Pete Alonso had a three-hit game with two RBIs Saturday night. While he didn’t hit a homer, it was the type of game we’ve come to expect from him here in his rookie season – being a key part of the offense. Long ago, Alonso grabbed the team’s mark for homers by a rookie. He’s not far from claiming the team’s all-time, single-season HR record. And the team’s RBI record of 124 is on the table, too.
His 2019 season is in the conversation for the best offensive season in team history, which is a pretty remarkable thing for a guy who wasn’t guaranteed a roster spot when Spring Training began.
The problem with ranking the best offensive seasons in team history is that you have to take into account the park and the run-scoring environment. Shea Stadium in 1968 is a different beast than Citi Field in 2019. The best stat to accomplish this is wRC+, which takes into account the varying weights of each offensive action and then adjusts them for the park and league context in which they took place.
The top three performances in wRC+ in team history are 2000 Edgardo Alfonzo (150), 2007 David Wright (151) and 2000 Mike Piazza (153). Piazza’s 153 wRC+ means that he created 53% more runs than a league-average hitter would have in the same number of plate appearances.
Alonso just misses the top three, as he checks in with a 149 wRC+. He’s actually tied for fourth in team history and the guy he’s tied with might surprise you. Last year, Brandon Nimmo put up a 149 number, too. And it’s interesting how close they are in PA to this point. Nimmo had 535 PA last year while Alonso has 521. Of course, Alonso has a big edge in power but Nimmo has the OBP edge, plus the offensive environment of both park and league were less favorable a year ago.
No one doubts that the Mets would be significantly worse off this year if Alonso was removed from the lineup. However, they would have had Dominic Smith (127 wRC+) to take his place most of the year. While that’s a downgrade, going from Nimmo to Juan Lagares (55 wRC+) has been even more of an offensive hit to the lineup.
Nimmo’s 2019 line looks nothing like his 2018 output. He got off to a terrible start, amassing just two hits in his first 33 trips to the plate, a span of eight games. But in his next eight games, Nimmo went 11-28 and slashed .393/.500/.821 in 34 PA. But few remember that stretch now because in the next night, Nimmo came out of the game in the first inning with a stiff neck.
He returned four days later and played in 26 more games before shutting it down. In those last 93 PA, Nimmo had a .536 OPS. About two weeks later, Nimmo began a rehab assignment in the minors but that was terminated after five games. After two-plus months of rest, Nimmo made his return to game action, going 1-3 with a walk Friday night for St. Lucie. He did not play yesterday but there’s been no news if the day off was planned or if it was another setback.
It’s unclear just what exactly is going on with Nimmo. The team calls it a “stiff neck,” but we’ve also heard it described as a bulging disk. That sounds significantly worse than a stiff neck. But is it really? The Mayo Clinic describes a bulging disk as looking like a hamburger that’s too big for its bun. That same Mayo Clinic article further elaborates that a herniated (aka ruptured or slipped) disk is a crack in the tough outer layer of cartilage, which allows softer, inner cartilage to protrude out. Now that sounds nasty. But there have been no reports that Nimmo’s disk has herniated.
Any injury to the neck and spine is serious. We need to look no further than to what happened with Wright for proof of that. But there’s a difference between bulging and herniated and there’s a difference between rest and injections, and surgery. Right now, Nimmo and Wright’s cases are significantly different.
No one knows how Nimmo’s story will unfold. A best-case scenario is that we see him back in the majors the last few weeks of the season, strengthening the team in its fight for the playoffs. It’s fun to think about a lineup with Nimmo and Alonso together, along with Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil. We may not see it until 2020, however. Or we might not see it, ever.
Even without Nimmo, the Mets’ offense has performed better here in the second half, as Conforto seems to have shaken off the effects of his earlier concussion. In 33 games, the team has averaged 5.18 runs per game. And before you say that’s because of the sub-.500 teams the Mets have played, know that in 12 games against teams with winning records this half, the Mets have scored 64 runs, for an average of 5.77 runs per game.
In the second half, Alonso has a 124 wRC+, Conforto has a 138 mark and McNeil checks in with a 152. Just imagine what the lineup would be like with a similarly productive Nimmo. Alonso’s been great and has earned all of the praise that’s come his way. But his overall production also reminds us of what the team has missed with Nimmo being out injured. May Nimmo be able to come back and be that guy from 2018 again.