After parlaying a nice 2022 walk year into an 8-year, $162 million free-agent contract, Brandon Nimmo is going to be a focal point of the Mets offense more than ever this season.
Nimmo played an MLB career-high 151 games and had a career-best 64 RBI, 159 hits and 102 runs scored as the Mets leadoff hitter in 2022. His OPS was .800 and he had 53 extra-base hits, including a career-high 30 doubles and NL-leading seven triples.
When the Mets struggled down the stretch last season, Nimmo was one of their best hitters. In the final weeks, Nimmo slashed .308/.417/.505 with four home runs and 20 RBI.
There was one number that was eye opening and not for the right reasons. Nimmo had three stolen bases last season, all of them in September. In seven MLB seasons, Nimmo has 23 steals in 37 attempts.
The lack of steals came to the forefront during the three-game sweep to the Braves in the penultimate series of the regular season in Atlanta. The Mets scored seven runs in three games. Nimmo was on base five times during the series, did not have a stolen base and scored only run.
That’s not all his fault, but do you think if there was any semblance of a running game, that, maybe the Mets could’ve gotten the one game off the Braves that they needed?
Remember, Starling Marte was injured and did not play in the series. Marte (18) and Francisco Lindor (16) were the only Mets to reach double digits in steals last season. So, with Marte out, the onus fell on Nimmo to force the issue on the basepaths since the Mets were struggling so mightily to score runs.
During an interview with Kinerskorner.com, Nimmo countered that argument, explaining he doesn’t necessarily have to be in scoring position to score.
“It’s not just the fact that [sic] needs to get to second to get into scoring position,” Nimmo said. “We have lots of guys that can hit lots of doubles and I can score from first base on a double.”
It is true he can score from first on a double, but he can also be held up at third if the ball goes in the stands per a ground rule. Nimmo won’t be held up at third if he's already on second and can’t score from first on a bloop single with two out. He can from second. There’s a reason it’s called “scoring position.”
Nimmo has stated that the reason for the limited stolen-base attempts last season was to keep him healthy. He played 92 or fewer games in three of the previous four seasons because of injury, discounting the 2020 season which was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s important to keep a player on the field, especially one as valuable as Nimmo. However, with the new rule limiting the number of pick-off throws a pitcher can make, Nimmo needs to increase his value to the lineup by becoming more of a threat on the bases.
Nimmo does not seem to agree.
“Unless you’re stealing bags at an 80 percent level, you’re doing more harm to your team than good. You’re taking away more opportunities than you’re creating,” Nimmo said.
It’s not just the amount of stolen bases that will help the offense, it’s the threat of the steal. The distraction that the running game can provide will become more prominent in 2023 with the rule changes.
The smarter teams are going to take advantage of these new rules, particularly in the early going. The Mets, who were 12th out of 15 National League teams with 62 stolen bases last season, can be, and should be, one of them.
Photo: Mark Rosenman