Brandon Nimmo has been the Mets’ primary leadoff hitter since 2017 and a very good one. He has been adequate getting on base in that role, whether it’s drawing walks, hits and even getting hit by pitches frequently.

Getting on base has always been Nimmo’s biggest strength. But his power has also improved, as his career goes on. Nimmo’s home run total has gone up in double digits in the last two seasons, including a career high 24 last season. Those 24 dingers were the third most on the Mets, behind Pete Alonso (46) and Francisco Lindor (31) in 2023.

With his improved power, there were talks of perhaps moving Nimmo down to the middle part of the lineup where his power could be of more impact in driving in runs.

Sure, Nimmo could perhaps be a good fit, batting in the middle of the order alongside, Alonso, Lindor, Francisco Alvarez and Jeff McNeil. Adding Nimmo in the middle of the lineup can make the Mets offense more dangerous power wise, and Nimmo can generate more RBIs himself.

But despite those attributes, keeping Nimmo at the top of the order is still the best thing not only for him but for the Mets too.

Non one on the Mets gets on base as well as Nimmo. He can get on base in any way, and he thrives on it as well. Ever since 2017, Nimmo’s on-base percentage has never gone below .363. He has had several seasons when his on-base average went above .400.

One of the biggest factors of Nimmo’s on-base success, is his ability to draw walks consistently. Nimmo drew a career high 80 walks back in 2018 and has drawn more than 70 walks in the last two seasons.

Also, Nimmo has had a tendency to foul off many pitches in an-bat and put up long at bats. That is very important from the leadoff spot, especially at the start of a game.

Finally, Nimmo provides a lot of speed, which used to be the standard for every leadoff hitter. He may still struggle in the stolen base department. But when he gets on base, he provides exceptional speed, easily running from first to third on a base hit to right, or even from first to home on a double down the gap.

The Mets have considered other hitters for their leadoff spot, perhaps Starling Marte, Jeff McNeil, etc. Marte still provides speed and is still a stolen base threat on the bases. But he is coming off a disappointing, injury-riddled 2023 season and is on the decline at 35 years old, whereas Nimmo is still in his prime at 30 years old.

McNeil certainly has the hitting skills, especially his ability to make contact, to fit in the leadoff spot. But McNeil does not have the consistent on-base skills as Nimmo does, and his on-base average last season was only .333. McNeil also does not walk a lot, drawing only 39 walks last season. Even the season before, in 2022 when he won the National League batting title, McNeil only drew 40 walks.

So Nimmo is still the Mets best candidate at the leadoff spot for this season. When the Mets offense was at their best in 2022 in recent stretches, Nimmo jumpstarted it at the No. 1 spot and the rest of the hitters followed suit. Even in a disappointing 2023 season for the team, Nimmo’s impact at the leadoff spot still contributed to good years from Lindor and Alonso, where they had 98 and 118 RBIs respectively. So, the Mets lineup will be at their best with Nimmo leading the way.




7 comments on “Never take Brandon Nimmo out of the leadoff spot

  • TexasGusCC

    Nice piece David. Hard to believe Nimmo is only 30, but while his 31st birthday is in a few days, I felt like he was a couple of years older, and as we know in baseball that is a big deal. You are right that Nimmo plays an important part as the ignition to the offensive engine. Last year, according to FanGraphs Lindor was 17th in overall oWAR and Nimmo 23rd. Alonso was 42nd, so it shows how valuable it can be to be more of a complete player rather than a one dimensional one, even if the player excels in that one dimension.

    However, after two straight .400+ OBP seasons, Nimmo has been at .367 and .363 these last two years and that has improved his WAR dramatically but that is no longer elite. In fact he placed 22nd in qualified hitters and higher than him were Goldschmidt, Bergman and even Matt Olsen. Plus, who will his power numbers drive in?

    As the team is built right now, it is my perception that Marte is in fact the best option at leadoff. His high stolen base success rate plus Nimmo’s patience will give Marte plenty of opportunities and give Nimmo plenty of fastballs that he can do even more damage with. However, Marte needs to be at the bottom of the order right now until he proves he can be counted on.

    • Brian Joura

      If Marte is the Mets’ best option to bat leadoff, the team is in a world of trouble.

      The single most important thing for a leadoff hitter is to get on base. Marte’s OBP has gone from .383 to .347 to .301 in the past three years. And if you think his steals make up for that, here’s a piece from an article back in 2013 when people were making the same claim for Eric Young Jr. The Hi OBP guys were ones with a .350 and above while the Low OBP guys were .331 and under:

      The hi-steals/low OBP group has just three players who scored over 100 runs in a year while the lo-steals/hi OBP have 54 seasons of 100 or more runs scored. Jack Tobin scored 132 runs in 1921 when he had a .396 OBP and 7 SB. Pete Rose had 130 runs in 1976 when he had a .404 OBP and 9 SB. Meanwhile, the best runs scored total for the hi-SB/low-OBP group was the 112 scored by Lou Brock in 1967 when he swiped 52 bases and had a .329 OBP.

      Another look at leadoff options for the 2014 Mets

      • TexasGusCC

        I did close with Marte needs to prove himself. While we can flush last year’s .301 OBP for Marte and to be fair, his .383 from his walk year, what is the profound difference between Marte’s usual 34% OBP and Nimmo’s 36%, when obviously it helps both Marte and Nimmo while the team benefits? If Marte isn’t able to get where he was or close to it, then leave Nimmo at the top until Acuna or Williams arrive.

        It was amusing reading about a guy from over 100 years ago and another one from about 50 years ago as the examples used. I understand the point, but 3% of 600 plate appearances are 18 or about three more times on base per month of games. The trade off for that, is a player can get better pitches to hit all the time and the runner has a much better opportunity to steal a base. Again, hoping that Marte finds his game.

  • Steve_S.

    Agree on Nimmo leading off—at least for this year. Next year, it may be Jett Williams by May.

  • Metsense

    Never is a long time. Nimmo should be the lead batter as you pointed out. Eventually he would be a second or third batter in the future providing Acuna or/and Williams reached their potential. Stolen bases are weapon and Acuna and Williams are good with that. Nimmo is not.

  • NYM6986

    I’d keep Nimmo at the lead off spot but for god’s sake someone teach him to steal bases. He certainly has the speed. If he becomes a real threat to steal, then the defense will be stressed out and Marte in the #2 hole can drive him in from second. Manufacturing runs is a lost art that should be recovered for a team that many think will not really compete for a playoff spot.

  • David Hong

    Yeah I really wish Nimmo was more of a stolen base threat with his speed. He seemed aggressive with that, early last season, but it looked like he lost confidence after being thrown out at second in the ninth inning of a game at Detroit, which was a big mistake on his part.

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