Aug
24

Swisher turns around his season

By

(Kathy Willens/AP)

Quick: Who has the highest OBP on the Yankees?

If you read the headline, you can probably guess the answer. It might come as a surprise, though, that Nick Swisher‘s .377 OBP leads all Yankees. First, we’re used to seeing at least one player, and sometimes many, with OBPs much closer to .400. Second, it wasn’t too long ago that Swisher’s OBP was in the dumps. At the end of May it was at .321, which, when juxtaposed with his .204 BA and .289 SLG, had many wondering if this year would be the one that drove Swisher from New York.

Three months later, and it’s almost assured that Swisher again patrols right field in 2012. He has completely turned around his season since he bottomed out on May 25th. It didn’t take long for him to approach major league average numbers; in just nine games he raised his numbers to .215/.342/.348. After last night’s performance, which included a game-changing three-run homer and a fly ball that came about two feet from handing the Yankees a win, he’s hitting .263/.377/.431. He got there by hitting .296/.409/.511 in his last 328 PA.

The turnaround has made Swisher one of the most productive Yankees — not just for the period of his resurgence, but for the entire season. His 123 wRC+ ranks fifth among the Yanks starters, as does his .168 ISO. His 16.1 runs above average ranks fourth. So not only has he started producing on a rate basis, but he’s stayed healthy enough to remain in the lineup and put up counting numbers. Even if we swap out his gaudy 10.7 UZR in 2011 for his three-year total, it still amounts to 3.4 WAR, meaning he could still get to 4 WAR on the season. It would be the second straight season he has done so — the only two seasons of his career.

Swisher’s turnaround in 2011 further highlights his excellent numbers since becoming a Yankee. In the last three years he ranks third on the team with 68 runs above average. That’s right on par with Alex Rodriguez. He’s also fifth in that time with a 127 wRC+, and is sixth with 10.9 WAR. Among MLB outfielders he also ranks favorably in his three pinstriped seasons. He ranks 15th with that 10.9 WAR, and his 127 wRC+ ranks 13th. That is, if we were to disassemble the MLB and distribute talent evenly, he’d be the best outfielder on a mid-range team. He might be the third best outfielder, all skills considered, on the Yankees.

The question of whether the Yankees will exercise Swisher’s $10.25 million option for 2012 is behind us. They absolutely will. The only question that remains is whether they’ll lock him up further into the future. It would certainly make sense for them to try. The minor league system might be strong, but it lacks corner outfield talent. Swisher could hold onto one of those spots for the next three or four years. If his last three years are any indication, it will be well worth the effort. It might get hidden among his silly antics and occasional blunders, but Nick Swisher has been not only one of the most productive Yankees, but one of the most productive outfielders in the majors during his three-year tenure.

Categories : Players

68 Comments»

  1. NC Saint says:

    ‘Juxtaposed’ is not the word you’re looking for.

  2. YankeesJunkie says:

    Since coming to the Yankees Swisher has been a consistently good, not great, player for the Yankees as a great secondary weapon for the Yankees. While there is no doubt in mind that the Yankees will pick up his option signing him to an extension is a different story. If the Yankees are able to pick him up for 4/50-60 then it would probably be a solid sign since his skills tend to age very well, however, if the market is dictating that he will make 20 million dollars I hope he is very happy in his next place as while he is a good talent he is not worth 20 million, but I wish him all the luck because he is not only a good player,but a great teammate and person it appears.

  3. Gotta love it when a fun guy to root for is also one of your better players.

  4. Kilgore Trout says:

    Where’s this post for the captain, Derek Jeter? Not willing to admit that you were wrong? Everybody wanted to bury this guy. They said send him down to 9th in the order, bench him, force him to retire. Jeter has defied everyone and nobody wants to give him any credit because nobody wants to admit that they were wrong.

  5. Will (the other one) says:

    …and somewhere, Kenny Williams sobs quietly in a corner.

    One of my favorite things about Swish is that no matter what type of fan you are, he’s hard not to absolutely love in pinstripes. If traditional stats are your thing, he looks like a really good right fielder. If advanced metrics are more your style, he grades out as an above-average contributor in many if not most key categories, especially now that his fielding has taken a significant uptick. If you don’t care about either one and prefer to pick your heroes based on attitude and enthusiasm, then I don’t know how you do any better than Swisher on the big league club as presently constituted. Oh, and let’s not forget about his behind-the-scenes good deeds, including the work he does through Swish’s Wishes.

