Sep
17

Can Nick Swisher reach .300?

By

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Contrary to what baseball traditionalists might tell you, hitting .300 is not that important. There are more important things in baseball than getting a hit three times in every 10 official at-bats. Hitting for power and getting on base are equally important, and while they can be part of batting average they aren’t necessarily so. In other words, there are many ways to become a productive player, and hitting .300 is only one of them. Still, it’s an interesting feat that still carries some power in today’s game. It becomes even more interesting when an unsuspecting player reaches the plateau.

Nick Swisher hasn’t been anyone’s idea of a .300 hitter for a while now. At Ohio State he hit .299, .322, and .348, but once he hit the minors that average started to dip. He compensated by getting on base and hitting for power, but by 2005 it became clear that he wasn’t the kind of guy that would dunk a single over the second baseman’s head. Instead he either crushed the ball, struck out, or took his base. In his first full big league season more than half of his hits went for extra bases, and in 223 of his 522 plate appearances he either drew a walk, struck out, or hit for extra bases.

Swisher experienced a similar effect during his first year in the Bronx. Of his 124 hits, more than half went for extra bases and again nearly half of his plate appearances (288 of 607) resulted in a strikeout, walk, or extra base hit. He hit only .249, which drew the ire of some old school fans, but Swisher contributed greatly to the Yankees 103 wins. His ability to avoid making outs and his power made him a useful player, albeit not in the traditional mold. But this year we’ve seen something completely different.

It was evident early on that Swisher was going to be a different type of hitter this year. He started swinging earlier in the count and was lining pitchers over infielders’ heads for singles. He started hitting bleeders through the hole. He stopped taking so many walks. It’s not that Swisher stopped being so patient; he’s still 20th in the AL in pitches seen per plate appearance. But he is definitely looking early in the count for pitches he can drive. These don’t necessarily have to be meatballs, but simply pitches that he can hit on a line. It has worked so far, as he currently sports a .288 batting average.

A knee injury has kept Swish either out of the lineup or ineffective for most of September. He’s just 3 for 26* this month, dropping his average from .296 to its current .288. That will certainly hurt his chances at hitting .300. Health is obviously a priority over an arbitrary milestone, but it would still be nice to see Swish reach that this year. He doesn’t have much time left to make it up.

*Yeah, and 1 for 1 in walk-off opportunities.

Assuming he gets the weekend series off, he’ll have 12 games in which to add 12 points to his batting average. At 4 PA per game that’s 48 remaining, but let’s say 50 since there are plenty of games in which he’ll appear five times. He’s walking in 9.3 percent of PA so far, so let’s assume five walks the rest of the way. That’s 45 AB added to his current 507, so 552. With that many AB a player would need 166 hits to reach .300. Swisher currently has 146, so he’d need to go 20 for 45. Doing that would go a long way in the Yankees clinching a spot early, but it’s not very likely at all.

While .300 is all but unattainable, it shouldn’t dampen Swisher’s 2010 season. He was a productive player for the Yankees last year, but he’s been on a different level this year. He’s made enough contact that Girardi has been comfortable batting him second. He’s really fit in there, despite all the strikeouts. Last year we were still wondering who the Yankees starting right fielder would be in 2012; Swisher was thought a temporary player. But now it looks like he could be around for a while. I don’t think anyone is complaining about that.

Categories : Offense

58 Comments»

  1. AndrewYF says:

    Are we assuming he gets the weekend series off? From what I’ve heard, all of Gardner, Swisher and Pettitte are back and healthy.

  2. RL says:

    When the Yankees first acquired him, I was really unsure what to expect, especially as he was penciled in as the first baseman. Based on what I had heard about Spring Training, I expected him to be the starting right fielder, but Nady got the nod. I was surprised. However, once Nady went down and Swisher took over every day in RF, he showed some of what he could do. While 2009 was a reallyu nice opening act, 2010 has been great for him. I look forward to the Yankees re-siging him for a few more years after his current contract is up. No complaints here seeing him in right field. His bat has been more than expected and his attitude seems to have helped the club as well.

  3. CBean says:

    Nick Swisher for President (of my heart)

  4. pat says:

    Nick swisher doesn’t reach for .300,

    .300 lowers itself to Nick Swisher.

  5. Klemy says:

    I love the fact that he always seem like he’s genuinely excited to be doing what he’s doing. The guy loves playing baseball for the Yankees and he loves the fans. They guy is 100% passionate. I love him being part of the team.

    • goterpsgo says:

      I first noticed Swisher when he was with Oakland and his attitude was the most obvious trait to me. I was very happy when Cash got him before ’09 – needless to say that trade was a total heist. I hope he stays with NYY for a good, long time.

  6. vin says:

    Fun Nick Swisher fact:
    2009 wOBA: .375
    2010 wOBA: .379

  7. Jamal G. says:

    Is there an OF unit in all of MLB that’s under contract for through 2012 that you would take, as a whole (read: you can’t have one or two studs and a replacement-level asshole for the third spot), over New York’s?

    I could be convinced on arguments for Cincinnati (if Joey Votto moves to LF to make room for Alonso at 1B), St. Louis and Texas.

