The aggressively patient Brandon Nimmo

What is sparking Nimmo's hot start?

It’s a bit ironic to say Brandon Nimmo is swinging a hot bat, considering his success is partially due to the fact he is swinging the bat less. The affable left-hander has always been a patient hitter relative to league average, but this season, he is taking it to a new level.

However, looking at Nimmo’s raw swing rate only scratches the surface of why he has been getting on base seemingly every time he steps to the plate. While it’s true his bat has remained planted above his shoulder more often, particularly on the first pitch, it turns out he is focused more on pitch location than patiently working deep counts. In fact, when he does get a pitch he likes, he has actually been very aggressive with his swings, which explains why he is seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance this season (3.81) than at any other point in his career.

Nimmo is reducing his swings and finding favorable counts to be aggressive by refusing to extend the strike zone and chase bad pitches. Despite batting in front of Francisco Lindor — leading you to believe pitchers wouldn’t want to mess around with Nimmo — he has seen more 2-0 and 3-0 counts than ever before, and at nearly twice the league average rate.

Nimmo looks for his pitch to hit and doesn’t help the pitcher out by swinging at junk. You can see this by looking at Nimmo’s swing rate by location (compared to league average in the graphic below); his approach is simple: if a pitch sails over the middle or lower portion of the strike zone, he swings; otherwise, he doesn’t.

Two things are happening from Nimmo’s aggressively patient approach: first, as one might guess, by swinging at pitches down the middle of the plate (the squares highlighted in red), his batting average has skyrocketed; and second, by ignoring pitches up in the zone, he is hitting more ground balls.

Nimmo’s ground ball rate has jumped from 38.8% two seasons ago to 50% this year. Amazingly, he has only hit a fly ball on 10% of the balls he has put in play in 2021 (compared to a 32.9% career average). This is what happens when you isolate your swings to pitches low in the zone. 

It’s reasonable to be concerned that Nimmo’s propensity for hitting the ball on the ground could soon lead to less favorable results than his current .650 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) has produced. Of course, a regression to the mean will happen, but if you look at the quality of his contact, there is reason to feel confident he will continue to do damage.

Besides ground balls, Nimmo is hitting a ton of line drives. He is living in the sweet spot (pun intended) of turning several pitches into flares and hard hit grounders (burners), while avoiding swinging under the ball (leading to pop-ups and harmless fly outs). He is making solid contact at nearly twice the rate he has over his career.

BOTTOM LINE: If you randomly flipped to SNY over the past two weeks, you likely found two things: either alternate programming because the game was postponed, or ahighlight of Brandon Nimmo getting on base. He leads the National League in both batting average (.464) and on-base percentage (.583), while ranking 4th in OPS (1.155). He is getting more hits, while swinging less. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.