Dec
19

How good has Nick Swisher been compared to previous Yankee right-fielders?

By

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

While I’m sure Nick Swisher doesn’t need defending among RAB’s audience, his name has continued to arise this offseason due to a variety of factors: (a) As the Yankees’ only position-player free agent among the starting nine next offseason, he would seem to be the most tradeable; (b) Some folks are still irrationally mad at Swish for underperforming in three separate and completely unrelated small sample sizes; and (c) the Yankees need pitching, which is basically an extension of (a).

Here’s the problem with any trade speculation involving Swish: Nick Swisher is (as I mentioned in the above-linked piece) the living and breathing embodiment of the ideal New York Yankee on offense, a sabermetrician’s dream of patience and power who led the team in OBP in 2011 with a .374 mark despite starting the season in a horrid slump, notched the best BB% on the team, at 15% — a massive jump from 2010′s 9.1% not to mention the third-best mark in the American League — and finished 11th in the AL in pitches per plate appearance (20th in 2010 and 2nd in the league in 2009).

He’s really quite good at what he does, random postseason struggles aside. This becomes even clearer when taking a quick scan of the 2013 outfield free agent class:

Left fielders
Josh Hamilton (32)
Eric Hinske (35)
Mark Kotsay (37)
Carlos Lee (37)
Juan Rivera (34) – $4MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Luke Scott (35)
Delmon Young (27)

Center fielders
Michael Bourn (30)
Marlon Byrd (35)
Melky Cabrera (28)
Curtis Granderson (32) – $13MM club option with a $2MM buyout
Angel Pagan (31)
B.J. Upton (28)
Shane Victorino (32)

Right fielders
Matt Diaz (35)
Andre Ethier (31)
Torii Hunter (37)
Mark Kotsay (37)
Carlos Quentin (30)
Juan Rivera (34) – $4MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Ryan Spilborghs (33)
Ichiro Suzuki (39)
Nick Swisher (32)

Before the Dodgers extended Matt Kemp, fine, I’d have been alright with letting Swish walk in favor of Kemp patrolling whichever section of Yankee Stadium’s outfield he wanted. However, as it currently stands, none of next year’s pending free agent outfielders are better than Swish. The only names on that list that I would maybe think twice about are Carlos Quentin and Shane Victorino, and Swish has been a better offensive player (.370 wOBA) than both outfielders over the last three seasons (both Victorino and Quentin have matching .354 wOBAs during that same timeframe). Yes, we all know Josh Hamilton’s been a beast (.388 wOBA over the last three seasons), but he also can’t stay healthy and will presumably be looking for a huge deal. With all of these players essentially the same age, I’d go with the devil you know who has also played in 150 games in each of his three seasons in pinstripes.

But wait, there’s more. Here’s a rundown of Yankee right-fielders over the last 20 individual seasons, sorted by OPS+:

Rk Player OPS+ PA Year Age G AB 2B HR BB IBB SO HBP BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Paul O’Neill 176 443 1994 31 103 368 25 21 72 13 56 0 .359 .460 .603 1.064
2 Danny Tartabull 152 526 1992 29 123 421 19 25 103 14 115 0 .266 .409 .489 .898
3 Gary Sheffield 141 684 2004 35 154 573 30 36 92 7 83 11 .290 .393 .534 .927
4 Bobby Abreu 138 248 2006 32 58 209 16 7 33 1 52 1 .330 .419 .507 .926
5 Gary Sheffield 137 675 2005 36 154 584 27 34 78 7 76 8 .291 .379 .512 .891
6 Paul O’Neill 137 637 1997 34 149 553 42 21 75 8 92 0 .324 .399 .514 .912
7 Paul O’Neill 137 543 1995 32 127 460 30 22 71 8 76 1 .300 .387 .526 .913
8 Paul O’Neill 136 547 1993 30 141 498 34 20 44 5 69 2 .311 .367 .504 .871
9 Paul O’Neill 130 672 1998 35 152 602 40 24 57 2 103 2 .317 .372 .510 .882
10 Nick Swisher 129 635 2010 29 150 566 33 29 58 0 139 6 .288 .359 .511 .870
11 Paul O’Neill 123 660 1996 33 150 546 35 19 102 8 76 4 .302 .411 .474 .885
12 Nick Swisher 122 607 2009 28 150 498 35 29 97 2 126 3 .249 .371 .498 .869
13 Bobby Abreu 120 684 2008 34 156 609 39 20 73 2 109 1 .296 .371 .471 .843
14 Nick Swisher 117 635 2011 30 150 526 30 23 95 6 125 5 .260 .374 .449 .822
15 Bobby Abreu 113 699 2007 33 158 605 40 16 84 0 115 3 .283 .369 .445 .814
16 Raul Mondesi 110 403 2003 32 98 361 23 16 38 6 66 2 .258 .330 .471 .801
17 Paul O’Neill 107 675 1999 36 153 597 39 19 66 1 89 2 .285 .353 .459 .812
18 Paul O’Neill 104 563 2001 38 137 510 33 21 48 4 59 2 .267 .330 .459 .789
19 Raul Mondesi 96 302 2002 31 71 270 18 11 28 2 46 2 .241 .315 .430 .744
20 Paul O’Neill 92 628 2000 37 142 566 26 18 51 2 90 0 .283 .336 .424 .760
21 Shane Spencer 86 329 2002 30 94 288 15 6 31 4 62 4 .247 .324 .375 .699
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/1/2011.