    Nick’s been huge since he arrived in New York, and it’s fantastic to have his numbers contributing to Yankee wins. But what makes it even better is that he’s a great guy and a huge “team player” we can all get behind, no matter our orientations as fans.

    • vin says:

      “One of my favorite things about Swish is that no matter what type of fan you are, he’s hard not to absolutely love in pinstripes. ”

      Good point. It’s always a bit more fun when the good players are likeable.

    • MattG says:

      “and somewhere, Kenny Williams sobs quietly in a corner”

      While Ozzie stands over him with a riding crop.

  6. MattG says:

    Some things in baseball are hard to see, but pretty easy to measure.

    Other things are easy to see, but hard to measure.

    Two years ago, Swisher could not throw. I know this blog has talked about that before. Now he throws sort of well, but still not great. What is is great at (and I’m hoping I’m the first person to mention this) is getting the ball, and getting into a good throwing position really fast. Over the past few weeks, I have been amazed at how many runners have been held at third on singles to right field (and in on case, a runner on second was held at third on a double, remember that?).

    Anyway, he’s done that about as well as I’ve ever seen this year, and I have no doubt that has contributed mightily to his UZR. You have to love a player that keeps getting better on the margins.

  7. IRF says:

    What if the Yankees declined the option, then signed him to an extension. Something like 3y/36m seems like it could work for both sides.

    • Nuke LaDoosh says:

      For the same reason that would be good for the Yanks, it would be bad for The Swish. Why sign away your peak years in a short term deal at a team friendly price ?

      • IRF says:

        Its not really his peak years, its years 31-33.

      • Sweet Dick Willie says:

        For the same reason that would be good for the Yanks, it would be bad for The Swish.

        Not necessarily. It would guarantee him 3 more years in NY, where he obviously loves playing, and give him 3 more decent shots at a WS ring.

        Why sign away your peak years in a short term deal at a team friendly price ?

        In baseball (as in life), timing is everything. What if he starts out next year like this year, but doesn’t recover. What kind of deal might be awaiting him then?

        By accepting a 3/$36 deal this off season, he would 1) increase his 2012 salary by $1.75 mil, and 2) guarantee himself another $36 mil, which in addition to $17 mil he has already earned in MLB, should (unless he’s Latrel Spreewell) be enough to feed his family.

        I’m not saying it’s a no-brainer, but I believe he would at least have to give serious consideration to such an offer.

  8. Swishalishous says:

    As of right now, Swisher has the 14th highest OPS out of all ML right fielders that qualify, so he is in the bottom half. However, if you compare his stats from May 25th on, he would be 3rd behind only Bautista and Berkman. Out of all RF, I would probably put Swisher as the 5th or 6th best, behind Bautista, Upton, Stanton, Bruce, and Pence. I would think that the Yankees could probably get Swisher to sign an extension at the end of the year for a club-friendly contract. He genuinely seems to love playing in NYC. I would think they should be able to sign him to a 4 year/$45 million contract.

    • MattG says:

      4/45, I don’t think so.

      But, offer him 4/45 plus another 12 for Swish’s Wishes, and I wonder what he would say about that?

  9. Evan3457 says:

    I think Swisher has done a great job in his time with the Yanks. I also like his personality. I would definitely pick up his option for next year. Having said that, he will be 31 next year and I disagree that his skills will age well in time, and I don’t think the Yanks have any business signing him long-term.

    • Dan says:

      What makes you think that his skills will decline significantly? He does not rely heavily on his speed. High on-base guys tend to be able to remain high on-base guys throughout their career. He hits for some power as well and there is no reason to assume that would decline, same for his arm and fielding. His range might decline a little, but with the range of Gardner and Granderson, he should still be able to manage right field for the next 4-5 years. I wouldn’t sign him to a 7-8 year deal, but there is no reason not to try and get him signed for the next 4 years.

      • MattG says:

        Dan, I think you have it backwards. Speed/athletic guys are the ones that age well, because they have the opportunity to develop power and on base skills to compensate for their declining speed. Not all do, of course.

        Swisher has ‘old player’ skills, and when those erode, he’s done.

        • Dan says:

          Really? Because most of the speed guys I can think of by the time they get to their mid 30′s end up being bench or platoon players because they can’t develop power or on-base skills since it was never something that they had to use as much because of their speed. The only exception I can think of is Damon, but I believe he was a pretty high OBP guy even when he was younger. There is no reason to think that Swisher still wouldn’t be able to get on-base at the same rate in 3-4 years.

