Does Nick Swisher vanish against good pitching?

Fan Confidence Poll: January 23rd, 2012
A.J. Burnett's Fifth Starter Case
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty)

One of the commenters in my post about Nick Swisher last month suggested that Swish’s struggles in the postseason were due in part to the fact that hitters are facing their opponents’ best pitchers, or something to that effect. While it’s probably true that an offensive bludgeoning is less likely to occur during a postseason game than, say, in August, I also think it’s a convenient excuse for teams that aren’t hitting. We’ve frequently seen the Yankee bats run the gamut from laser-hot to ice-cold during the postseason, though we tend to remember the games in which the bats didn’t show up more often than not, given how accustomed we’ve become to fielding a powerhouse offense.

Unfortunately one of the primary issues when judging both a player’s and team’s postseason performances is that the samples are almost always too small, and the very nature of baseball dictates that any player, no matter how good, is going to suffer through a slump at one point or another. That’s not to minimize the impact of facing elite pitching in the postseason; but on the flipside not even pitchers are infallible and even the best ones have less-than-great days. CC Sabathia had a 6.23 ERA in 8.2 innings in the 2011 ALDS; Justin Verlander a 5.00 in 9.0 IP.

The point of all this is that, based on what we know of Nick Swisher’s offensive abilities over the course of a 162-game season, it’s crazy to to assert that he “can’t hit in the postseason.” Unless Swisher has actually demonstrated a distinct inability to hit so-called “good” pitching, the only explanation that really makes sense as far as his struggles have gone is the recurrence of several ill-timed slumps.

Prior to embarking on this post I’d initially hoped to be able to segment batches of “good” (which I would have defined as being 10% better than league average) and “bad” pitchers, and then tally Swisher’s stats against them in an effort to see how exactly he performed against these pitcher types, but B-Ref won’t allow me to export Play Index results to Excel, and there was no way I was going to manually re-enter all of the data.

Instead, below is a table showing all of the starting pitchers Swisher has faced during his three-year Yankee career (including the postseason), minimum 10 PAs. While 10-plus PAs isn’t anywhere near a large-enough sample, if we’re going to castigate Swish for small-sample failure in the playoffs, we also have to accord him respect for small-sample success.

