PORT STREET. LUCIE — Brandon Nimmo was underappreciated by almost everyone for much of his career. Even when he was with the Mets after the club selected him in the first round of the 2011 draft, he had to work to shed the labels others gave him as fifth outfielder and frequent injury.
But the Mets always valued their local outfielder. It was never more apparent than in December, when he was made an offer to stay with the team for the rest of his career. Nimmo tested the free agency waters, eventually returning to Queens on an eight-year, $162 million contract with a $2 million signing bonus. Part of the reason he was such a popular free agent is that he changed the narrative about his injuries by playing a career-high 151 games.
The Mets and Nimmo found the formula to keep him on the field last season by using data from Catapult fitness trackers and reshaping his workload before and after games and in spring training.
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So for his next act, he expects more of the same.
“We started to realize that we were making 162 games on the double for me,” Nimmo said. “I was going out twice a day, probably throwing more balls than I was getting in the game, actually, during that time, and then I would play again. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely time to work, but the big league schedule and big league play is so demanding that you want to try and find ways to get the job done while trying not to expend as much energy as possible. ”
The Catapult data showed that Nimmo’s work in the outfield before games was more demanding than it seemed, and more demanding on him than on others because each body burns energy differently. The energy his body was expending with hours of pregame work in the outfield was putting him at risk of injury.
The Mets came up with a plan.
“Two hours before each game, prepare the body and really cut down on the time spent on the field before games,” he said. “Maybe trying to get it down to once a series on the road, just to get a ballpark feel. Don’t spend too much energy, just feel how the ball flies, how the stadium is. Maybe if you’re feeling good, drop the bases a few times. And then other than that, he’s getting ready for the game.”
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Set of lifting and recovery after the games. He cannot lift after an extra inning game or a game in which his energy output was high. The goal is to conserve as much energy as possible to use during games.
Nimmo liked the way the data helped him and the coaches make informed decisions, and he liked that the Mets weren’t afraid to shake up a routine that outfielders have done for nearly as long as the game has been around.
“I think we are now being smarter about it,” Nimmo said. “That’s how I did it in the minor leagues in the minor leagues and the schedule was brutal. There are people who have outgrown it for many, many years. But I think there have also been guys who have flown under the radar, and maybe they would have operated better on a different schedule or in different conditions or on a different preparation schedule.”
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The 29-year-old wants to stay true to his game and what makes him great, namely his on-base skills, defense and base running. Nimmo isn’t exactly a prolific baserunner, but he does run the bases well and is capable of stealing a few bags.
However, he didn’t try to steal as many bases last year as he did in previous years. When he played 140 games in 2018, he stole nine bases in 15 attempts. Last season, he stole three in just five attempts.
Nimmo still wants to steal bases and create offense with his legs, but for many reasons, he can’t just be a pointless punch.
“It’s about being more strategic about it,” Nimmo said. “Maybe Pete (Alonso) has been hitting well or Francisco (Lindor) is hitting. OK, let them swing the bat, I can still score from first base. But it’s also trying to realize that today’s game is the most important one, so if there’s a bag to take and you feel good enough to do it, then do it.”
Nimmo’s improved health is the result of the Mets’ investments in new technology, as well as a more mature outlook on the game after seven major league seasons. He had to get to a point in his career where he felt comfortable enough to make big changes.
Nimmo will soon take part in a Grapefruit League game to progress to a point where he is ready for the season. This plan worked last year and if all goes to plan it will work for the next eight.
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“For most of the season, you’re not going to be 100%. Usually you are sitting somewhere between 70 and 90%,” she said. “So you have to have an idea of where your body is and then risk management. That comes from maturing and getting to know your body.”