Korner moves to Tuesday nights beginning this evening at 7 pm, eastern time. My guests tonight are ESPN National Baseball Reporter Marly Rivera and Fox Sports play-by-play announcer and studio host, Kevin Burkhardt. 7 pm, eastern time. Karpin’s Korner on 365 sportscast network (365sportscast.com)

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