Josh Beckett 40 35 6 0 0 2 6 5 12 .171 .275 .343 .618 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Lester 36 30 9 4 0 1 5 4 9 .300 .400 .533 .933 1 0 0 1 0
Ricky Romero 30 23 5 3 0 0 0 7 4 .217 .400 .348 .748 0 0 0 0 0
David Price 29 22 10 2 0 1 2 7 4 .455 .586 .682 1.268 0 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 27 24 6 0 0 1 2 3 8 .250 .333 .375 .708 0 0 0 0 2
Felix Hernandez 24 23 5 1 0 1 1 1 4 .217 .250 .391 .641 0 0 0 0 2
James Shields 23 23 4 0 0 2 4 0 8 .174 .174 .435 .609 0 0 0 0 2
Brandon Morrow 23 22 3 0 0 1 2 1 8 .136 .174 .273 .447 0 0 0 0 0
Francisco Liriano 23 21 3 1 0 0 1 1 6 .143 .174 .190 .364 0 1 0 0 0
Jeremy Guthrie 22 20 9 3 1 2 6 2 7 .450 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 1
Cliff Lee 22 19 4 1 0 2 3 2 5 .211 .273 .579 .852 0 1 0 0 0
C.J. Wilson 21 18 4 1 0 1 2 2 5 .222 .333 .444 .778 0 0 0 1 1
Brett Cecil 21 17 4 0 0 0 1 4 3 .235 .381 .235 .616 0 0 0 0 1
Brian Matusz 19 16 1 0 0 1 1 3 2 .063 .211 .250 .461 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Verlander 19 18 2 1 0 0 2 1 7 .111 .158 .167 .325 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Garza 17 13 7 1 0 3 4 4 5 .538 .647 1.308 1.955 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Vargas 17 14 5 1 0 2 3 2 1 .357 .412 .857 1.269 0 1 0 0 1
Derek Holland 17 14 4 2 0 0 0 3 4 .286 .412 .429 .840 0 0 0 0 0
Brian Tallet 16 13 3 1 0 1 4 3 2 .231 .375 .538 .913 0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Millwood 16 14 4 0 0 1 2 2 5 .286 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0 0 0
Brett Anderson 16 13 3 0 0 0 1 3 3 .231 .375 .231 .606 0 0 0 0 0
Joel Pineiro 15 13 6 3 1 0 3 1 3 .462 .500 .846 1.346 1 0 0 0 0
Andy Sonnanstine 15 13 5 0 0 2 4 2 3 .385 .467 .846 1.313 0 0 0 0 1
Rick Porcello 15 13 3 0 0 1 4 2 3 .231 .333 .462 .795 0 0 0 0 0
Clay Buchholz 15 11 3 1 0 0 1 3 2 .273 .429 .364 .792 1 0 0 0 1
Scott Kazmir 15 12 2 0 0 1 1 2 0 .167 .286 .417 .702 1 0 0 0 0
Fausto Carmona 14 10 4 0 0 2 5 3 0 .400 .500 1.000 1.500 0 1 0 0 0
Gio Gonzalez 14 12 4 1 0 1 5 2 2 .333 .429 .667 1.095 0 0 0 0 0
Brad Bergesen 14 11 3 2 0 0 5 3 2 .273 .429 .455 .883 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Bard 14 14 3 0 0 1 4 0 6 .214 .214 .429 .643 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Frasor 14 12 2 0 0 0 0 2 4 .167 .286 .167 .452 0 0 0 0 2
Jeff Niemann 14 14 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .071 .071 .071 .143 0 0 0 0 1
Jake Arrieta 14 13 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1 0 0 2
Trevor Cahill 13 9 3 1 0 2 6 3 2 .333 .538 1.111 1.650 0 0 0 1 0
Brian Duensing 13 11 5 2 0 1 4 2 2 .455 .538 .909 1.448 0 0 0 0 0
Ervin Santana 13 8 2 1 0 1 1 3 2 .250 .538 .750 1.288 0 0 0 2 1
Jason Berken 13 10 3 0 0 1 4 3 2 .300 .462 .600 1.062 0 0 0 0 0
Wade Davis 13 10 2 1 0 1 2 2 4 .200 .385 .600 .985 0 0 0 1 0
Mark Buehrle 13 10 4 0 0 0 0 3 1 .400 .538 .400 .938 0 0 0 0 0
John Danks 13 11 3 0 0 1 2 2 1 .273 .385 .545 .930 0 0 0 0 1
Tim Wakefield 13 12 3 1 0 0 0 1 4 .250 .308 .333 .641 0 0 0 0 1
Darren Oliver 13 10 0 0 0 0 0 3 5 .000 .231 .000 .231 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Tillman 12 10 4 1 0 1 2 2 3 .400 .500 .800 1.300 0 0 0 0 0
Marc Rzepczynski 12 10 4 1 0 1 2 1 2 .400 .417 .800 1.217 0 1 0 0 0
Sean O’Sullivan 12 11 3 1 0 1 1 1 1 .273 .333 .636 .970 0 0 0 0 0
Doug Fister 12 11 3 0 0 1 2 1 2 .273 .333 .545 .879 0 0 0 0 1
Max Scherzer 12 9 2 0 0 0 0 3 4 .222 .417 .222 .639 0 0 0 0 0
Joe Saunders 11 10 3 0 0 0 2 1 0 .300 .364 .300 .664 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Hunter 11 11 2 0 0 1 2 0 4 .182 .182 .455 .636 0 0 0 0 1
Carl Pavano 11 11 2 1 0 0 0 0 7 .182 .182 .273 .455 0 0 0 0 1
Gavin Floyd 11 11 2 0 0 0 0 0 8 .182 .182 .182 .364 0 0 0 0 0
Bruce Chen 10 8 4 0 0 0 1 2 1 .500 .600 .500 1.100 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Harrison 10 9 4 0 0 0 3 0 0 .444 .500 .444 .944 0 0 0 1 1
Mark Hendrickson 10 10 4 1 0 0 1 0 3 .400 .400 .500 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Luke French 10 9 2 0 0 1 2 1 1 .222 .300 .556 .856 0 0 0 0 1
Lance Cormier 10 7 2 0 0 0 2 3 1 .286 .500 .286 .786 0 0 0 0 1
Zach Britton 10 6 0 0 0 0 2 3 2 .000 .300 .000 .300 0 1 0 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/20/2011.

David Price and Jon Lester are two of the best pitchers in the American League. Swisher has killed ’em both. Cliff Lee? .852 OPS against. Matt Garza doesn’t stand a chance against Swisher. Gio Gonzalez, arguably the most-sought-after pitcher on the trade market, may as well be throwing Swish batting practice. Same with Trevor Cahill and Ervin Santana. RAB favorite John Danks? Swish has hit him to the tune of a .930 OPS in 13 PAs.

The naysayers in the audience will undoubtedly point out Swish’s struggles against Josh Beckett and James Shields (though among the Yankees that’s far from a Swisher-only issue), but on the whole, I’m not sure one could reasonably conclude that Nick Swisher routinely struggles against good pitching.