    • Jamal G. says:

      Tampa as well. I forgot that Matt Joyce will take over RF if they move Zobrist from there.

      • AndrewYF says:

        Tampa has Upton, Joyce, and Jennings.

        Upton and Jennings are potential (big emphasis on potential) stars, and Joyce isn’t really anything special.

        Too bad about Julio Borbon, because the Hamilton/Cruz duo in Texas is second to none.

        I would say St. Louis has the best case. Superstar in Holliday, up-and-coming superstar in Rasmus, and rock-solid regular in Ludwick.

        Actually, I’d definitely take that over the Yankees trio.

    • Is there an OF unit in all of MLB that’s under contract for through 2012 that you would take, as a whole… over New York’s?

      Boston’s.

      Sincerely,
      Peter Gammons, Mitch Williams, John Kruk, Ken Rosenthal, Curt Schilling, Mike Lupica, Nomar Garciaparra, Seth Meyer, Ben Affleck, John Paul Morosi, Ian O’Connor, Kevin Kernan, Jeff Pearlman, Darren Daulton, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, BBTN, MLBN, and the fine folks of the MSM everywhere.

    • vin says:

      There really aren’t any better OF’s that fit into your criteria than the Yanks.

      Offensively, Maybe the Jays (with Snider in LF), but I don’t know if Bautista is under contract through 2012, and Wells obviously has an insane contract. But that’s largely gambling on Bautista and Wells to continue what they’ve done this year, and that Snider develops better plate discipline. That is not nearly as good of a defensive OF though.

      If Milwaukee had a real CF, then I’d make the trade (again not sure of the contracts). But Gomez is virtually replacement level (per B-R).

  8. I also wonder if hitting .300 on a team like the Yankees is a lot harder than it is on teams that aren’t as good because you get more at bats… not being especially sabermetrically minded, I have no idea.

    I also love that when Nick Swisher talks, he can’t keep his head still, even when he’s doing the promos, “Its all just a click away, on YESnetwork.com!” How can you not love that guy? He’s a human bobble head!

    Swisher Rocks!

    • vin says:

      Possibly, but I bet it might be easier to hit .300 for the Yanks because no matter where you hit in the lineup, you’ve got pretty good protection. When everyone is healthy, the lineup is a real meat-grinder.

  9. don draper says:

    Hey fans…y’all do realize that if the RS can trim 3 games off our WC lead in a week,as they have the past week,we will be facing them in a do or die situation to end the season.

  10. ZZ says:

    You spend half the article as a platform to criticize batting average and then you say he has taken it to a different level this year when other things have been sacrificed for a higher average?

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      Hitting for power and getting on base are equally important, and while they can be part of batting average they aren’t necessarily so.

      I don’t know how saying batting average is equally important criticizing it.

    • ROBTEN says:

      In other words, there are many ways to become a productive player, and hitting .300 is only one of them.

      First, Joe clearly argues that BA is not the only important factor (in contrast to how it is often still represented by most commentators). He doesn’t simply criticize it for the sake of criticizing it.

      Second, this year, along with a higher average, Swisher’s OBP and SLG are also up above his career average and as a result his wOBA is also slightly up from last season; so, I think the point is that his new stance and/or approach is allowing Swisher to make better contact on pitches that would not have resulted in the kind of contact that (now) has a higher probability of becoming a hit.

      Of course, there is also the dramatic increase in his BABIP this year (.333 compared to career .284), so it will be important to see if he is able to maintain this new approach and achieve the same results going forward.

      • ZZ says:

        The article and most of the discussion about Swisher on here is usually premised on the improvements from 2009, so I don’t really care for the career numbers explanation.

        I find it funny how many statistically inclined people say how much better Swisher is this year, yet the statistics they rely on don’t really back up this marked improvement in a strictly numbers form. I am curious to see if they know or can make the argument for really why he is so much better than 2009.

    • I spent part of one paragraph saying that batting average isn’t anything. You have a generous definition of half.

  11. Dream of Electric Sheeps says:

    I am not overall concern about Swisher’s average I hope the man hits 300. In 2009 the Yankees has posted 268 avg so far as compare to 283 team avg in 2010.

    In light of facing potential starters such as Pavano, Lee and Liriano, Avg will weight more than OBP since you are most likely need to hit on your way on against the above said starters.

    When your also consider our average with RISP , 260 , one has to be concern about this offense’s ability to generate runs with above said starters. It’s a small concern but nonetheless I think it will factor in as negative for the 2010 lineup.

  12. ZZ says:

    That was a very crafty cut and paste job. Almost like nothing before or after that was not written. Ill bite though. If they are equally important then how has he taken it to another level?

  13. bob says:

    i think all hands on deck

  14. Sean C says:

    I love having Swisher in RF. Remember Abreu out there? Abreu could hit, but his fielding was a not-so-fun adventure. Swisher makes RF interesting, but I feel like he’s going to make the play 9 times out of ten that Abreu would not. Gardner, Granderson and Swisher make this one of the best defensive outfields the Yankees have had in many years.

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