Jul
15

Nick Swisher and BABIP

By

Swish singles again | Photo credit: Elaine Thompson/AP

This isn’t the Nick Swisher you used to know. When you started following him in Oakland because of his Moneyball appearance, or if you just started watching him last year, you could have easily pegged Swisher as a certain type of player. He doesn’t hit for high average, he strikes out a lot, he hits for power, and he takes a ton of walks. The value in the latter two compensate for the former two, which makes Swisher a pretty valuable player. I’m sure that if he continued that way the Yanks would have kept him around through 2012, when they’d have to pick up his $10.25 million option. Now, though, Swisher has changed the equation with his uncharacteristic first half.

In the past Swisher has always carried a low BABIP. He peaked in 2007 at .301, but has mostly been down in the .270 to .280 range. This year he’s up at .341, which might have some thinking that it’s a bunch of luck. Yet that is not what a high BABIP necessarily means.

Different players carry different BABIPs. It’s all about the hitting style. We usually reference a player’s career BABIP because, well, it’s the same player. But when that player changes his approach we should be cautious when making statements about his BABIP. Swisher has changed enough that we might see him sustain a number far higher than he has before in his career.

So what should we expect from Swisher? Clearly his approach has changed. His strikeout rate is down and his contact rate is higher than any previous year. His swinging strikes are slightly down, though not significantly so. He’s also swinging a ton more, 44.2 percent against a 39.2 percent career average. He’s hitting more line drives than ever, and he still has 15 home runs despite 13.3 percent HR/FB ratio, which is below his career average. So there are some factors that suggest that he’ll continue hitting well.

How well? According to xBABIP Swisher is still hitting a bit above his head. That calculator, which takes into account homers, strikeouts, stolen bases, line drives, flyballs, pop ups, and ground outs, peg him for a .309 mark. That would still be above his career average, but not quite to the level he’s hitting now. The good news is that he’s outpacing that now and theoretically could in the second half. The bad news is that regression can strike at any time. If it does guide Swish back down to earth, hopefully it has the courtesy to raise up some of the underperformers.

As Mike noted before the season, Swisher showed signs that he was playing above his head last year. Yet he made adjustments and has exceeded expectations this year. There is a good chance that he continues to outperform his expected numbers because, well, he’s a changed player. He has tightened up his stance and is displaying a more aggressive approach at the plate. This could lead to even more good things in the second half, even if the projections suggest otherwise.

Categories : Offense

58 Comments»

  1. Rose says:

    But according to an ESPN poll, Nick Swisher is one of the most overrated players in the game!!

    I still don’t understand how it’s even possible.

    • Apollo22237 says:

      Well, according to everyone, the fact that he is in the Yankee lineup means that he actually sucks. The only reason he has anything above a .150 avg, 2 HRs, and 17 RBI’s is just the fact he is a product of the lineup…

    • Angelo says:

      He’s a Yankee. That’s almost expected. Jeter, A-Rod, any player besides the gritster is probably “overrated” in Yankee haters eyes.

    • That whole list is a joke. I mean, Gary Matthews is on it. Who could possibly overrate him? Also, Joba is No. 1. I just don’t get the players sometimes.

      • Rose says:

        haha yeah I was baffled. This post of mine was meant to be sarcastic.

        Who is overrating Joba right now? I just don’t understand any of it.

    • Mike HC says:

      Just goes to show how underrated he still is. The guy is not even rated that high, and people still think he is overrated.

  2. Salty Buggah says:

    I love the new Swish (except his higher O-Swing% (I’m being greedy), but that might be necessary in his new approach). If and when he does come down to Earth, I hope he’ll starting walking more, as his BB% is slighly lower than career averages.

  3. What comforts me about Swisher is that if he is playing over his head in terms of his BA and it starts to come down, he has the skill set to compensate and still remain productive.

  4. Joe, the post you just wrote was 509 words long and didn’t mention Kevin Long once.

    I’m shocked.

