Pete Alonso’s production reminds us of what’s missing with Brandon Nimmo

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.

14 comments for “Pete Alonso’s production reminds us of what’s missing with Brandon Nimmo

  1. NYM6986
    August 18, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Great conversation on Nimmo. With him and McNeil at the top of the order, it would be like an old time Yankees lineup with Rivers and Randolph setting the table for the big RBI bats. Let’s hope he can at least start 2020 healthy. If he comes back this year what a boost it will be. Lots to be excited about these Mets.

    • August 18, 2019 at 11:39 am

      I’ve been wondering where the best place to bat McNeil in an all-healthy lineup would be. Ideally, you wouldn’t bat Nimmo and McNeil consecutively because they both bat lefty. But if you’re a slave to that thinking, you wind up with one of Conforto, McNeil and Nimmo batting fifth. But theoretically, in the wild card game the lineup could be:

      Nimmo
      Alonso
      McNeil
      Ramos
      Conforto
      Rosario
      Davis/Smith
      Frazier

      • AgingBull
        August 18, 2019 at 11:53 am

        That’s a solid and appealing line-up. The emergence of Davis and Rosario in the 2nd half extends this greatly and Smith’s performance earlier makes him a legit platoon partner. Hiding Frazier at 8 seems OK and they can put Davis there with Smith in left at times. The best part of this line-up is who is not there – Cano. He was a boat anchor in the 3 slot almost all year, with an occasional brief burst. They have some decisions to make for next year with all these options too, although swapping out Frazier for Lowrie could be an upgrade. In the meantime, let’s hope to get some of these pieces back for September.

      • Mike W
        August 18, 2019 at 10:00 pm

        Why not move Nimmo down in the lineup. He will have a lot of rust and who knows what lingering effects he will have with his neck.

        • August 18, 2019 at 11:25 pm

          If Nimmo makes it back to the majors, and it’s far from certain it will happen, he’ll have around 50 PA under his belt. For a comparison, he got 61 PA in Spring Training this year. I wouldn’t worry about him having lots of rust.

        • Chris F
          August 19, 2019 at 10:09 am

          I agree Mike. And theres a huge difference between ST ABs and pitching versus big league ABs with “post season” implications. If he makes it back, Id book him 7th or 8th and let him earn higher positions in the order.

  2. NYM6986
    August 18, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Always well thought out Brian. With McNeil it hardly seems to matter since he hits everything. Would love to plug Ces in with that bunch for 2020.

  3. Eraff
    August 18, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    It’s bad enough to lose Nimmo’s production, but just imagine how bad it would be if Tejada,Panik, Luis G, Alther and Lagares were in the lineup at the same time!!!

  4. TJ
    August 18, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Brian,
    Spot on as usual, thanks for the insight. While there are no guarantees of future performance, it is quite remarkable how much home grown offense the Mets have produced recently, and virtually all from the Alderson drafts. When healthy and minus Cano, and replacing Frazier with Davis, this is the first legit lineup they have had in recent memory. As they say, timing is everything, so matching it with the bullpen is and will be challenging.

    Nonetheless, the emergence of this low-cost, controllable offensive core tremendously eases the burden of filling holes for the next 1-3 seasons. If BVW can find a way to wiggle out of part of the Cespedes/Cano financial anchor, they could actually be well positioned to compete for the division for the next few years.

  5. Chris F
    August 18, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Ill maintain as I did in chatter last night, Alonso is heading for “an all things considered – beyond metrics but including them – best offensive season in Met history.”

    I dont put Nimmo 2018 near Alonso this season given all the gratuitous HBP etc. Im not saying he didnt have a fabulous season, he did, but what we are witnessing in Alonso this year is heading to water-cooler talk for decades. I want Nimmo back though.

  6. August 18, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    It’s fun to reminisce and research some of the great seasons… Straw had a Couple, as Did Wright and Piazza. One that’s forgotten is Bernard Gilkey’s 1996 Season… “Wind” Aided?

  7. Fitz Cave
    August 19, 2019 at 12:03 am

    Good article.
    Nimmo was #2 in the NL in 2018 for Adj. OPS+. He is a savant at getting on base.

    A dream 2020 lineup (if Cespedes comes back healthy — I think he would have from the heel/hip/thigh issues but multiple broken bones in the ankle (i.e. shattering it) will likely linger forever — would be as follows (against righties):

    CF Nimmo (.404 OBP in 2018)
    2B McNeil (best barrel manipulator in game; perfect for hit & run)
    1B Alonso
    RF Conforto
    LF Cespedes/Smith/Davis
    3B Davis/Lowrie
    SS Rosario
    C Ramos

    Cano on the bench. Might switch Rosario and Nimmo against lefties but Nimmo has a higher OBP against lefties than Rosario. The thinking on batting Ramos 8th is that Rosario reaches 1st and Ramos doubles, Rosario scores. If Ramos reaches 1st and Rosario subsequently doubles, Ramos is on 3rd with the pitcher batting.

  8. NYM6986
    August 19, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Like the lineup but you can’t put the $24 million dollar man on the bench. How about eating half his salary and sending him to an AL team to DH?

    • August 19, 2019 at 8:54 am

      You can if he’s injured!

      Cano has a no-trade clause and supposedly he’s not eager to waive it to go just anywhere. But even without that, you’d probably have to pay 90% or more of the contract to get someone to take him.

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