Ben, Mike, and I have made it no secret that we want to see Nick Swisher win the starting right fielder job. It’s nothing against Xavier Nady. He’s still a good player and having him start in right wouldn’t be a horrible idea. That is, if Nick Swisher weren’t on the team. At Driveline Mechanics, devil_fingers takes a statistical look at the projections for the duo. He also adds in the Yankees’ other corner outfielders, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, the outfielder being replaced (Bobby Abreu), and Manny, just because he’s Manny.
The methodology uses the PECOTA, ZiPS, and CHONE projection systems to evaluate the players based on wOBA and the CHONE defensive projections. Clearly, this is not perfect. I’m no fan of projections myself, but since this is for fun I’ll play along. For a frame of reference, here are the basic slash stats for each player:
After calculating for wOBA, adjusting for position (though not wholly necessary because everyone in this group is a corner outfielder), and converting to runs added, Swisher comes out as the second best in the group. He’s at less than half Manny’s total, but at 16.5 runs he’s ahead of the other Yankees, plus Abreu, on the list. You can get the whole graph here. On the defensive front, Manny is also tops. And by tops I mean has the longest bar on the graph. Swisher and Damon are the only ones projected to prevent runs with their gloves, as they are at positive 5 and 6 runs, respectively.
Put it all together, and you have the final tally. The boost in each player’s ranking is due to a replacement level adjustment (it was the same for all players, so don’t worry). Not only is Swisher projected to provide far more value than his teammates, but when considering defense he’s projected to be nearly as valuable as Manny.
As I said before, this is just a projection system and not something to be taken as gospel. It would be great if Swisher actually hit to his CHONE projections, and given his career stats prior to last year it’s certainly possible. I also don’t think Nady will hit quite as poorly as his projection. Even if he improves upon it a little, say a .345 OBP, he still wouldn’t be as good as Swisher. Given the difference in their projected defensive production, it would be tough for Nady to catch up.
While this projection alone won’t win Swisher the job, hopefully he makes his case during Spring Training. I’ve always liked Swisher thanks to Moneyball and I was psyched when the Yanks acquired him. If he can return to form he’ll be what Brian Cashman would call an asset to the team.