Swish’s three seasons didn’t end up ranking quite as high as I’d have expected, although that’s really more a tribute to how beastly Paul O’Neill was in pinstripes than any shortcomings on Nick’s part.

However, the case for Nick Swisher as one of the best Yankee right-fielders of the past two decades really comes into focus when we look at the cumulative numbers (minimum 300 PAs, sorted by fWAR), courtesy of FanGraphs:

Who knew Danny Tartabull was a regular OBP machine? The Yankees have gotten some pretty robust offensive production out of their right-fielders for a large chunk of the past 20 years. As you can see, Swish is tied for third-best wOBA with Bobby Abreu and Tartabull, but more importantly, has been considerably more valuable than both men in a similar amount of PAs due to his superior glovework.

While the Yankees may not see another Paul O’Neill for a good while — believe it or not, O’Neill actually has a decent case for one of the top Yankee rightfielders of the last 50 years (2nd-highest fWAR, 3rd-highest OBP, 6th-highest wOBA) — they’ve arguably got the second-best thing in Nick Swisher.

Categories : Analysis

140 Comments»

  1. Rich in NJ says:

    If they could sign Beltran for two years, I think trading Swish now could be an example of trading high.

    • Matt says:

      Is that really worth it though? Beltran is an injury waiting to happen for more money. I don’t see the appeal over Swisher.

      • JobaWockeeZ says:

        See the appeal? In his first year back from injury his WAR that year was higher than Swisher has ever done. That’s why the Yankees were interested. They didn’t like his emdicals otherwise he’d be a Yankee.

        if healthy he’s completely better than Swisher.

      • Mike HC says:

        It would be Swisher on his own for one year, or Beltran for two years, plus whatever we get in the Swisher trade.

        I like the two year deal for Beltran and trade Swisher move, theoretically. Obviously, you don’t know if anybody is looking to give up anything much for Swisher or if Beltran wants to sign with the Yanks for two years.

        • Now Batting says:

          Why would a team trade prospects for Swisher knowing they can sign Beltran for only money?

          • Mike HC says:

            Because they don’t like Beltran’s knees and prefer a one year commitment as opposed to 2 or 3, not to mention the fact there are multiple teams that want Beltran so they might not get him at all.

            • Now Batting says:

              1 and 2 are obviously good reasons but I don’t think they’d be enough for a GM to decide to sacrifice prospects.

              As for #3, sure if they don’t get Beltran they would want to trade for Swisher. But then the Yankees wouldn’t be able to sign Beltran (unless of course they signed Beltran before trading Swisher which is highly unlikely).

    • Matt says:

      I doubt Beltran signs for 2 years only since he is a Boras client. Swish is cheap and will probably bounce back on the production this year. He’s younger than Beltran, solid defensively in right field (no knee issues) and is great in the clubhouse.

      • Rich in NJ says:

        Yeah, it’s a big if that he would take a two year deal, but Swish may not be cheap after this season because it’s probably his last chance for a very big contract.

        Beltran did offer the Yankees a discount in 2004, so that’s why would gauge his interest in possibly doing it again.

        • Mike HC says:

          He really isn’t cheap this season either. He is getting paid about market value, maybe only very slightly under at best.

      • nsalem says:

        Considering his health who would give Beltran more than 2 years? I haven’t followed the market on him, but I think he is a high risk investment.

      • Sarah says:

        Beltran switched agents this year to Dan Lozano, FWIW.

    • Gonzo says:

      What do you think Swisher could net in a trade?

      • Rich in NJ says:

        I would hope a near ML ready position prospect(s) (OF, 3B, SS) since that’s their current weakness other than at catcher.

        Mike HC, I think Cuddyear’s contract does make Swisher’s contract cost-effective. A team doesn’t have to make a longer term commitment now, and they could get a relatively high pick if he leaves.

  2. Dick M says:

    I luv Swish. But the game changes in the playoffs and he has a hard time handling it.

  3. CJ says:

    Bring back O’Neill #21. YES salary plus performance incentives.

  4. nsalem says:

    Babe Ruth was better

  5. Nathan says:

    I’ve got nothing against Swisher. The Yankees could do much worse in RF and considering what they gave up to get him, he’s been a steal. Add in his personality and clubhouse presence, he’s good.

