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
  • Rose

    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

      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…

    • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

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

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

      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

        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.

        • Apollo22237

          Teh Mentality!!!

        • Ed

          I don’t think they feel people are overrating Joba at the present moment. They’re just seeing a 5.79 ERA out of the bullpen and remembering all the expectations and hype over the past few years. He’s not coming close to living up to the expectations, and we all know it.

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

            Yet Swisher is having a career year and is being considered overrated by the same group, so it’s not just what you are saying (which makes sense).

            • Ed

              No disagreement with you on that. I was just surprised that people didn’t get why Joba was on the list. He just seemed like an obvious one.

              • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

                Agreed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9370232 Mike HC

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

  • Salty Buggah

    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.

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

      Remember, O-Swing% is up league-wide this year. Or so some sage writer at FanGraphs told me.

      • Salty Buggah

        Wow, thanks. I missed that article.

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

        Or so some sage writer at FanGraphs told me.

        It truly is Beauty and the Beast. I might add–a handsome beast at that.

  • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

    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.

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

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

    I’m shocked.

  • Johnny O

    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

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

      Fun Fact: Nick Swisher’s OPS+ in pinstripes so far (135+) is higher than Bernie’s, Paulie’s, Donnie’s, Yogi’s, Jorge’s, Hideki’s, Murcer’s, Bill Dickey’s, etc. etc. etc.

      • Johnny O

        BLASPHEMY!

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

          BRING ME BILL DICKEY’S LAST FIVE STARTS!!!!!!

      • Tom Zig

        boom roasted

  • DeltaWagon

    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.

  • jim p

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

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      LARP-Learns above replacement player

      • Salty Buggah

        Nick Swisher will lead the league in that category, like in every other category, and he has nothing to learn.

      • B-Rando

        haha, LARP….i like it

      • CountZero

        Sorry — LARP is already taken as an acronym and it was taken by a group of people living in their mother’s basements so you’ll have to think up a new one.

        Wikipedia

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          it was taken by a group of people living in their mother’s basements so

          Can’t it be shared with another group of people living in their mother’s basements?

          • CountZero

            Nope. See if it had been taken by curmudgeons it would be open to re-use in a new segment, but there’s too much overlap here.

  • sangreal

    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.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      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

      Yeah, Teix really strikes me as a lazy player…

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

        My narrative >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> your facts

      • sangreal

        I didn’t say he is lazy. I said he makes poor excuses when he is playing poorly. “I had a great May”

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

      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.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

        This statement is horribly ill-reasoned. IMO.

        FTFY.

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

          I was trying to be nice.

          • thurdonpaul

            tommie being nice, thats a first

            just kidding :)

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

              It’s happened once or twice before.

          • jim p

            And look what happens.

      • sangreal

        It isn’t about putting in extra work. I’m sure they all do extra bullpen sessions or batting practice or whatever. It’s about admitting flaws and making significant changes rather than excuses. If you want to show me comments from any of those players admitting they need to actually change something, feel free. All I recall from Teixeira was “I had a great May” and “I’m not doing anything different.” AJ and Joba’s inability to admit any mistakes were well documented last season.

  • ZZ

    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.

  • fact police

    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.

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

      I’d prefer that Nick Swisher hit the ball harder AND walk constantly, but maybe I’m being greedy.

      fact police, you epitomize the worst of what Yankee fans can be right now: unbelievably greedy, never satisfied, not content to enjoy the team you have on the field this year and their chances to win.

      From you, fact police, I expected better.

      Sincerely,
      The Ghost of Scott Brosius

      http://riveraveblues.com/2010/.....ent-959681

  • Snakes on the mother effin Temple Of Doom

    Wait. Is Swisher any good?

    • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

      Nah, he’s just a fourth outfielder.

      • I Voted for Kodos

        Shoulda kept Nady.

        • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

          Definitely. And how could they choose Gardner over Melky? Fire Cashman!

          • I Voted for Kodos

            He cost this team a lot of clutchiness when he chose Gardner.

            • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

              Grittiness>>>>Clutchiness

              You can be gritty every day, but you have to be put in a position to be clutch.

              • I Voted for Kodos

                You know, I hadn’t considered that.

                Maybe, just maybe, Cash knows what he’s doing every now and again.

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

                Counterargument: By jettisoning Melky and moving Gardner to the starting lineup, he weakened our bench.

                One thing matters more than anything (besides bulldog mentality): having a gritty bench of grindy scrappers.

                • I Voted for Kodos

                  Ergo, to win the World Series this year, we should trade for David Eckstein and convince Darin Erstad to come out of retirement.

                  Eckstein is short and looks like he tries really hard, while Erstad played college football. It doesn’t get much more grindily scrappy than that.

                  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

                    You know who’s grittier than Eckstein and Erstad?

                    Eckstein and Erstad. In Red Sox uniforms.

                    • I Voted for Kodos

                      Can you imagine the epic beards those two would inevitably grow if they were on the Sox?

                      It’s a breathtaking thought.

  • Jim Walewander

    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)

  • Mr. Jones

    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.