Player Profile: The Offensive Value of Brandon Nimmo

Player Profile: The Offensive Value of Brandon Nimmo

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Below is a continuation of the discussion of Brandon Nimmo’s offensive trends, a topic that was first highlighted in the O-Swing% article of the M-Sabermetric All-Stars series, which can be found here.

Update – October 8, 2019

With the conclusion of the 2019 season, this is how Brandon Nimmo’s previous two seasons compared to each other:

*To a certain degree, the following analysis may not be completely accurate and predictive of future success (or failure) simply because Nimmo’s 2019 sample size was only half of that of the 2018 season.

These are the following key takeaways from the data above:

• The “SwStr%” column can be misleading. The fact that Nimmo is below the major league average SwStr% is only relative to the collective body of work of Major Leaguers in 2019 (ML SwStr% rate only rose above 10% after the 2015 season). While in relative terms Nimmo is better than average at not swinging and missing at pitches, in absolute terms he is a still vulnerable to a significant amount of swing and miss to his game.

• The overall trend with his body of work is that Nimmo is below major league average in terms of making contact, both with pitches inside and outside the strike zone. In particular, his 5% drop in O-Contact% highlights the vulnerability he faces when (albeit rarely) swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone. Given his profile, this isn’t immediately concerning but is something to keep an eye on during the early stages of the 2020 season.

• While this is out of Nimmo’s control, it’s amazing that pitchers actually attacked Nimmo LESS in the strike zone this season than in 2018. As a below average hitter of pitches inside the strike zone and an extreme discipline in laying off pitches outside the zone (OSwing% is 10 percentage points better than league average), one would have thought that pitchers would have attacked this area of vulnerability for Nimmo. Instead, while he still sees more pitches in the strike zone than the average major leaguer (Zone%), pitchers did not attack the strike zone more in 2019 against Brandon Nimmo.

• Nimmo continues to have a fantastic eye at the plate and keen ability to lay off approximately 80% of the pitches he sees outside the strike zone.

Revisiting the Pre-Season Prediction

Prior to the 2019 season, I predicted that Nimmo’s profile and body of work would still translate to a strong OBP but at the cost of the .260 batting average he had in 2018. This, in fact, held true in 2019 as his batting average dropped to .221 yet he still maintained a well above-average OBP of .375. The smaller sample size in 2019 may have played into this lower batting average (his BABIP fell from .351 in 2018 to .293 in 2019) despite his exit velocities holding relatively constant. There is, of course, the concession to better fielding positioning and widespread use of shifts in the league that could play into the lower BABIP, but a 60 point spread in BABIP is more indicative of a smaller sample size rather than improved defense against Nimmo or deterioration in his ability to hit the ball.

Brandon Nimmo’s Value and Next Steps

From a player development perspective, Brandon Nimmo did not show an increased ability to foul/fight off tough pitches and instead continued a trend of significant swing and miss to his game. A .375 OBP plays anywhere, especially with elite ability to lay off pitches that out of the strike zone, but in order to avoid vulnerability in this area, he must show improvement in his bat-to-ball skills. A .220 batting average may not be the death sentence it was 20 years ago, but one would certainly expect better from a hitter who can very well profile as a leadoff hitter with his incredible ability to get on base.

From an organizational perspective, it’s tough to imagine that Nimmo will regain the form he had in 2018 where he posted a 5.20 fWAR/162. He continues to be a below-average defender according to UZR, so his true value is in his offensive profile. While there aren’t any immediately disturbing trends suggesting that his on-base skills are deteriorating, the vulnerability that exists in other portions of his offensive game may limit his potential return as a trade asset. A strong first half to the 2020 season may be the Mets best opportunity of maximizing his trade value should they chose to proceed with that route. Nonetheless, Nimmo’s well-documented work ethic should be strongly taken into consideration when pondering the possibility of improvement in his bat-to-ball and swinging strike skills. For the time being, the Mets are better off not trading Brandon Nimmo but rather continuing to work with the outfielder in making the adjustments imperative to his sustained future success.

Felipe Zwanzger –

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