    Aside from Paulie, Sheff was my other favorite RF. With him, Giambi and A-Rod hitting on all cylinders, that was a scary 3-4-5.

  6. vin says:

    “Who knew Danny Tartabull was a regular OBP machine?”

    Certainly not me. In retrospect, The Bull had a nice career, better than I had recalled.

    Also:
    Tartabull’s slash line
    .273 .368 .496
    Swisher’s (his season with the Sox drags it down a bit)
    .254 .360 .466

  7. TwainsYankee says:

    “The Yankees have gotten some pretty robust offensive production out of their right-fielders for a large chunk of the past 20 years. As you can see, Swish is tied for third-best wOBA with Bobby Abreu and Tartabull, but more importantly, has been considerably more valuable than both men in a similar amount of PAs due to his superior glovework.”

    I find it curious that so many recognize that these fielding stats are terrible yet they are not only sighted but accepted as proof that Swisher is the best right fielder since ‘ahem’ Shane Spencer.

    • Need Pitching says:

      Fielding stats are recognized as being imperfect, not terrible (if given a large enough sample size). Besides you don’t need stats to see Swish is a superior defender to Bobby “never met a wall I was afraid to get near” Abreau.

      • TwainsYankee says:

        But is he really 36 runs better than Paulie? Fielding stats are recognized as being imperfect, but I may go so far as to say they are crap. People recognize these failures and then say stuff like “Well UZR has not figured out how to grade first basemen” or some other dismissive comment while still using stats like WAR that rely heavily on them. I just do not feel these metrics are ready to be used yet and to incorporate them into WAR can only result in some pretty poor decisions

        • Need Pitching says:

          I don’t think the issue there is so much that UZR can’t give a reasonably accurate portrayal of OF defense over a large enough sample size. The issue with Paulie is that he retired in 2001, and I don’t believe UZR came into play until 2002, so O’Neill was being rated some other way (not sure how?) I would agree that comparison of the two based on defensive measures when they were rated under different systems should be taken with a huge grain of salt, but I don’t think its so much because of any flaw in UZR as it is the fact UZR wasn’t around to rate O’Neill.

        • Plank says:

          I don’t think anyone who makes roster decisions looks up WAR on b-r or fangraphs. For the purposes of internet discussions of baseball players, I think using those sites is sufficient.

          I’m no fan of UZR, I wasn’t when MGL invented it back in the day, and my opinion hasn’t changed, but as a blunt instrument at positions other than 1B and C, it’s good enough. If one player has a WAR of 6 and another has a WAR of 4, I’d trust one is better than the other.

          The problem is when people say “Player A has 5.3 WAR and player B has 5.8 WAR so player B is better.” It was never designed to be that specific.

          Shoot, don’t get me started on UZR.

          • Mister Delaware says:

            You take UZR, I’ll take FIP and we’ll start to tear down those stupid nerds with their nerd stats. Then rebuild with better nerd stats.

          • Larry Koestler says:

            Plank,

            I think that’s a very well-put way of dealing with WAR’s inherent limitations. At this point anyone who’s into reading about baseball on the web is probably aware of WAR’s flaws, but until something better (or more freely accessible) comes along, it can generally be a helpful barometer when making player comps in certain instances.

            As long as it’s not being treated as the be-all end-all, there’s still some value in utilizing it as a benchmark, even if the currently available fielding metrics seem to come up short.

            • Mister Delaware says:

              I like WAR so much better when you back out defense, recalc it then look at defense in a +/- sort of way. Otherwise you end up with stuff like Gutierrez and Gardner as top 25 most valuable players and that just doesn’t work.

              • Mister Delaware says:

                (That was terribly phrased given that there’s a defensive stat named +/-. I meant accepting the quantifications of offense and position and replacement level then using defensive metrics as a non-numerical bonus or demerit.)

                • Need Pitching says:

                  just out of curiosity, what would you think a fair + number for Gardner’s defense would be? Wouldn’t you need to put some kind of number on it to determine to what extent great defense offsets mediocre offense, or poor defense offsets good offense. For example, if Gardner really does save 25ish runs/year over average defense LF, then Gardner is really that valuable. A run saved counts just as much as a run created.

                  • thenamestsam says:

                    Exactly. You need to put some amount in order to compare it. If Mr. Delaware is claiming that he feels his gut instinct about how many runs to award a player for his defense is better than even a flawed stat like UZR…put me in the skeptical category. I think it’s best to use a mishmash of the available ways to rate defense. In Gardner’s case that leads to a slightly more measured praise — FRAA doesn’t love his defense as much as the batted ball systems, but still that he’s worth about 4-5 wins a year.

                    • Mister Delaware says:

                      “You need to put some amount in order to compare it. If Mr. Delaware is claiming that he feels his gut instinct about how many runs to award a player for his defense is better than even a flawed stat like UZR…put me in the skeptical category.”

