New York Mets' Brandon Nimmo hits a solo home run...

New York Mets' Brandon Nimmo hits a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field on Aug. 15, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

ST. LOUIS — A key to the best home run season of Brandon Nimmo’s life is a metaphor involving a Ferrari, a Honda and a box of tissues.

No, really. Stick with this one.

With six weeks remaining in the season, Nimmo entered Saturday with a career-high 18 home runs, two more than all of last year and one more than his previous best from 2018.

That is the result, he said, of conversations last year with hitting coach Jeremy Barnes, an offseason of reworking his swing with Barnes, and in recent months, continued tinkering and ultimately more balls landing on the other side of the fence.

And Nimmo believes there should be more to come.

“It’s always been inside of me,” he said. “It’s just unlocking it, essentially. Getting the most out of yourself.”

Barnes, new to the Mets’ major-league staff last year, noticed that Nimmo hit the ball about as hard as anybody on the team — almost as hard as Pete Alonso despite not having nearly the same slugger status — but too often the result was a routine ground ball that became an out.

So last winter, after Nimmo re-signed with the Mets for eight years and $162 million, they set out basically to make his movement at the plate more efficient.

“We were trying to shorten things up, cleaning some of the fat up out of the swing,” Nimmo said. “Jeremy saw from the metrics last year that I had more in the tank. He talked about how in the offseason we could try to be able to reach that potential a little bit more.”

The full explanation on what they changed involved a lot of technical terms — g-force, torque, kinematic sequence — related to the physics and biomechanics of it all. But fortunately, they had a simpler explanation for us laypeople.

Take it away, Brandon Nimmo.

“Think of a car,” he said, delving into a metaphor that Barnes said he has used for years. “You got a Ferrari engine in it. You can go 200 miles an hour. But you have Honda Accord brakes on it. You slam on the brakes to come to a stop, but you just skid to a stop.

“Think of having, like, a tissue box in the back seat, OK? If you have those Honda brakes and you come to a skidding stop, the tissues might fall onto the front of the seat or something.

“But if you have the Ferrari brakes on there and you come to a stop in a 10th of a second, that tissue box is going to slam forward into the windshield.”

Nimmo’s body, specifically what he called his “very strong” core, is the Ferrari engine. When he turns his legs, hips and torso as a pitch approaches the plate, he generates immense power. That is good.

The problem was his Honda brakes, his front (right) side. He wasn’t halting quickly enough, which wasted some of the power he had created. That was bad.

Nimmo’s hands are the tissue box. By slamming his brakes — stopping his front side — the energy transfers up to his hands, which carry the bat through the strike zone, colliding with the baseball in a more powerful, destructive way.

Boom, homers.

“They were telling me, you have a Ferrari engine,” Nimmo said. “But you’re using Honda brakes right now. So let’s work on you putting the brakes on better so that you can use your Ferrari engine to send your hands forward.”

Barnes said: “It’s that general concept. It’s a little more complex with that. But we want to get everything going to his hands.”

This season, Nimmo has hit the ball at an average of 91.8 mph — best among Mets regulars and a notable jump up from his 89.4 mph last year.

Along the way, he has hit ground balls less frequently and line drives and fly balls more frequently. Some of his batted balls that were doubles last year have become home runs this year.

“We can tap into this power and play more of a line-drive game,” Barnes said. “It’s not that I want him to hit 800 homers and sell out for one thing. He has a skill set where he can spray line drives all over the park, and that will also lead to homers.”

All that has changed how Nimmo views himself as a hitter because it has changed how pitchers approach him. If he, say, bats with two outs and nobody on, the worst-case scenario for the other team used to be a slap single, maybe a double, Nimmo explained. But now he can go deep with greater ease. The pitcher has to be more careful, and as manager Buck Showalter has said, a pitcher trying to be careful tends to make the most mistakes.

“Other teams, I’ve seen a focus on covering the gap, because that’s normally where I am,” Nimmo said. “But when I’m hitting it over the fence, now you can’t catch those anymore.”

In the future, when slamming the Ferrari brakes is even more natural, Nimmo could find yet more power.

“He keeps tapping into this superpower,” Barnes said. “He’s a freakish player that has a lot of ability. We’re trying to let him tap into that more often .  .  . He’s a Ferrari. He needs to play like a Ferrari.”

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