Swisher put in tough position with ChiSox, Yanks

Introducing the Fan Confidence Poll
CC tosses simulated game

On January 3, 2008, the White Sox acquired Nick Swisher from the Oakland A’s for Ryan Sweeney, Gio Gonzalez, and Fautino De Los Santos. This seemed like a pretty good trade for the Sox. They had seen Swisher play center field more than any other position with Oakland in 2007, and thought adding his bat to their lineup would make the team better. As we know, things didn’t work out all too well there. Says his former manager Ozzie Guillen:

“When you have a bad season like that, a lot of people can be blamed if you want to be negative,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recalled on Sunday. “(Swisher) did do some good things for us, playing out of position all season long. But when he started having trouble and was struggling, he couldn’t get control of that.

Part of the problem, I think, is that not only was Swisher playing a relatively new position for him — he hadn’t really played any center except for in 2007 — but also that he hit atop the batting order. Before 2008 he had hit leadoff a total of zero times in his major league career.

Ozzie is right in saying that “a lot of people can be blamed,” but it’s not only if you want to be negative. Swish definitely hit better when placed lower in the lineup, though “better” is a relative term here. In his 215 plate appearances from the seventh spot, Swish OPS’d a decent .779. That was a better OPS than what Ken Griffey Jr. mustered from center field in the second half.

Established players and rising stars stood in Swisher’s way. If the White Sox weren’t happy with Swish as a center fielder, they were stuck. Carlos Quentin, acquired exactly one month before Swisher, was in the midst of a breakout year, and established right fielder Jermaine Dye was having a good season. At first base, where Swisher did get reps, Paul Konerko was going to get every chance to prove that he could still hit. He did in the second half, posting a line of .270/.374/.535. In other words, there was no place to play Swish regularly if he wasn’t going to play center.

When the Sox traded him to the Yanks in November, it seemed like he’d finally have a starter’s role at one position: first base. Then, of course, the Yanks went out and got Mark Teixeira, complicating matters further. Where would Swisher play? That seemed to be a big question following the Teixeira acquisition.

Despite being displaced at one position, Swisher has a real chance for playing time with the Yanks, a chance he couldn’t get in Chicago unless he flourished in center field. All three outfield positions are open in one way or another. Swish could win the starting right fielder job over Xavier Nady, which is probably his best bet for playing time. He could take a good number of reps in center field if the Yanks so chose to do that, since there’s no budding superstar or established vet in that spot. Even at DH and left field, Swish could see some reps. Matsui and Damon are both 35 years old this year and could use days off here and there to stay fresh.

Had the White Sox hung onto him, Ozzie believes that Swish “would be in the same position he was last year — a fourth outfielder.” That’s the situation he could face on the Yankees too, but given the construction of each team, it looks like he’ll get a far better shot at significant playing time in New York. Which, I believe, will be Chicago’s loss and New York’s gain.

Introducing the Fan Confidence Poll
CC tosses simulated game
  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    RAB <3’s Nick Swisher.

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Not that there is anything wrong with that.

      • mustang

        agree again

    • jsbrendog

      swisher will get more than enough chances this year to show last year was a fluke. and i think that is good. maybe its because RAB has brainwashed me but i <3 Swisher too. no homo

    • mustang

      Agree.

    • Rich

      Which is better than <3’ing Nady.

  • A.D.

    Well if Swisher looses out and is the 4th OF he’ll still get at-bats, and he’ll definitely have a spot next year.

  • A.D.

    On Mike’d up last night Francesa claimed that Girardi wants Gardner & Swisher to win their respective position battles, and then went on to use some great baseball terms that included:

    gritty
    gamer
    grinder
    intangibles
    uniform dirty

    • http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/profile.php?id=594331910&ref=name Jamal G.

      It’s funny, I want those two to win their respective position battles because – in order of importance – they’re better on-base guys, and better defenders in comparison to their positional contenders (Melky for center field; Nady for right field).

      • Chris

        Not that I disagree with your ultimate point, but I think it’s hard to argue that Gardner is a better on base guy than Melky.

        As I see the battle shaping up, Gardner is better defensively and has more speed. Melky has the better arm and more power. The 2009 CF should be the one that can get on base more often, and I don’t know who that is.

        • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

          Gardner may’ve struggled in his cup(s) of coffee with the big team last season, but he does have a much better track record of on-base skills in the minors, boasting a .391 career OBP there.

      • A.D.

        Agreed, on top of that both are under contract for longer than their counterpart.

      • mustang

        That is funny. The age old fight at least you both agree.
        A rare moment indeed.
        LOL

    • whozat

      I hate that it’s not enough that Swisher’s a better baseball player than Nady. It has to be about his “grit”

      How about the fact that he’s more selective at the plate, better at getting on base, better on defense, and has almost as much pop? Why can’t THAT be the reason that Swisher winning the RF battle would be better for the team?

      • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

        Because the mainstream baseball media is devoid of rational thought, whozat.