                      I’m saying the opposite, really. I’m saying its better to not quantify when the other choice is a quantification that can’t be relied on. With offensive WAR, we know the inputs are correct or atleast consistently applied across all players. With defensive WAR, we don’t, because we all (I think) have our issues with the means of measuring and the measuring itself. The massive restatement of Fenway Park a few years ago is a really good case in point; Jason Bay’s defensive WAR numbers did a complete 180. I don’t see why that can’t happen again, for example, in terms of measuring the polar positions like LF (where some players outright suck and some are huge plusses) relative to the premium positions like CF (where even bad defensive CFs are pretty decent defenders overall).

                    • Plank says:

                      I would assume most teams use their own metrics based on FieldFX intead of BIS zones like UZR is.

                      My biggest gripe with UZR is that it is essentially a black box. MGL has never released his formula. He has explained some of the logic of UZR, but he just gives numbers and people are supposed to trust them. Fangraphs picked it up, and voila, it became the go to standard for freely available defensive metrics. He admits that it’s not that sensitive, but fWAR uses it to the tenths place anyway. It could be just as effective as he says it is (which is not as effective as how people use it) but how would anyone know?

                    • Mister Delaware says:

                      Plank, exactly on the Field F/X thing. If you had measurements of each BIP’s starting point, ending point and time from bat to ground, you could get a much, much more accurate view of which guys use their range most effectively. Aside from flukes like IFs breaking the wrong way because of a SB attempt or sunlight plays, it would clean up a ton of the noise and miscategorized plays.

                    • Mister Delaware says:

                      So, summarized, it comes down to me preferring a metric that would measure effective range, in feet-per-second or something, rather than catches and non-catches, because the latter can get skewed by both teammates and opportunity differences. On offense, all players are walking to the plate with the same general starting point. In the field, making 8 out of 8 plays doesn’t necessarily mean a guy is better defensively than the guy who made 4 of 6. Could mean just the opposite based on where those balls were hit and how hard.

                    • Plank says:

                      I believe Field FX measures the location of every player during a play, too. I would think it can measure the route players take and their reaction time of reading a ball after it leaves the bat. It seems like that information would be informative.

                      I’m not 100% sure on that. I think it’s true, though.

                    • Mister Delaware says:

                      I think you’re right. And I think Shane Victorino’s flight paths (or whatever they’d call it) on balls over his head would be hilarious.

                    • thenamestsam says:

                      “I’m saying it’s better to not quantify when the other choice is a quantification that can’t be counted on”

                      So what you meant above is that you literally just deal with defense as either a plus or a minus? It seems hard to me to imagine that a system with that few buckets (i.e. a player is either positive or negative, two buckets) is really more informative than a system with essentially infinite buckets, even if it’s harder to sort the players into the buckets. UZR gives a lot of information. Is that information perfect? Certainly not. But I think UZR telling me that Brett Gardner was woth 18 runs on defense and Nick Swisher was worth 6.9 runs tells me a lot more than you saying Brett Gardner is a +, and Nick Swisher is also a +.

                      It seems to me like that is sacrificing a lot of accuracy to get a little precision.

                    • Mister Delaware says:

                      Luckily there can be both non-quantitative and non-binary, although I guess I just do a more nuanced version of what you said. Plus-plus, plus, average, minus or super minus would probably be my mental buckets, informed by the stats, mostly DRS.

                    • Mister Delaware says:

                      And given the variances between metrics and inaccuracies inside each, I don’t think 5 categories is much less meaningful. Like you can say “it might not be +20 but its definitely within 2 runs either way”. Large margin of error and non-absolute system and all that.

                  • Mister Delaware says:

                    Sorry, should have gone in order here, not ignoring your question …

                    “just out of curiosity, what would you think a fair + number for Gardner’s defense would be?”

                    I don’t know. I think eventually we will know but don’t right now. The problem is trying to quantify what we accurately can’t.

                    “Wouldn’t you need to put some kind of number on it to determine to what extent great defense offsets mediocre offense, or poor defense offsets good offense. For example, if Gardner really does save 25ish runs/year over average defense LF, then Gardner is really that valuable. A run saved counts just as much as a run created.”

                    Absolutely to all of this. I think its very possible Gardner saves 25 runs per year with his glove, or more, or half that. I just don’t think the publicly available metrics measure that yet. Just for an example, a ball in the gap between Gardner and Granderson, either can get. One does, so only one gets credit. That same ball between Rasmus and Snider, Rasmus is taking every time. Is Rasmus better than Granderson? Maybe. Will the numbers say he is, based on those plays? Yup. That’s my issue, in a nutshell.

  8. CJ says:

    Swish has done everything that he could have reasonably expected of him, and more. It is impossible to predict who is going to be the Scott Brosius or David Freese of the playoffs. Any player better than Swish has to be considered a star, even then it doesn’t guarantee October success.

  9. Mister Delaware says:

    Assuming similar enough years and dollars requests, I’d put Swisher 4th behind Victorino (low baseball IQ and all), Upton (some day, he’s going to explode) and overrated-but-good Ethier.

