Statistically, Swisher a clear choice for right field

His name ain't chump, it's Cody Ransom
Looking forward, looking back

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:

Swisher: .247/.360/.454
Nady: .273/.327/.456
Manny: .290/.399/.524
Hideki: .277/.360/.443
Damon: .276/.351/.417
Abreu: .271/.371/.413

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.

His name ain't chump, it's Cody Ransom
Looking forward, looking back
  • Cor Shep

    I really love Swisher and agree that he should be starting over Nady in RF.

    But for some reason Cashman or Girardi have never said RF is up for grabs like they have for CF. I think they are pretty set on starting Nady and usung Swisher as a super-utility guy – and then when nady hit free agency next year, Swish can take RF for a couple of years.

    I think he’s the perfect championship-type player – reminds me of a paul o’neill type player. I’m so excited for this season!!!

    • andrew

      Swisher brings some True Hustle, Heart and Grit™©® out there, reminds me of Pedroia.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Except, you know, for the fact that Swisher is a man, of course.

        • rbizzler

          and not a munchkin?

  • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

    didnt realize nady was projected that low defensively

    • http://statspeak.net dan

      -5 by itself isn’t that bad compared to league average. Just when compared to a +5 it starts to make a difference.

  • http://and-that-happened.blogspot.com Evan

    I know Matt loves this. ;)

    • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

      :)

  • johnny

    I agree swisher is the best man for the job IF he returns to form, which I think he will. there was a post on this site a while back with some stats(BABIP & line drive %) suggesting last year wasn’t as bad as it looked. I like that he’s a switch hitter, on base monster, and has good power.

    One thing about these projections I notice, actually most projections, is the numbers seem low. of the list above I wouldn’t be surprised if all of them performed beyond those numbers. what changed since the end of the season that suggests ramirez is gonna hit 290? even damon and matsui are typically close to or over 300. I know people get older but I just can’t see this playing out. maybe they know something I don’t.

    • Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve

      “I agree swisher is the best man for the job IF he returns to form, which I think he will. ”

      I agree. Swisher wins out when you use career #s, but Nady wins looking at last year and its not close. I’ve also argued that last year wasn’t a ‘career year’ for Nady, it was part of a steady progression he’s made by improving his #s against Righties.

      I just want Swisher to prove that last year was a fluke for the first few months of the year before I hand him the job, then I’d consider dealing Nady at the deadline depending on what offers we get and our roster situation. Nady has also typically been a 1st half player, wheras Swisher has been more steady throughout the season. Take advantage of that, give Nady more ABs to start the season and then have Swisher start everyday in the 2nd half.

      But if we start Swisher and it turns out last year wasn’t a fluke, by the time we figure it out we will have spent at least 2 months of the season getting below league average production out of a key power position.

      • mustang

        I totally agree.
        Especially with the ” last year wasn’t a ‘career year’ for Nady, it was part of a steady progression he’s made by improving his #s against Righties.” part.

        Nady seem able to handle the spotlight of New York (Mets and Yanks) and has had success hitting in parks with the Stadium dimensions (PNC Park is similar). To me he just looks like the better hitter I know blasphemy.
        I don’t understand this love for Swisher, but it will be fun to see how this turns out since all these Stats point to him being the better player.

        • mustang

          I do agree with RAB that the Yankees are better with both them on the team.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I don’t understand this love for Swisher…

          I don’t understand your lack of love for Swisher, to be frank. He’s had one bad year. It happened to be last year, his first and only with the White Sox, a year where he was playing out of position for a manager who is well known for having jello for brains and complaining that his power hitters aren’t bunting enough.

          Outside of that one year, Swisher has been the bomb-digi. A much better player than Nady. (And, like, you, I like Nady).

          It seems like you’re valuing one year WAY MORE than the bulk of a career.

          • mustang

            No, not really I’m taking a wait and see attitude on both Nady and Swisher. I don’t dislike Swisher I thought he was a great pick up I just think we are making him out to be a little more than what he is. In the same way one can say that Nady had a ‘career year’ one can also say that last year was the start of a decline for Swisher.
            You’re right it’s just one year for the both of them.

      • Thomas

        FWIW, Nady has shown also a steady downward progression against lefties from 2006-2008. Though it is more important to hit righties well, since he will face a right handed pitcher much more often during the course of a season.

  • Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve

    BTW-In the post-steroid era (and post-amphetamines) is anyone willing to consider the possibility that last year WASN’T a fluke for Swish? That he might regress even further this year? His numbers got worse as the season progressed last year, even in September facing AAA pitchers.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/bsplit.cgi?n1=swishni01&year=2008

    Then we have the ‘adjustment to NY’ thing, where some players simply haven’t performed here for whatever reason. I’m not saying Swisher isn’t our long term solution, I think he is. Just show me before I hand you the everyday job.

    • mustang

      Good points.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I’m not saying Swisher isn’t our long term solution, I think he is. Just show me before I hand you the everyday job.

      FWIW, Steve, I don’t think I, or any of the other pro-Swisher advocates, have been calling on the team to “hand” him the everyday job. We just don’t want the team to “hand” Nady the everyday job instead, we want an open competition for RF, and we predict that if there is an open competition, Swisher will probably win. Because he’s probably better.