        • Yank Crank 20

          Definitely. ESPN has their fantasy baseball stats scrolling on espn news now and guess who they ranked as the top outfielder in baseball going through the largest decline? Swisher, and I bet it’s all because they look at his .219 average from last year and assume he’s terrible. MLB Network is even worst, considering they have all old-school players doing the commentating and no voices to talk about the current state of the game, which has gone through a statistical revolution compared to how the game was judged when Harold Reynolds and Barry Larkin played. They only talk about home runs, rbis and BA when judging players and it makes me sick…that and their constant “Joba to the pen” talk.

          • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

            I lamented the B-Jobber stuff yesterday, in regards to Kruk. It’s not that I don’t like that they have their own opinion, it’s that they are completely uneducated on the other side of things; that extends past the Joba “debate,” as well. So many in the mainstream are quick to write off statistical analysis, yet they don’t know anything about it or aren’t even curious enough to learn.

          • Chris

            Keep in mind that fantasy value does not equal real baseball value.

            • Yank Crank 20

              Very true, good point.

            • mustang

              Great point.

        • mustang

          “Because the mainstream baseball media is devoid of rational thought, whozat.”

          I think that’s a little hard. Mainstream media is mostly made up of an older generation that believes in the intangibles not just numbers. It’s just a matter of how you look at the game that all.

          • mustang

            To me numbers are just a measuring stick of what a player may or may not do in a given year and intangibles can’t even be measure. To solely base any baseball argument on just one of these things seem a bit irrational.

            • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

              I’d rather an analyst use outdated tools (wins, BA, HR, RBI, etc) to evaluate a player than intangibles. Intangibles are nice for human interest pieces but they should never be used as evaluators of talent or performance. What people call “intangibles” are just things that can come out through normal scouting–a guy is called a “hustler,” but maybe he just gets good jumps on the balls in the OF or on the basepaths or maybe, just maybe, he’s a fast runner! My favorite example of stuff like this is Jeter’s jumps into the stands a few years ago, or the play at the plate in the Oakland series–he wasn’t in position to make those plays because he “wants it” any more than the other players around him…he was just a better athlete who was, at the time, more easily able to get to the ball.

              • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

                You can chalk the Jeter stuff up to baseball instincts. That’s an intangible, but it’s certainly important in evaluating a player. Some guys just understand the nuances of the game better, and it allows them to be in the right place at the right time more often. How does the phrase go again? Success is what happens when luck meets opportunity.

                • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                  I don’t know if I’d consider that an “intangible.” Knowing where to be is just a part of being a good player. If you don’t have good baseball instincts–you’re not positioned properly, you don’t get good jumps on balls, you throw to the wrong place at the wrong time…you’re a bad player. Instincts, IMO, are definitely tangible and a scout will be able to recognize that sort of thing with a proper amount of detail and attention.

                  I’m talking more about the phrases like “he’s a gamer” and “he really wants to win,” “this game’s gonna come down to who wants it more” and the like.

                • Andy In Sunny Daytona

                  What about “He plays the game the right way”?

                • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                  Haha, I forgot that one.

                • mustang

                  Is that any sillier then knowing Swisher OBP against left-handed pitching when batting from the right-side on grass fields during weekdays day games?

                • mustang

                  Both side can take it too far.

                • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                  I see your point but that number actually tells you something. Saying “he really wants to win” tells you absolutely nothing considering both players/teams “ really want to win.”

                  As for the instincts thing, I don’t think those are intangibles. Those are something you can easily see if you watch a player for long enough.

                • mustang

                  I do see your point a well, but I thinking you might take it as far to the right as much as Francesa takes it to the left.

                  And the fight goes on.
                  LOL

                • mustang

                  as well..

                • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                  Not your day on the keyboard, eh Mustang? ;) I kid, I kid. I’m enjoying this discussion–it’s much better than doing the papers I need to do!

                • mustang

                  It’s never my day on the keyboard my grammar and computer skills suck. Still I keep trying because I like discussing baseball with knowledgeable fans like you.
                  Now go do your paper and ass needs to get to the gym.
                  LOL.

                • mustang

                  my ass……
                  See what I mean.

              • mustang

                “Intangibles are nice for human interest pieces but they should never be used as evaluators of talent or performance.”

                I respectful disagree. When trading for player, especially to the Yanks, shouldn’t things like being able to handle the pressure be look at. Or how the player would fit the team.
                I’m not saying to solely base a decision on this, but to not account for it at all seem a bit one sided.

                • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                  What you’re talking about isn’t talent or performance, it’s team chemistry, something I think is wildly overrated in baseball.

                • mustang

                  I’m not surprised.
                  And it may effect performance reference Clemens when he first became a Yank on the pressure part.

                • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                  Team chemistry is overrated in baseball because of the very nature of the game. It is a team sport that is focused on individuals. Baseball is incredibly unlike football, basketball, and hockey where there is constant interaction between teammates on the field. Most of the game is a one-on-one match-up between pitcher and hitter. Even in parts of the game where there are interactions, such as turning double plays or hitting the right cut-off man, success isn’t based on whether or not those players like each other but whether or not they’re actually able to do those things.