  10. CJ says:

    Hamilton is clearly a different player. Swisher is better than Quentin, at best a push. Upton, Victorino, even Pagan offer a speed and athleticism approach, though not necessarily better

  11. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    Paul O’Neill’s best year in his 20′s, .256/.346/.481.
    Paul O’Neill’s 3rd worse year in his 30′s .285/.353/.459

    He was better at 38, .267/.330/.459, than he was at 25, .252/.306/.414

    Maybe the Yankees would be selling low if they got rid of Swisher now.

  12. j6takish says:

    Seems like he should bat 1 or 2, not 6-7 like he usually does. “Too much power” to lead off?

  13. Plank says:

    I really think you’re missing Upton as a potential upgrade next off-season. He has good numbers and he’s much younger.

    Who do you think will have a better next 3/4 years Upton or Swisher?

    • Need Pitching says:

      price might become a factor there
      Given Upton’s age and likely higher potential, Upton would likely command more in years and dollars (which the Yankees might not want to commit to him with the need to extend Cano and Granderson the year after)
      If the price was comparable though, I’d certainly prefer taking a shot with Upton

      • Holy Ghost says:

        I hope they don’t extend Granderson.

        • Need Pitching says:

          any particular reason??
          I’m not sure they will, and I’m expecting him to regress negatively at least somewhat this season, but his power plays very well in YS. If the price is right, I would think they would try to lock him up.

    • Mister Delaware says:

      I wish I knew. 1st/2nd year Upton is a ton better than Swisher, 3rd/4th/5th year Upton is maddening. Upton is the better bet for stardom, Swisher is the better bet to not be below average.

  14. well you know says:

    Let’s break Swish down on a tool basis.

    Baserunning? Slow as molasses, bad instincts.

    Arm? Erratic, lots of loopy throws.

    Fielding range? Limited. He’s slow and he gets pulled in the late innings and not because he’s old and needs the rest. Has there ever been a first baseman slash outfielder who was a good outfielder?

    Hits for average? No. Particularly from left side.

    Hits for power? Moderate. 23 HRs in the new YS is moderate at best and that’s his latest report.

    As for his walks, notice he had a big dropoff in 2010 when he was batting second. He takes the pitcher’s strategic walk and now that the Yankee lineup is no longer circular, he gets a lot of those batting sixth. He had zero intentional walks in 2010, six in 2011.

    He is not a good breaking ball hitter. His swing from the left side has holes as reflected in his 2011 numbers. Tex gets all sorts of crap for his performance as a LHB but Swisher’s numbers were just about as mediocre (except Tex hit a lot more home runs).

    Swish’s OPS has been respectable. So was Abreu’s. Cashman kicked Abreu to the curb while he acts as Swishers’s champion. Funny, that.

    • Need Pitching says:

      Abreau was older, entering his decline years, and was horrible defensively
      Swish is younger and league average defensively

      That’s a pretty big difference. And when has Cash acted as Swisher’s “champion”? Because he picked up Swish’s very reasonable option when there were no really better options available?

      • Mike Axisa says:

        And made half the money.

        • well you know says:

          I believe the Yanks could have negotiated with Abreu as a free agent after they non-tendered him, and he wound up going for cheap. After Tex was signed, Cashman could have re-dealt either Swish or Nady if he wanted to make room for Abreu. Swish didn’t have a position at that point.

          Abreu earned himself a good follow-up contract with the Angels.

          • Need Pitching says:

            At that point, I think the Yankees viewed Abreau as strictly a DH (appropriately IMO) and wanted no part of him in RF on a regular basis

            • well you know says:

              Abreu’s 2008 dWAR was 0.0. Not admirable but
              Nady didn’t have a rep (or the stats) as a good fielder either. Nor did Swish (neg dWAR in 2008).

              You’re right that was the Yankees’ justification and there was something to it. My point is that Swish has a lot of flaws that could also be seized upon as justification to try someone else.

              And I would not agree that there was no reasonable alternative to picking up Swish’s option. We’ll see what Beltran winds up signing for.

              • Need Pitching says:

                depends on the metric for Abreau, UZR had him -21.4 for 2008

                As far as Beltran, I think the injury concerns and likelihood of a multi-year contract make him less practical for the Yankees. If they make a change, I would think they would look to get younger and more durable, considering the age and durability concerns already present with Jeter and ARod

                • well you know says:

                  Cespedes then.

                  Yes, risky. Everything has a risk, including staying with the same lineup until 2015, which is the way things are going.

    • CP says:

      Fielding range? Limited. He’s slow and he gets pulled in the late innings and not because he’s old and needs the rest. Has there ever been a first baseman slash outfielder who was a good outfielder?

      Swisher is actually a very respectable outfielder. He looks pretty ugly going after balls, but he gets to a lot more balls than the typical right fielder.

