Through his first full big-league season, Brandon Nimmo has emerged as one of the lone bright spots in the Mets’ lineup.
Between the remarkable plate discipline and his newfound power, the 2011 first round pick is more than a grinder with an infectious smile.
Like every ballplayer, however, Nimmo’s limits have been tested, and whether or not they’re genuine cracks in his game, the outfielder has hit his first roadblock as an everyday player.
After being hit in the hand for a National League-leading 12th time and promptly lifted and treated for a pinky injury on June 24, Nimmo has had a hard time picking things up.
Insistent that he isn’t dealing with a significant injury, the center fielder has just one hit and walk in his last 19 plate-appearances, while striking out eight times to bring his average from .283 to .264.
Nimmo’s been much later to the ball, as he and hitting coach Pat Roessler have suggested over the course of the past week.
After some video review, Nimmo told Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News that, “My bat speed is not there. I am having to make decisions a lot sooner than I was beforehand. But my hand feels fine, so I don’t know what the problem is right now. I thought two games off, maybe a little bit of timing at first, but I’ve had plenty of time now.”
Nimmo’s testimony is certainly plausible.
At the risk of playing psychologist, it’s hard to envision such an unselfish player trying to right the ship knowing he isn’t 100 percent.
Looking at the statistics, however, we see an even starker explanation for Nimmo’s diminished productivity.
While his numbers through the month of June have not been .156-OPS-in-19-plate-appearances bad, they definitely lend reasoning that Nimmo has been mired in a slump.
While Nimmo had managed a walk-rate of 14.6 percent through his first two months of action in 2018, pitchers managed to cut such a figure down to 7.4 percent during the month of June (excluding the games following the finger injury). Additionally, Nimmo’s strikeout rate, which stood at 22.1 percent through April and May, rose to a 35.1 percent mark in that same time frame.
BABIP, which measures a hitter’s average on balls in play, essentially indicates how much of the hitter’s production is a result of fundamental success rather than the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the opposing pitcher.
A hitter with a BABIP marginally higher than his average is much more likely to come back down to earth as opposing pitchers figure out weaknesses and adapt as fit. Through his first two months, Nimmo had hoisted a .294 average against a .354 BABIP.
June, despite still seeing a respectable .277 average, also brought about a .386 BABIP – nearly 100 points higher than his actual production.
Whether or not it’s logical to expect Nimmo’s overall output to continue on the decline, it’s become clear that pitchers are starting to figure him out.
With his groundball rate rising from 30.5 percent to 53.1 percent in this same time and line-drive rate falling from 22 percent to 16.3 percent, Nimmo’s sore pinky hasn’t done him any favors, but it may be time for Met fans to acknowledge the mortality of this year’s greatest offensive revelation.
There isn’t much reason to expect that Nimmo continue on this path, as Roessler has attested: “[It’s] just part of the season… There are ebbs and flows. He’ll be fine.” However, Nimmo’s rough series in Miami could very likely be the result of something beyond a busted finger.