                  But Clemens followed it up with great seasons, didn’t he? Hell, he won the CY just 2 years later. Did the pressure suddenly just go away? I think his lack of success in his first year with the club probably had more to do with the fact that he had thrown 741.4 innings over the last three years before coming to NY than the fact that he was actually in New York.

                • mustang

                  Talking like a true Stat man. It couldn’t be that he adjusted to pitching in New York following his first year.
                  Clemens himself admitted that the pressure got to him the first year.
                  We could do this all day, but be careful of criticizing Francesa because you seem as equally entrenched on the other side.
                  And the answer to these things is usually in the middle.

                • mustang

                  For the record I’m not a fan of Francesa .

                • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                  I agree–I think scouting and stats should go hand in hand, not against each other. My problem isn’t with scouting–it’s incredibly useful. My problem is with intangibles being used in placed of stuff that can be easily tangible–numbers and scouting. Saying a guy is a “gamer” means nothing to me. If he wasn’t a competitive guy, he wouldn’t have made it to professional baseball. Saying “he really wants to win” means nothing–isn’t saying that basically saying the other guy team doesn’t want to, which is obviously untrue? That’s what I have a problem with.

                  What about A-Rod? Everyone harps on how he lets the pressure of NY get to him, yet he puts up incredible numbers every single year. I don’t remember his first year all too well, but I do know that Clemens is a pretty prideful guy who probably wouldn’t admit that he was bothered by injuries. I mean, shit, I don’t care who you are, 740 innings in 3 yeras the way that dude threw had to take some sort of toll. Plus, it’s not like he was pitching in baseball no-where’s ville when he was pitching for Boston.

                • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                  “For the record I’m not a fan of Francesa .”

                  Even my dad, who’s a pretty big baseball/sports traditionalist, can’t stand the guy. It’s not so much that I hate Francesa’s opinions it’s just the way he presents himself most of the time. He clearly loves the sound of his own voice, cannot listen to any part of an opposing argument, and thinks he knows literally everything there is to know about sports.

                • mustang

                  One thing I must give you is that you at the very least knowledge the other side and have argue your side very elegantly. I doubt I would get the same treatment from Mr. Francesa.

                • mustang

                  “He clearly loves the sound of his own voice, cannot listen to any part of an opposing argument, and thinks he knows literally everything there is to know about sports.”

                  AGREE !!!!!!!!!!!

                • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                  “One thing I must give you is that you at the very least knowledge the other side and have argue your side very elegantly. I doubt I would get the same treatment from Mr. Francesa.”

                  In my opinion, you can’t have a solid argument w/someone unless you know both sides of the issue. For me to sit here and rail against a subject with no knowledge of it would be incredibly irresponsible and intellectually dishonest.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

        Damn right about the pop. Using Iso (subtracting batting average from slugging so you cancel out the singles)from 06 through 08:

        Nady: .173, .198, .205
        Swish: .239, .192, .191

        If Swish can replicate 2006, he’s better in every way. Not that we should count on that…

        • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

          IsoP is a very, very underrated stat, as well as IsoD.

          • Whozat

            IsoD stands for isolated…discipline? Yes?

            • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

              Differential, actually. OBP-BA.

            • Chris

              You’re correct. Isolated Discipline and Isolated Power.

              Here’s one article that spells them out…

              http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2005/12/oops_here_it_is.php

              • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

                That’s a great article. I love Rich Lederer’s work.

    • LiveFromNewYork

      I didn’t see this and basically said the same thing down below. Sorry for the repeat.

  • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

    President of the Nick Swisher Fan Club, reporting for duty!

  • Jake H

    I would rather see him then Nady. While I would like to see Nady have a big year so he gets to a type A free agent, I just don’t see it happening.

    • jsbrendog

      i think nady ends up traded in the summer

      • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

        I don’t know. I love Nady over Swisher and would like to see Nady traded so Swisher can take over the full time job, no questions asked, but holding on to both of them will most likely be more valuable to the Yankees than whatever either one would fetch in a trade.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    Mike Francesa was on some local news last night opining about everything and he said that Gardner and Swisher are as close to “Girardi’s guys” as outfielders could get. They’re the types who get their uniforms dirty and Francesa thinks that Girardi prefers Gardner over Melky and Swisher over Nady.

    I like Nady but, for once, I hope the big dummy is right.

    • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

      What’s sad is that, while being right, he’d be right for the wrong reasons.

      • mustang

        How about being right for just different reasons?

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona
    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Sorry about the off topic. I should know better.

    • Yank Crank 20

      I can’t tell which is funnier, the fact he’s on an Olympic roster or the picture of him. I’m going with the picture, which reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns goes to bunt and when the ball hits his bat, it sends him and his bat flying backwards into the screen.

  • Joe

    It’s not really true that Swisher had to play CF or beat out Junior.Quentin went down for the season and missed the playoffs.Ozzie decided to plat DEWAYNE WISE over Swisher in the playoffs.