      Hits for power? Moderate. 23 HRs in the new YS is moderate at best and that’s his latest report.

      He was 27th in MLB among outfielders for ISOP. That’s not elite, but it’s solidly above average.

      As for his walks, notice he had a big dropoff in 2010 when he was batting second. He takes the pitcher’s strategic walk and now that the Yankee lineup is no longer circular, he gets a lot of those batting sixth. He had zero intentional walks in 2010, six in 2011.

      He did see the 17th most pitches per plate appearance in MLB last year, which is a good thing regardless of whether he draws walks or not.

      As for walks, they’re probably more related to the fact that he swung at the third fewest pitches out of the strike zone this year among all MLBers. And he’s not just a guy that sits there an never swings – he swung at slightly more than the league average number of pitches in the strike zone (66.1% vs 65%)

      So, once you consider the facts, most of your arguments don’t make sense.

      • well you know says:

        I’d be more impressed by your conclusion if you addressed my points more directly.

        Swish does get pulled for defense when an extra outfielder (Dickerson) is available, which isn’t something that usually happens to a relatively young OF who is actually regarded as an above average fielder. “Moderate” is a matter of word choice if we’re agreeing his power is not elite. And his pattern of swinging at pitches doesn’t explain why his walks dropped so sharply when he was placed second in the batting order (in 2010) rather than towards the bottom of the order.

        • Need Pitching says:

          a RF being replaced by a CF on defense doesn’t mean the RF is bad, just that the CF is better and the manager is trying to make full use of his bench
          As for the walks, in 2010 Swish walked 38 times in 378 PA batting second, 20 times in 257 PA elsewhere. His walk rate was 9.1% overall, 10.0% batting 2nd, and 7.8% batting elsewhere. It would seem his BB% decline had more to do with an overall decline in BB% that year, since he walked more, not less batting second that year
          His career BB% is 13.5%, while his career BB% batting second is 13.4%

        • RetroRob says:

          So you’re questioning his drop in walks in 2010, ignoring he had his best season as a Yankee that year?

          Regarding your Abreu love (and he was a fine player), the Angels wouldn’t hesitate to do an even swap of Abreu for Swisher. The Yankees wouldn’t do it.

          • well you know says:

            The issue is somewhat complicated by the fact that Cashman actually chose Nady as Abreu’s replacement-in-waiting. Even though the justification for getting rid of Abreu was his fielding and Nady was himself a hack in that regard.

            The Angels would not have exchanged Abrea for Swisher in 2009. And I don’t think other teams are eager to pay Swisher $10M a year now. We’ll see what happens if he goes to the open market after this year.

        • CP says:

          I thought I was actually very direct in addressing your points. Without spending way too long replying, this was the closest I could come to a point-by-point rebuttal.

          And his pattern of swinging at pitches doesn’t explain why his walks dropped so sharply when he was placed second in the batting order (in 2010) rather than towards the bottom of the order.

          Here’s his Out of Zone and In Zone Swing% and BB% by year:
          O% Swing% BB%
          2006: 17.3 % 41.0 %
          2007: 16.6 % 37.8 %
          2008: 18.9 % 38.5 %
          2009: 17.3 % 35.7 %
          2010: 25.7 % 44.5 %
          2011: 21.1 % 39.9 %

  15. Holy Ghost says:

    While Swisher certainly earns his paycheck each year, his production is not irreplaceable. It’s relatively easy to find offensively productive right-fielders.

    Let’s not act as if we’re married to our favorite players…

    • Mister Delaware says:

      Is it? Josh Willingham just got a 3 year commitment.

      • FIPster Doofus says:

        So did Cuddyer. And no one would take Cuddyer or Willingham over Swisher.

        • Thomas Cassidy says:

          I’d take Willingham over Swisher. He’s close to the same player in the regular season, and he can’t be any worse in October.

          I like Swish, but fuck him. He needs to go. I don’t care how good he is in the regular season. When the playoffs come, he disappears. He has no business being on this team.

          • Esteban says:

            How you went from “I like Swish” to “fuck him” and “he has no business being on this team” is quite a transition. I mean even if he REALLY can’t ever hit in the playoffs, the regular season counts (supposedly) and Swisher performs quite well in the regular season.

        • Holy Ghost says:

          I’d take Andre Eithier over Swisher

  16. Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

    With the new austerity plan, I don’t know if they are willing to extend Swisher. He is obviously our best option as of now. I knew that O’Neill was good but the sabermetrics stats he appears even better. If they are not going to sign Swish, whom I like very much, despite his struggles in the postseason, then the cheaper next best player over the long run would be Cespedes.

  17. Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

    i.e. with the sabermetric stats…

  18. Peter R says:

    Man this article should have been called Paul was a Yankee Beast.

    Not to mention he was so entertaining to watch in the dugout.

