Jeff McNeil is your 2022 MLB Batting Champion
(Frank Franklin Ii/Associated Press)
Well, it was a bitter sweet ending to game 162 on SNY. While the New York Mets have at least two more games to play in 2022, as they gear up for the National League Wild Card series against the San Diego Padres, we Mets fans had to listen as Gary Cohen and Ron Darling sign off for the last time this year. Mets fans have been spoiled over the last 17 years, being able to sit down with Gary, Keith (Hernandez) and Ron, who are widely considered to be the best broadcast booth in baseball and possibly in sports, night in and night out and listen to their infinite wisdom. Even if the Mets are losing by 15 runs, just listening to the shenanigans that ensue within the booth is worth keeping our TVs tuned to channel 60, or whatever channel SNY is on your chosen cable service provider.
But this game 162 broadcast on SNY wasn't your average baseball programming. Usually, game 162 means nothing to all 30 teams, you're either in the playoffs, or you're out. Very rarely do we see a game 162 that really matters toward the grander playoff picture. And while this game wasn't important to the team as a whole, we all got to celebrate a great individual achievement.
Mets utility IF/OF, Jeff McNeil, beat out Los Angeles Dodgers' first baseman, Freddie Freeman, for the National League batting title with a final league leading average of .326, .001 ahead of Freeman's .325, and .010 ahead of Minnesota Twins' first baseman, Luis Arraez, the American League's batting champion. McNeil did not get an at bat in game 162, as Mets manager Buck Showalter opted to rest a few of his key guys before the playoffs kick off on Friday. McNeil had the NL batting title all but squared away heading into Wednesday afternoon, but Freeman was in the lineup for the Dodgers against the Colorado Rockies, going 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs and a run scored, posting a final batting average of .325 on the year... yeah, it was that close. Had Freeman had a perfect day, we wouldn't be here having this talk right now. Much of the broadcast was spent having the cameras zoom up on McNeil bundled up in a jacket and winter hat in the dugout, all of our eyes glued to not only the TV, but also making sure to pay close attention to the Dodgers' box score as Freeman looked to make this race as close as it could possibly be.
Finally, the Dodgers' game was over, and Citi Field celebrated as we could finally crown McNeil the batting champion, the first in Mets franchise history.
This achievement is so much bigger for McNeil than it would have been for Freeman. Look at all the other names McNeil was up against, names like Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Manny Machado among many others. Those are all big-time players who had hype surrounding them coming into this league... everyone knew that they were going to be great. The odds were forever stacked against Jeff McNeil coming into the MLB, as seen below.
I've been singing McNeil's praises since the day he debut. He was never the type of guy who was going to overpower any pitcher and put the ball in the upper deck, but his old-school plate approach, the way he splits the gap, uses the whole field, and his patience and pitch selection are what makes him so dangerous at the plate. Deploy the shift at your own risk. McNeil has the skillset of players like Pete Rose; grind out at-bats, put the ball in play, use your above average speed to wreak havoc on the base paths, hustle hard, and good things will happen. McNeil is one of the very few hitters in the MLB who have been able to shed the mindset of needing to put the ball over the fence, something that way too many hitters are concerned with doing in the modern game.
I have been saying it for years, Jeff McNeil is one of the best hitters in the National League, and now, he's proven to be in the upper echelon of hitters in the entire MLB, as he finishes the season atop the league with a .326 batting average. Go ahead and look at his stats since debuting, I dare you.