There haven’t been a whole lot of positives for the New York Mets this season. Jacob deGrom‘s utter dominance has been one of the few fun things to watch, but another one — which is probably a more of a surprise given the initial circumstances — has been the offensive emergence of Brandon Nimmo.
While his breakout campaign was only facilitated by injuries to projected starters in the outfield, that doesn’t matter much now. He’s taken full advantage of the opportunity, showing he needs to be a significant piece of the Mets’ future.
Watching Nimmo take the league by storm in April and May was awesome. However, there were probably more than a few people curious as to how he’d handle a rough patch once opposing pitchers made some adjustments. That downturn in production finally happened in July, and he’s already climbed out of it this month despite a brief trip to the disabled list.
Here’s a quick look at the 25-year-old’s walk rate, strikeout rate, OPS, ISO, and wRC+ on a monthly basis so far in 2018.
As with any slump, all of the usual things happened — his strikeout rate skyrocketed while his OPS, ISO, and wRC+ all plummeted. Even with a .205 batting average in July, he was still very close to being an average offensive producer because of that 14.6% walk rate. In fact, the 15 walks he drew that month are tied with May for the most in any month this season.
It’s not like this plate discipline is a new phenomenon, though. He did also post a 15.3% walk rate through 215 plate appearances in 2017. However, the real question was whether he could replicate a number close to that when given a full season’s worth of plate appearances.
Clearly, that answer is yes, but it’s also easier to stay true to one’s approach when things are going well. What’s more interesting is whether a player sticks with his process when times are tough. Here’s how Nimmo’s chase rate (O-Swing%) and swing rate on strikes (Z-Swing%) have fluctuated each month this year.
Now that’s a guy who is completed committed to his plate approach. It’s intriguing that even in his worst month of offensive production in 2018, he actually posted season-best marks in each of these categories.
Obviously, the results aren’t always going to be there. Baseball is a game of failure — we should know, we’re Mets fans — and players are going to deal with peaks and valleys throughout the course of a year. The difference between a decent year and a great year, though, is how long a player can sustain the peaks, along with minimizing the valleys as much as possible.
That’s exactly what Nimmo has done en route to the big year he’s having. Just about each piece of his batted-ball profile is either at the league average or slightly above it, while combining that with well above-average plate discipline. Entering Thursday’s action, only six qualified hitters have a better chase rate than Nimmo: Joe Mauer, Alex Bregman, Mookie Betts, Andrew McCutchen, Cesar Hernandez, and Joey Votto.
That’s some pretty good company to be in.
His commitment to keeping a consistent approach has also helped with regard to his performance on breaking pitches. In 2017, Nimmo owned a .000 ISO and 13 wRC+ against sliders, and a .118 ISO and 77 wRC+ on curveballs. So far this year, those numbers have improved to .250 and 152 against sliders, and .385 and 179 against curveballs, respectively.
The beautiful thing about it all is that he didn’t have to change one thing about his overall approach — he actually got more aggressive when those pitches landed in the strike zone.
It can sometimes take years for a player to truly feel comfortable in who they are as a hitter and own their approach. Just think about the journey Amed Rosario has had to endure this year. Consistency is key with regard to sustained success in the big leagues, and based off the returns early on in Nimmo’s career, he’s got that aspect of things down pat.