  5. Johnny O says:

    Sorry but I don’t care what your fancy stats say. BBAPIP or whatever it is, Nick Swisher is NOT a True Yankee.

    /Francessa’d

  6. DeltaWagon says:

    Dont forget about the other reason Billy Beane drafted him; He’s Lenny Dykstra part 2. He doesnt wear jeans. He’s been working on his defense, and on hitting more line drives. Why?

    Nick Swisher is a Baseball Player.

  7. jim p says:

    Someday there’ll be a metric which includes “Learned something.” Then, then, we can do spreadsheet baseball.

  8. sangreal says:

    The thing I always admire Swisher for is his dedication to improvement. Last year he was working with Dave Eiland to improve his throws from the outfield, and this year all the hoopla over fixing his swing with Kevin Long. This tells me that even if he does hit a slump, he’ll put in the effort to fix the problem instead of just doing the same thing everyday and blaming everything on luck or a “bad day” ala Tex, AJ, Joba, etc.

    • Steve H says:

      just doing the same thing everyday and blaming everything on luck or a “bad day” ala Tex, AJ, Joba, etc.

      I highly doubt those guys aren’t working their asses off when slumping. That’s pretty unfair to paint them with that brush. Whether it’s reported or not, we don’t know whether they do or do not work at it. Considering Tex is considered one of the hardest workers in baseball (and one of the best) I highly doubt he’s not putting in the effort to fix problems.

    • Pete says:

      Yeah, Teix really strikes me as a lazy player…

    • This tells me that even if he does hit a slump, he’ll put in the effort to fix the problem instead of just doing the same thing everyday and blaming everything on luck or a “bad day” ala Tex, AJ, Joba, etc.

      Having done no research on the topic whatsoever, I bet if you cataloged all the statements made to the media by Swish, Tex, AJ, and Joba–pregame, postgame, in-season, offseason, whatever–the amount of times they’ve said they were unlucky or had a bad day is probably totally identical. All ballplayers talk about bad luck and bad days when explaining temporary poor performance, because all players have bad luck and bad days.

      Secondly, I also have done no research on this, but I bet that Swisher, Tex, AJ, and Joba all put in significant effort to fix a problem when they’re not producing at levels they think they’re capable of. None of these guys refuse to work hard to get better. They all want to succeed.

      This statement is horribly ill-reasoned, IMO.

  9. ZZ says:

    The good news is that he’s outpacing that now and theoretically could in the second half.

    There is no good news. He participated in the Home Run Derby, so it is over for Swish.

  10. fact police says:

    I’d prefer that Nick Swisher hit the ball harder AND walk constantly, but maybe I’m being greedy. He’s having a career year and all, but a declining walk rate is never a good thing. I doubt that swinging at more pitches out of the zone is what’s driving his improvement.

  11. Snakes on the mother effin Temple Of Doom says:

    Wait. Is Swisher any good?

  12. Jim Walewander says:

    Apologies if this comparison has been done on RAB before, but I was thinking about it this winter:

    2004 – 2010

    Player A (1,971 Plate Appearances)
    BA/OBP/SLG/OPS = .287/.353/.464/.817

    Player B (1,795 Plate Appearances)
    BA/OBP/SLG/OPS = .255/.356/.475/.831

    Sorry, bexarama, I have not included an Andy Pettitte stat line.

    Player A is Matt Holliday’s career Away stats
    Player B is Nick Swisher’s career Away stats

    Btw, Holliday’s career home OPS = 1.040, Swisher’s = .822

    Simplistic comparison? Sure. But what kind of contract could Swisher have if he had played in Colorado like Holliday? This is why I was relieved when the Yanks didn’t sign Holliday to a huge deal.

    (Stats from baseball-reference.com)

  13. Mr. Jones says:

    I like how Swish made no excuses about his miserable post season performance.(unlike other players cough…Mark Tex) He just lost some weight and worked hard in the off season and now he’s playing like a champion.

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