Brandon Nimmo, the Mets’ best hitter last season, is lost at the plate as the Mets flounder all over the field. And he doesn’t seem to be buying manager Mickey Callaway’s solution.
Heading into the Mets’ three-game series with the Padres starting Monday night in San Diego, Nimmo is stuck in an 0-for-25 stretch. His average is down to .194, his on-base percentage is .320 and his slugging percentage also is .320 — far from the level of production the Mets (16-18) expected from him when they declared him their leadoff hitter early last offseason.
Callaway, who recently dropped Nimmo from the top spot to No. 6 most days in the Mets’ lineup, offered one idea: Swing more.
“He’s still pretty patient up there,” Callaway said. “The one thing we’ve talked to him about is every now and again, you have to expand the zone a little bit. Even that pitch he took for strike three [Sunday] may have just been off the plate, but it’s too close to take. You have to fire on those balls.”
Consider Nimmo skeptical about that suggestion.
“I'm definitely not a Vladimir Guerrero,” he said, referencing the Hall of Famer famous for hitting bad pitches. “I can't swing outside the zone and be successful. It's going to be me capitalizing on mistakes rather than expanding the zone.”
Forgive Nimmo for being a little stubborn here. His path to the majors was paved by his knowledge of the strike zone, and even amid his struggles this year, he still is walking in about 13 percent of his plate appearances — a little better than Anthony Rizzo and Ronald Acuna Jr., a little worse than Mookie Betts and Joey Votto. During his breakout 2018, Nimmo had a 15-percent walk rate.
And so Nimmo plans to continue to swing only at pitches he likes. Part of the problem is identifying those pitches as they come. Recently, he said, he has been letting hittable pitches pass, in part because of diminished confidence — nicely illustrating how a slump can be a vicious cycle.
Nimmo has been putting in all the work — staying late, showing up early, watching video at home in between — but hasn’t found a fix with hitting coach Chili Davis yet.
“We've tried a lot of different things, probably not too noticeable to someone watching,” Nimmo said. “There's been a lot of different things that have gone on as far as leg kick, no leg kick, timing or no timing, hands, upper body, hands in different positions, lower body in different positions, different stance, wide, shallow — all that stuff. We've been searching.
“I know it's in there because last year [a .263/.404/.483 slash line] really certainly wasn’t a fluke. You don’t do that for 162 games and just get lucky. I know it's in there, and that’s also a frustrating part, knowing that I'm not coming through for these guys when I surely can.”
Nimmo feels a personal responsibility for the Mets’ larger struggles. In their previous 11 games heading into this week, they averaged 2.55 runs per game. They were 3-8 in that span.
Like his teammates, Nimmo believes they’ll all come out of this eventually. In his case, though, he doesn’t expect it to happen by expanding his strike zone.
“We'll come to a compromise on what we need to do approach-wise. Definitely something needs to change,” Nimmo said. “I’m not selfishly upset about [his slump]. It’s the fact that I’m not helping my team out in the box. Some runs could really help us out right now. I know I’m at the core of that problem. That’s what bothers me more than anything.”