      Not definitely, inflexibly better, just probably better and hence, probable to win a competition if both players enter on even footing.

      • steve (different one)

        FWIW, Steve, I don’t think I, or any of the other pro-Swisher advocates, have been calling on the team to “hand” him the everyday job.

        in fairness to Steve, yes, some people have. not saying YOU have, but there is absolutely a segment of fans that think Swisher should be handed the job no questions asked.

        frankly, it doesn’t really matter who “wins” the job out of ST. with Damon in LF and an “unsettled” CF, both guys are going to play a lot. and whomever performs better will eventually grab the bulk of playing time.

        • mustang

          Agree

      • mustang

        I do agree with the open competition part.

        • mustang

          Neither one should be handed the RF spot.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    This whole post is a shot at Damon and you know it, Joe.

  • steve (different one)

    also, not to nitpick, but i noticed this methodology handpicks the projection systems that favor Swisher.

    Marcel for example, which has been shown to just as good a job as the other systems, prefers Nady (on offense at least). CHONE is the most lopsided in favor of Swisher.

    CHONE actually predicts Nady worse than his career averages, which i don’t think makes sense intuitively. he’s only 30 and coming off a career year. of course, you shouldn’t project him to repeat his 2008 numbers, but his numbers going forward SHOULD reflect a boost.

    • steve (different one)

      For example:

      Nady CHONE: .273/.327/.456
      Nady Career: .280/.335/.458

      Swisher CHONE: .247/.360/.454
      Swisher Career: .244/.354/.451

      for all intents and purposes, the CHONE numbers are basically just their career averages.

      in other words, CHONE is basically weighting the 2008 season the SAME as any other season.

      i have to disagree with that.

      the most recent season should get more weight. it carries more predictive value than something that happened 4 years ago.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        the most recent season should get more weight. it carries more predictive value than something that happened 4 years ago.

        I think that’s a statement that sounds truer than it actually is.

        I’ll agree with you that, for predictive purposes, the immediately previous season should carry more predictive weight than a season from, say, 4 years ago. But, the immediately previous season should probably carry LESS predictive weight than the aggregation of the previous four years together. If nothing matters as much as the immediately preceeding season, we’d constantly be jumping to erroneous conclusions based on a players’ fluky good or bad years.

        Larger sample sizes are almost always better than smaller ones. The only real exception to this is players at the tail end of their careers, where a one-year sample size may correctly point aggressively downward.

        • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

          If nothing matters as much as the immediately preceeding season, we’d constantly be jumping to erroneous conclusions based on a players’ fluky good or bad years.

          I think the weight of the previous season is why PECOTA projects A-Rod to hit for such poor power in the next few years.

        • steve (different one)

          If nothing matters as much as the immediately preceeding season, we’d constantly be jumping to erroneous conclusions based on a players’ fluky good or bad years

          of course. didn’t say it should get ALL the weight, just MORE weight.

          for example, all Marcel does is weight the previous 3 seasons 3/2/1 and apply some simple age adjustments.

          this method has shown to be just as effective as all of the other “fancy” systems.

  • Andy

    There is also another consideration – Swisher has much more value off the bench than Nady. He can play more positions, and is a Switch hitter, allowing Girardi to play matchups. So to me, even if Swisher is slightly better than Nady (which is certainly debatable, despite the projections – .305/.357/.510 v. .219/.332/.410 is the very definition of not even close, giving the most recent data), Swisher on the bench and Nady as the starting RF may still have more “value” to the Yanks. Considering that Swisher can play multiple positions and should be able to get 400 ABs even if Nady is the “starter,” I say start Nady until Swisher makes it clear he a significant upgrade over Nady.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      No. Having a good bench player is not more valuable than having a good starting player. If Swisher is in fact better than Nady, Swisher should start.

      This concept is like the Joba to the bullpen concept. You’re trying to fill two holes by putting a better player in the FAR less important hole just because he’s a better player and hence, more capable of filling either hole with aplomb.

      But just like it would be foolish to put Joba in the pen and an inferior pitcher in the 5th starter role, it’s foolish to put Swisher on the bench and Nady in RF simply because Swisher plays more positions than Nady.

      ———————-

      Furthermore, Swisher does NOT play more positions than Nady. They’re both LF/RF/1B/DH guys who can play CF in a pinch. They’re virtually identical as utility bench guys, except that Swisher plays better defense, which is even MORE of a reason to start him over Nady.

      • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

        What he said.

  • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

    What was encouraging about Swisher having a bad season is that his peripherals still stayed around the same. His career IsoD (OBP-BA) is .110 and this past season, he was at .113. While a .332 OBP isn’t a great mark standing alone, when it happens despite a .219 BA, it’s pretty impressive. His IsoP (SLG-BA) dropped a little bit from his career mark of .207 to .191, but that’s not a huge drop off.

  • Rob S.

    Xavier Nady is our right fielder. Swisher was aquired to play first base but we got a better option so too bad for him. Swisher can fill in at third while A-Rod recovers and then hit the bench. Nady hit for average and power last year while Swisher hit .219. Swisher has to reprove himself in my opinion but Nady shouldn’t lose his job just because Swisher lost his at first.

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