(Ed. Note: Keep in mind that while .641 OPS against Felix over the last three seasons looks bad, Hernandez has held all hitters to a .616 OPS during that time. We’re referencing a very different baseline when talking about top pitchers. Context is everything.)

For the folks who want to pin his postseason struggles on something tangible, there really is no better explanation than Swish happening to slump on three separate occasions, with each unfortunately coming at one of the worst possible times for the Yankees. This doesn’t make his regular season contributions — which have helped the team get to the playoffs in each of his three pinstriped years — any less valuable, nor does it mean that he is forever doomed to postseason failure (see Rodriguez, Alex).

Fan Confidence Poll: January 23rd, 2012
A.J. Burnett's Fifth Starter Case
  • Robinson Tilapia

    0 for 14 against Jake Arrieta. Swisher obviously sucks.

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

    Assuming 2012 is more or less a standard Swish year, I wonder greatly what he will command as a FA, and whether he’d take somewhat less from the Yanks. My fear is that he looks to deals like Werth’s rather than . . . anything approaching sanity.

    Those old 3/39 deals for Matsui look so great in hindsight!

    • nsalem

      I think Werth’s contract was an outlier, a result of an unsuccessful franchise with money and a new stadium feeling forced to overpay to draw fans. Much like some of the Marlins moves this winter.

  • nsalem

    At how many AB’s would a sample size no longer considered to be small? Also if the AB’s come a year apart (as with playoff AB’s) does that skew the way one would view said sample?

  • Johnny O

    I love Swish, not sure why he is such a divisive character in the Yankee fan base. Thanks to Larry for backing me up and making me feel good about my man crush on Swisher.

    • mike

      Swish SUCKS against good pitching . .and he doesn’t hit a lick in the playoffs.

      When you add that up with recent Yankee playoff failures.. His playfull personality runs thin.

      • Steve (different one)

        You should read this article Larry Koestler wrote on RAB about Swisher vs. good pitching.

        Here is the link:

        • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

          I laughed.

        • mike

          he still blows in the Playoffs . . plus im sick of his antics . .its old now . .

          • jsbrendog

            mike meet hard empirical data

            hard empirical data meet mike.

          • Nathan

            Antics? What antics?

            The only thing out of the ordinary from Swish compared to the rest of the team is he is almost always smiling in the dugout. It’s not like he has a diva personality or blabs to the media.

            • Mister Delaware

              If there’s one thing I find distasteful, its the appearance of someone having fun.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    Also, not to take away from Larry’s work because it’s still interesting and good to know, but perhaps not that relevant. the myth that just because it’s October means your facing elite pitching thing? Really really false. Saber metrics tries to completely eliminate human emotion, and pretend that there aren’t players who, due to their personality, change their approach in situations where they feel the most pressure. Because of small sample sizes it’s impossible to really ever accurately measure things like that, but I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t exist. There’s a good chance swisher just had 3 bad slumps at 3 very poorly timed stretches. There’s also a chance that the extra pressure he put on himself caused it. A hitter of swishers capabilities continuing to put up these postseason numbers is a red flag.

    • gc

      See Martinez, Tino, and his first few post-seasons with the Yankees and compare them to Swisher’s. Remarkably similar, and some would say worse the numbers Swisher has put up so far. And while it’s true Tino hit pretty well for the Mariners as a post-season player before coming to the Yankees, a lot of people at the time thought Tino just couldn’t “handle the pressure” as a Yankee based on what little he did in those first few playoff series in pinstripes. Until, of course, he started to hit.

      • IRememberCelerinoSanchez

        I’m a big Swish fan. I think the fact that he’s put up great numbers season after season while playing adequate defense means he is a really effective player for the Yanks, and I don’t think you would get back in a trade the value he offers to the team.

        Having said that, I don’t think its unfair to note that he has struggled in the post-season, and, as TheOneWhoKnocks ably put it, “There’s also a chance that the extra pressure he put on himself caused it.”

        I think what gc’s point about Tino teaches us is that post-season struggles aren’t necessarily a permanent condition. These guys are human, and just as they can have human reactions that make it harder for them to succeed in certain situation (like may be true for Swish in the post-season), it’s equally true that, as humans, they can adapt and overcome problems (the way Tino and A Rod did as Yankees).

  • Turko

    You neglect to mention that Girardi has stated that Swisher has looked uncomfortable at the plate in the postseason. It is not a slump, but poor performance due to fear of failure to perform in the postseason.

    • Brian S.