    • dkidd says:

      that was my takeaway. his goofy announcing style makes it easy to forget how good he was

      i remember mattingly saying his arrival in 1993 was the moment the clubhouse culture started the change

      • dkidd says:

        and looking at his 1994 numbers reminds me of how crushed i was by the strike that year

        at the time, i believed 94 was their one and only shot

        and then i thought 95 was their one and only shot

        different world back then

  19. CMP says:

    O’Neill definitely was a beast.

    Without a suitable replacement, I’d offer Swisher 2 years for $25 million. Someone will probably offer him 3 years but I think he loves playing in NY.

    Plus taking into account the RAB tenet that all players reach their regular season numbers in the postseason if given a large enough sample size, Swisher is due to just explode any October now.

    • Need Pitching says:

      “Plus taking into account the RAB tenet that all players reach their regular season numbers in the postseason if given a large enough sample size”

      That’s a bit of a reach. I would reasonably expect all players over a large enough sample size to have slightly worse numbers in the postseason due to facing higher quality pitching on average in the postseason than in the regular season.

      That said, Swish still should be due for some positive regression.

      • CMP says:

        That statement was an attempt (a poor one I guess) at being facetious.

        I agree with you about expecting worse numbers and I also think it’s a lot more than just luck why some players seem to excel in the postseason.

        • dkidd says:

          jeter career regular season ops: 832
          jeter career post-season ops: 839

          “clutch” means maintaining your ability under pressure, not magically turning into a better player (impossible)

          • CMP says:

            I wholeheartedly agree. Anyone who’s played sports at any level knows how much more difficult it is to perform in a tense situation.

            I think there are plenty of players in all sports who can’t execute when the pressure is on and others who are able to focus even more and raise their performance a bit.

            • Mister Delaware says:

              That assumes there is no overbearing pressure until the playoffs. HS in front of major league scouts? College world series? Minor league auditions? Making it and trying to stay in the majors? Why do people think guys don’t choke until the playoffs? The guys who get there, 99% of the time, aren’t choking. (The other 1% of the time its Nick Swisher!!!)

          • Mister Delaware says:

            If one guy is “choking”, doesn’t someone else have to be “turning into a better player”? Every negative has a positive.

          • RetroRob says:

            If I remember correctly, overall offense decreases by approximately 15% in the postseason compared to the regular season. If that stat is correct, then it appears that Jeter is performing at a higher level in the postseason.

            I’m not advocating the Jeter is a better player in the postseason, but the straight line comparision of regular-season stats to postseason stats requires some context. It always seems to get left out of the discussion.

            • Mister Delaware says:

              Pitchers are just stepping up while hitters choke.

            • Need Pitching says:

              timing could possible account for some of Jeter’s postseason/regular season comparison. Jeter has played in 152 postseason games, but just 14 of those came in Jeter’s 3 worst OPS seasons (2008, 2010, 2011) In contrast, he played 32 postseason games in his 3 best OPS seasons (1999, 2006, 2000)
              That his OPS is slighly better in the postseason may have at least something to do with playing more of his postseason games in his best seasons overall

  20. WayneD says:

    Larry,

    Great article on Swisher. It’s great to see someone stand up for a very good every-day player. From reading some of the responses, however, it’s obvious that some fans refuse to give Swisher the credit he deserves. To whit:

    * The importance of his ability to work pitchers deep into counts is vastly underrated by many Yankee fans. Typically, the more pitches a pitcher throws, the less effective he is. So, even when Nick isn’t hot, he’s helping the rest of the lineup by making the pitcher throwing a lot of pitches.

    * His attitude and dedication to winning is as good as any player in the game. Some fans seem to be vastly underrating the importance of this aspect of his game. I was dumbfounded to read that several fans actually think B.J. Upton, one of the biggest under-performing players in the game, would be a better option than Swisher. Upton’s attitude is awful; he has all the tools to be a great player, save one: a good attitude. And makeup, as the Yankees have come to realize, is extremely important in player development and team chemistry.

    * Yes, Swisher hasn’t had a breakout year in the playoffs yet, but, as Larry pointed out, that’s still a relatively small sampling size. That could change in one off season and, hopefully, will change.

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course, but I sincerely hope they extend or resign Swisher for 2 years (plus an option) after this season.

    • Plank says:

      If Upton was more polite and well-spoken he would be a better ball player. If he eked out every ounce of potential he has like Gardner, Swisher, and Teixeira he could be so much better. Instead he’s out there loafing around not making use of the God-given potential he was born with just like Cano, CC, and Granderson.

  21. how many babips do you think swisher needs to get before he becomes good??

    personally i want to see him get several more, especially in the postseason

    can he get that many? or will he need to wait for regression??

    if he has to get regression then i think we should get a different right fielder. maybe montero, maybe we bring paulie back. i cant have a right fielder with not enough babips.

  22. Alfredo says:

    I would call the Atlanta Braves GM and offer him Swisher,and Nuez for Jason Heyward. I love Jayson Heyward.

