Apr
28

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Nick Swisher

By

The other day I stated the obvious and showed that no fewer than four of the nine Yankees’ regulars were slumping, though for the most part those slumps aren’t completely shocking. Derek Jeter‘s performing poorly? Well there haven’t been many shortstops that were productive in their age-37 season throughout baseball history. Jorge Posada has all those years of catching taking a toll on his body, plus he’s 39 years old. Brett Gardner doesn’t exactly scare pitchers with his skill set either. But the fourth guy, now that one doesn’t really make sense.

We need Happy Swish back. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Through the first 21 games of the season, Nick Swisher his hitting just .208/.326/.236 (.272 wOBA) with just two measly extra base hits, neither of which are homers. His .028 ISO ranks 181st out of 189 qualified players, putting him in the company of noted slap hitters like Juan Pierre (.029), Alcides Escobar (.032), and sadly, Jeter (.024). “The past week I have been caught up in the home run a bit,” said Swisher on Wednesday, essentially admitting that the zero in the HR column is weighing on him. “Once I start gearing up and I try to do too much, that’s when I [suck]. I need to try to do less, and really slow down the game.”

Like the rest of the team, Swisher has been fed a healthy diet of offspeed and breaking pitches this month. Just 51.1% of the pitches he’s seen this year have been some variant of fastball (two- or four-seam), down from 53.6% last year, 56.3% the year before, and 56.0% for his career. Pitchers have thrown Swisher a slider or curveball 29% of the time this year, up from 22.5% last year and 20.7% for his career. Like many players, the Yankees’ right-fielder does most of his damage against the old number one, checking in at 1.04 runs above average against the pitch for every 100 seen in his career. That number is -0.74 for sliders and -0.67 for curves.

The interesting thing is that Swisher’s batted ball profile has barely changed, certainly nothing that raises a red flag. We’re talking 19.7% line drives (19.6% in 2010, 18.7% career), 36.1% ground balls (35.5%, 36.0%), and 44.3% fly balls (44.9%, 45.2%), so nothing is out of whack there. What is out of whack is that almost one out of every five fly balls (18.5%, to be exact) has been an infield pop-up, compared to 7.8% last year and 10.6% for his career. Obviously you’re not going to hit the ball out of the park when you aren’t hitting it out of the infield as often. Most of Nick’s struggles have come against right-handed pitchers (.196 wOBA vs. RHP, .428 vs. LHP), but again his batted ball profile from the left side of the plate is pretty normal (12.8% LD, 35.9% GB, 51.3% FB, 10.0% IFFB) compared to the rest of his career (17.5%, 35.9%, 46.6%, 8.8% respectively).

If Swish was all of a sudden beating the ball into the ground or hitting a negligible amount of line drives, I’d be more concerned. A 0.0% HR/FB rate is pretty unsustainable for a guy like Nick, so that first homerun will come at some point, it’s inevitable. The hard part, as he admitted, is staying within himself and not pressing, which will only lead to more struggles. The good news is that his strikeout rate (19.4%) is down from the rest of his career (25.2%, 24.6% in 2010), and his walk rate (14.6%) has returned to pre-2010 levels (9.1% last year, 13.3% career), so everything on the surface looks pretty good. As we (well, White Sox fans anyway) learned in 2008 however, there’s no guarantee his .246 BABIP will regress back to his career norm (.285) this season. Perhaps a day off is in order as he comes to the end of an ugly month, but at 30 years old and in the prime of his career, there’s every reason to expect Swish to snap out of his horrid 0-for-18 skid and be a very productive player this season.

Categories : Analysis

40 Comments»

  1. Ben from Stanford says:

    “Once I start gearing up and I try to do too much, that’s when I [suck].”

    What word did he actually say that had to be substituted with “suck”?

  2. Sheepmeister says:

    Maybe he should move to Australia.

  3. Yank the Frank says:

    My daughter is going to the game tonight and loves Swisher. Any game that she has been at that Nick has played, Nick has done well. Book it, that he is breaking out tonight.

  4. Chris says:

    Derek Jeter‘s performing poorly? Well there haven’t been many shortstops that were productive in their age-37 season throughout baseball history.

    That’s a list of some pretty darn good shortstops. Of the 16 SS on that list, 6 are already in the HOF and 2 (Jeter and Vizquel) will likely join them.

  5. The209 says:

    Why do slumps get so much press?

    It’s still April. The weather’s been shit, etc.

    And why does the mental part of the game* not matter, until it fits your narrative?

    (ie, Soriano’s telling everyone that there’s a big difference in the 8th vs. 9th – for him – but most people here write that off)

    Just asking.

    * “The past week I have been caught up in the home run a bit,” said Swisher on Wednesday, essentially admitting that the zero in the HR column is weighing on him. “Once I start gearing up and I try to do too much, that’s when I [suck]. I need to try to do less, and really slow down the game.”