      Thank you Doctor Turko. Anyone else you want to diagnose through the television?

    • thenamestsam

      Even if Girardi was right, and Swisher is uncomfortable, that’s a serious chicken and egg effect you’re looking at there. Are you uncomfortable because you know you’re not swinging the bat well or are you not swinging the bat well because you’re uncomfortable?

  • Drew

    You mentioned some guy named Fausto Carmona that has faced Swisher, sorry to inform you but he doesn’t exist lol

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Swisher is batting .043 against identity thieves, probably due to the pressure he puts on himself in the postseason of trying to figure out who the guy he’s facing REALLY is while at the plate.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    Not to take away from Larry’s work because it’s still interesting and good to know, but perhaps not that relevant. The myth that just because it’s october means your facing elite pitching? False. However, sabermetrics tries to completely eliminate human emotion and pretend that there aren’t players who due to their personality will change their approach in situations where they feel the most pressure. Because of small sample sizes it’s impossible to accurately measure things like that, but we shouldn’t pretend they don’t exist. There’s a chance Swisher had 3 bad slumps at 3 very poorly timed stretches. There’s also a chance that his physical abilities were not able to overcome his mental shortcomings. A hitter with Swisher’s regular season track record continuing to put up these horrid octobers is a red flag.

    • thenamestsam

      I can’t speak for everyone, but I tend to disregard the idea that maybe he just has a personality type the can’t handle pressure on the basis that all those people are weeded out before reaching the level Swisher attained. Basically what you’re saying is that he’s fine playing for scouts his whole life with his future on the line, he’s fine playing in front of 50,000 screaming people, he’s fine playing in NY in front of the media that has (according to the narrative) caused so many players to lose it, he’s fine during a pennant race, but then the AL division series is just too much for him. That just doesn’t seem like a very convincing story to me. Especially when you factor in that he has had isolated playoff success before. I mean what happened in the 2010 ALDS where he had a 1.135 OPS? He forgot it was the playoffs? The pressure was magically lifted?

  • ryan

    I like swisher. Maybe he just tries to hard when it counts most.

    • the Other Steve S.

      Can’t be that. We don’t have a stat for that.

  • nedro

    “it’s crazy to to assert that he ‘can’t hit in the postseason.'”
    Why don’t more people understand this? What was it Nixon said? “Nattering nabobs of negativism?”

    • Bobby two knives

      That was Spiro Agnew, I believe.

  • Wil Nieves Number 1 Fan

    LOL @ John Lackey being between David Price and Felix Hernandez.

  • nsalem

    Would Kenny Lofton’s .667 PO OPS over 438 PA’s opposed to his .794 lifetime OPS be considered an SSS or just make him a poor playoff performer.?

    • thenamestsam

      Well “poor playoff performer” is clearly true. That’s a statement of fact that noone can debate. Swisher is certainly a poor playoff performer to this point in his career. The question is whether he’s a poor playoff performer because of some characteristic trait he has, or because of randomness, because that determines what we expect him to do going forward. In Lofton’s case, while the sample size is quite large and the difference is large enough that it makes you take pause, the issue is that with the number of players who participate in the MLB playoffs, even over large sample sizes of ABs you’d expect to observe some players varying from their career statistics by large margins based purely on randomness.

      • jsbrendog

        that’s the thing, without looking at it I would wager that lofton has had post season’s where he has raked and some where he couldn’t get a hit on a ball hit over the fence caue the of brings it back (hyperbole ftw)

        you know, just like the regular season

  • Cris Pengiucci

    Look at the picture. Clearly his problems are due to that smile/smirk after he makes an out, as we saw with Andruw Jones last season.

  • RR

    It is not “crazy” to think that Swisher can’t hit in the postseason. It is perhaps statistically improbable, but that would apply to measurement of machines or systems that lack the complexity of the human psyche.
    Players are not machines: change the context, and get a different result. It amazes me how much stat-heads want to reduce the human experience to statistical measurement. The idea that an individual human being’s responses in very high stress situations can be extrapolated with any certainty, or failures explained away through a basic statistical analysis, is silly.
    In fact, statistical measurement ignores many, many things about human beings that are critical to understand. Witness Joe Girardi’s consistent ignoring of the value of momentum – to the Yankee’s peril.
    There is great value (and fun) in statistical measurement in baseball. But it goes to far when these measurements are used exclusive of the human factor.
    All this is to say that Swisher, for whatever reasons, just might not be able to hit well, by his own standards, in the postseason. The non-statistical, non-medical term, I believe, is “choke”. I expect more of the same from Swisher unless something big changes about the person.

    • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

      How do you explain his 2010 ALDS performance in that case?