          • MattG says:

            I am attempting to channel Bill James, who studied this and wrote essays about it. I might have the cause and effect wrong, but the bottom line is this: OBP and Power are old player skills. If you come into the league with them and limited athleticism, you’ll be on your way out relatively early. Those with athleticism will age better, holding onto their defensive abilities and bat speed longer.

            While speed is not an old player skill, I would expect that players’ whose game is predicated on speed would age poorly just the same. Scott Posednick, or possibly Brett Gardner. They might not have well-enough rounded skills to age gracefully.

            Swisher is no athlete, so I would guess he wouldn’t age well…but he does suddenly have a well-rounded game. His defense is clearly better, and his contact rates have improved as he’s gotten older. It’s already not a typical aging curve, so who knows?

  10. Billy Pilgrim says:

    Nick Swisher is one of the best trades the Yankees have ever made. In most lineups he’d hit 2nd. And what about his defense? The metrics say he’s improved for whatever that is worth.

  11. Pat D says:

    And yet Andrew Marchand suggested that if the Yankees make a change to their lineup next year, it would be in right field.

    I read that and wanted to slam my head against my desk.

  12. JFish says:

    I’m hoping they pick up the option and then sign him for 5/60.

  13. Accent Shallow says:

    I was about to post about how hesitant I would be to give Swisher a long term deal, given that he’s a high K, low BA type hitter, but . . . he only strikes out ~130 times per year. I thought he was a bit higher.

    That said, he’s a merely good, rather than great player, and I’m hesitant to commit to someone like that beyond age 34-35.

  14. mark says:

    i think signing swish to an extension would be great, but…..

    what would that due to jeters possible move to the outfeild…

    is swisher more valuable to the team than granderson or gardner?

    • jon says:

      jeter is not moving to the outfield

    • Mike K says:

      Yeah, Jeter may become a part-time OF, but he isn’t going to start there. There are a couple of guys in the minors who could push for starting in RF in 2013 ahead of Swisher – Brewer and Laird – but both would need to show something positive in the majors next year. So pick up Swisher’s option, see how 2012 goes, and decide after if an extension makes sense.

  15. Yank The Frank says:

    I met Swish at ST this year. He is not an act. He is truely a good guy. He’s easy to root for.

    • Monteroisdinero says:

      Agree-I have met him too but no 5 year contract. He’s a good player on a great team.

      • Sweet Dick Willie says:

        He’s a good player on a great team.

        I agree with you, but you’d never know that by reading the game threads.

        According to many (most?) of those commenters, you’d think the Yanks were a last place team that 1) can’t hit w/ RISP, 2) can’t develop young talent, 3) refuses to play the best of the shitty players they do have, and 4) refuses to bat them in the proper order.

        • Monteroisdinero says:

          We do get caught up in the game to game frustrations. It’s called baseball therapy. The Yanks will be in the playoffs but will not win the WS. All the rest is just idle banter that we all can’t live without! Hope I’m wrong about the WS but against the pitching elites of the National League I have my doubts with our big swingers. YCPB though.

        • David, Jr. says:

          Not me, Sweet Dick. I have been a 9 for quite a while now. This is an exceptional team. They have had about five really sucky losses that people have gone whacko over, which causes them to ignore the positives, of which there are many.

  16. Cuso says:

    “Three months later, and it’s almost assured that Swisher again patrols right field in 2012.”

    With all due respect (and I mean all due respect), you’re smoking crack.

    The absolute LAST position player assured of having their spot in 2012 is Swisher.

    He may be back, but it is HARDLY assured.

    His clubhouse presence is vastly overstated and hardly indispensable.

    • Cuso says:

      And yes, Martin is more likely to be the starting catcher in 2012 than Swisher is likely to be the starting right fielder.

    • David, Jr. says:

      With all due respect (and I mean all due respect), you’re smoking crack.
      The absolute LAST position player assured of having their spot in 2012 is Swisher.

      I am baffled at this. Why is he not necessarily back in 2012?

    • I don’t see how they could 1) decline his option and let him go for free, and 2) find someone better to replace him. As I demonstrated, there haven’t been many outfielders, never mind right fielders, for the past three years.

      • Sweet Dick Willie says:

        decline his option and let him go for free,

        Technically, they’d be paying him to go away, as there is a $1 million buy-out if they decline the option.

        Yeah, he’s coming back. Absolutely no way the Yanks pay him to play somewhere else.

  17. john says:

    Unfortunately I’d only take swisher if I can’t prevent Andre Ethier from going to boston.

    Swisher does not have ethier’s upside.

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