    • Zack says:

      Slumps get pressed because people want to know if it’s just a bad month or if say he lost a lot of bat speed, no recognizing pitches, etc. Or for pitchers does he lack velocity, lack bite on breaking pitches, etc. When guys get hot there’s no underlying questions about a decline or hiding an injury.

      Look at Soriano’s career numbers. His performance as a full time closer last year was just like his previous career as a set up man. So why is it only a ‘big difference’ when he’s struggling? If he gets hot in June/July and is lights out, will we still talk about if the 8th is affecting his performance?

  6. Monteroisdinero says:

    Swish will get his first HR before Jeets. Book it.

  7. Cuso says:

    Swisher is going to have a down year. It’s going to happen, so just it would be better to expect it than act surprised by his regression.

    He outperformed last year. And though he mildly admonished KLong for saying that he (and possibly Cano) were the only ones that reached their full potential last year, he was clearly (CLEARLY!) in line for a lesser stat line in 2011.

    Which, quite frankly, is perfect timing. If he has another great year, he would have fan support when it comes to resigning for a long-term, big-dollar contract at the end of this year.

    Resigning Swisher would be a monumental mistake. Basically, you’re handcuffing your lineup with aging people for the next 4 years. You know A-rod and Tex aren’t going anywhere. Jeter is probably going to exercise his option. You HAVE to re-sign Cano.

    If they can resign him for a 2-year contract at $7-8M/year, great. But with Werth, Crawford and Holliday setting the ceiling, Swisher is going to be looking for 12-15M a year for no less than 4 years.

    HE IS NOT WORTH ANYWHERE NEAR THAT.

    • Monteroisdinero says:

      Complete agreement.

      • DF says:

        Complete disagreement.

        There’s no way you can see Swisher was CLEARLY due for a regression. Nothing in his batted ball profile or peripheral stats suggested his traditional numbers were luck-inflated or unsustainable. Yes, he changed his approach considerably, but that is an argument in favor of his production being sustainable, not an argument that it was a fluke. This isn’t necessarily regression, it’s a slump.

        Swisher may have a down year; this has been a huge slump, and it’s likely he will not have a hot streak later in the year that is productive enough to erase it. This is akin to David Robertson last year. Calling it a down year is a little misleading, but I would agree Swisher’s aggregate totals may be a bit below expectations.

        Finally, Swisher is clearly below Crawford-level. There is no way he gets a contract in the Crawford/Werth range. As an OBP-heavy player value-wise throughout his career, he may even be undervalued by the market, and thus be available at something of a discount. Nevertheless, he is absolutely worth $12-15 million. I doubt he gets four years, but I wouldn’t totally hate it if he did.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Carl Crawford is clearly below Carl Crawford salary level, in my opinion, too…

          I think the majority of front offices are sophisticated enough at this point to recognize the value of OBP. I don’t know what Swisher’s market value will be (we’re still almost 2 seasons away from when we’ll likely find out… so a lot could change in either direction), but I think most front offices are going to recognize the value in OBP… and if they don’t they’ll recognize a .500 SLG.

    • mac1 says:

      Yanks hold a 10.25 mil club option for next year (1 mil buyout) – he’s going to be worth that, then they can worry about RF in 2013.

    • Mister Delaware says:

      “Swisher is going to be looking for 12-15M a year for no less than 4 years.”

      Except that Fangraph’s WAR$ says he’s been worth more than that in both years as a Yankee. Which, granted, is less scientific than ALL CAPS, but its something.

    • Chris says:

      Swisher’s wOBA by year:

      2006: .368
      2007: .361
      2008: .325
      2009: .375
      2010: .377

      There’s nothing in his stat line that says he significantly over achieved last year. He’s probably due to a slight decline as he ages, but that’s certainly not guaranteed at age 30.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      The slight problem with your theory is that he was as good in 2009 and 2010. By your theory he was due for a down season in 2010, not 2011…

      He’s almost definitely going to be a Yankee next season with the team option being picked up, so if he rebounds in 2012 all bets are off on his long-term future. Part of it is going to come down to the team’s other options both this off-season before they exercise and going into 2013.

  8. Monteroisdinero says:

    Who could predict that Berkman (8M) would have the #’s he has now compared to Swish? .385 avg/6HR’s/1.153ops

    Surprising.

  9. Uncle Mike says:

    I was at the game on Tuesday night (the game where Soriano got royally booed), and Swish struck out twice. After the 2nd, from all the way in right field I could see how upset he was. (One thing that’s improved with the new Stadium, the view is better from that angle.) I thought maybe he should toss some things, like his right field predecessor Paul O’Neill. It usually worked for him. Anyway, when he took the field, there was this drunk a few rows behind me, yelling at him, and he was so slurred I couldn’t tell if he was encouraging or booing him. Nick didn’t turn around to look, though. He still has the Bleacher Creatures behind him, figuratively and literally.

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