    • RetroRob says:

      I hope you also like the sound of dial tone.

      • Alfredo says:

        why not? the Braves did not play him at all last year even after he came back from injury. i think they have lost faith in him as a person and player because he did not want to play until he was 100% when they really needed him. also we are giving them a replacement and Nunez which they love.

        • Mister Delaware says:

          What if, before Lowrie was dealt to Houston, the Red Sox offered Reddick and Lowrie?

        • RetroRob says:

          Because Heyward has tremendous upside and is only 22 and very cheap (497K). His best years are in front of him. Swisher is going to cost 10.5 million and they can only retain him for one year. Nunez is a replacement part.

          I’d love to have Heyward. He’s going to cost a lot more than Swisher and Nunez.

  23. RetroRob says:

    Considering that Jason Kubel, a poor-fielding OFer best suited for DH, and coming off of triple-slash seasons of .249/.323/.427 and .273/.332/.434, just signed a two-year agreement for $15 million to play in the NL, then I’d say the absolute floor for Swisher would be a 3/39 if he puts up his regular numbers in 2012. He’ll probably get more.

    Replacing him will not be easy.

    • Mister Delaware says:

      Yup. The tendency to put everyone into “awesome” and “suck” buckets rears its head again. If you aren’t “awesome”, you are “easy to replace”.

  24. Plank says:

    It was getting crowded up there.

    Here is a summary of FIELDf/x. Seems like it would take care of a lot of the complaints about current public or semi-public fielding metrics.

    http://www.sportvision.com/base-fieldfx.html

    Also, with the data provided through FIELDf/x, teams could use it any way they want.

    • Mister Delaware says:

      [ejaculates]

    • Larry Koestler says:

      FIELDf/x and HITf/x are the holy grail; unfortunately it doesn’t sound like they’re going to be made publicly available anytime soon. For whatever reason MLB teams don’t sound terribly eager to share these particular toys.

      As someone who thinks, researches and writes about baseball as frequently as I do, I often wonder if we’ll ever get a chance to look back and laugh at the analysis being conducted in this timeframe given how relatively little information we actually have at our disposal.

      As enjoyable as it is for the analytical junkies among us to develop our own statistical theories about why Player X or Y is or isn’t doing one thing or another (it certainly helps pass the time during a slow offseason) our work unfortunately pales in comparison to what I can only presume is insanely rigorous and detailed analysis that team quants are getting paid to do on a daily basis.

      • Plank says:

        It’s a shame it isn’t publicly available. MLB and this company decided to make pitchFX available (probably because it’s more money for them somehow?), but I don’t really see as much value in that. Pitching is more of an art. Saying a pitcher has x break and y speed doesn’t tell as much as the fieldFX info would tell. Every player wants the same things in terms of fielding. Speed, reaction time, and good routes are universally good. Pitching is more of an art form. Even with the pitchFX info, most of what makes great pitchers great and mediocre pitchers mediocre doesn’t come out clearly in the numbers.

  25. mark says:

    I like Swish, but there isn’t anything “random” about his post season struggles. He has been pretty consistently bad, no?

    • Mister Delaware says:

      Just like a lot of guys who then had a good series and leveled out. And other guys who were clever enough to have a good series or two at first before a lot of bad ones.

  26. Darren says:

    Swisher had a really big hit against the Twins in 2009 ALDS. I believe offense was sleeping until he and Melky woke them up. he might have done very little since then, but still, that was a big hit that was easily lost in the shuffle.

    Speaking of right fielders, where’s the love for Barfield’s arm? That should have its own mini-monument.

  27. Tim Perry says:

    Nicky is a huge bonus in this lineup. At times, he seems to be the one middle of the lineup guy that has a quality AB just about every time at the dish. Doesn’t try to yank everything, will take the walk, very rarely gets cheated and because of that, always has a +.350 OBP. My concerns are his postseason numbers. He’s been in 9 playoff series in his career and posts a sub .200 BA, sub .300 OBP and a slugging% less than .330. IMO, that’s not a couple of bad series; that is a trend.

    That being said, Nicky is the starting right fielder for this Yankee team. Yankee fans must live with his postseason whoas and just hope to get a little production from Nicky the next time the Yanks are in a playoff series. A few games like Game 3 of 09 series will be nice!

  28. dalelama says:

    “Some folks are still irrationally mad at Swish for underperforming in three separate and completely unrelated small sample sizes”

    As I assume all three sample sizes are Swisher Yankee post season performances to say they are completely unrelated is fallacious.

    • Larry Koestler says:

      Please explain how a set of 56 PAs accumulated in the fall of 2009 have anything to do with an even smaller sample size of 38 PAs one year later, and how either of those have anything to do with an even tinier sample size of 20 PAs separated by yet another calendar year.

  29. Mister Delaware says:

    Is Prince Fielder still unsigned because he’s a career .192 hitter in the playoffs???????

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.