    • thenamestsam

      I would love to hear an example of Girardi’s “consistent ignoring of the value of momentum – to the Yankee’s peril.” I honestly can’t even imagine what this might mean.

      • RR

        OK, here’s a huge example that those of us who follow the team and watch the games are aware of:
        2010 Yankees: tearing it up and in First Place through August. Girardi then decides, apparently, that wining the Division is not important, and proceeds to bench a large part of the team daily, and pitch Chad Gaudin nightly. The Yankees lose momentum, lose first place, and lose to Texas in the playoffs in 6 games as the team looks insanely flat.
        Aside from that, Girardi’s pitching moves consistently speak to his love affair with his Binder, ignoring the hot hand.
        Yankee fans know. Perhaps you can now imagine it.

        • RR

          In fact, the Yankees were 32 games over .500 on 8/31/10, and were 3 games UNDER .500 for the final month, finishing the season at 29 games over.

          • RR

            … and only 2 teams in the American League had a worse winning percentage over the last month of the season.
            Talk about momentum destruction by a manager.

    • Thinking man

      I couldn’t agree more. I think we as fans may be forgetting a very important factor. We are so consumed with numbers (WAR, OBP, BA, OPS, etc) we forget that these men are humans! Yes, with real emotions, real anxiety, and they actually do get nervous. Some seem to enjoy the “big stage”. The moment where the game is on the line. Others react differently.

      We all felt that nervousness on the field or the court: our mouth dries out, our legs shake, our hands get cold, and as a result our performance suffers. An easy jump shot, or an easy hit becomes nearly impossible. I’m sure this isn’t an excuse many want to hear.

      Let’s face it, these guys are being paid millions of dollars to play a game, and we expect robotic like production. However when the October lights come on, someone like Swisher may remind us, they are human after all. Just a thought…

    • CMP

      Exactly 100% right. I firmly believe that many players cannot handle the pressure of the postseason and wither under the bright lights while others are able increase their focus raise their level of play.

      I’ll never buy the RAB narrative that all players will eventually perform in the postseason to their regular season levels if given a large enough sample size.

      • thenamestsam

        I think you’re pretty dramatically misunderstanding what a “RAB narrative” might be in this context. A narrative is a story, and when people criticize a narrative, what they’re saying is that people are trying to squeeze the facts into their preconceived notions rather than examining them on their own merits because people like to come up with stories for things. It’s how we tend to think, esspecially when it comes to sports where we’re constantly bombarded with the opinions of writers whose job is to turn the event into stories.

        Saying something like “there really is no better explanation than Swish happening to slump on three separate occasions” is basically the exact OPPOSITE of a narrative. It’s a rejection of the need to explain everything that happens in terms of a story we can understand: “He can’t handle the pressure”. Instead, we embrace that there are some things we can’t explain. Is it possible that Swisher just can’t hit in the playoffs? Sure, it’s possible, but you really can’t offer any evidence for it that is not easily explained by the randomness of small samples. Given that, the desire to speculate about his moral failings is either due to the desire to have a narrative to cling to, or a belief that you can get inside of his head. Most people on here don’t find either of those reasons very compelling.

        • RR

          So, you can believe in the psychology of people needing “narratives” but not in the psychology of pressure effecting different people differently? Wow.
          The idea is not that we can “get inside his head”, nor is it in blaming something “unexplainable” – the idea is that statistical analysis does not account for the complexities of the human psyche – the results of which are obvious. Does anyone think that Chuck Knoblauch really couldn’t throw to first base? Statistically speaking, and based on his fielding percentages (etc), he should have nailed it almost every time. Notta so much.

      • gc

        The problem with this line of thinking is that people keep moving the goal posts with their standards. A guy could hit well in one post-season series and then not so well the next. They’ll say he’s inconsistent. Or he could hit really well with another team in the post-season but not with the Yankees and they’ll say “he can’t handle the pressure in New York.” Look at A-Rod. He was a very good post-season hitter for Seattle (including a torrid series against the Yanks). He comes to NY, continues to hit well in the post-season, dominating the Twins in the 2004 ALDS, rakes against Boston in the first 3 games of the ALCS, and then…like just about every other bat in the Yankee lineup…he disappeared for the next four games and they lost. From that point until he “redeemed himself” in 2009, he was labeled choker, not being able to handle the pressure in New York. It’s ridiculous.

        I keep bringing up Tino. He hit well for Seattle as well in the post-season, and most people seem to agree that he never really “came through” for the Yankees in the playoffs until he hit that grand slam against SD in 1998. That was after his first 113 Yankee post-season plate appearances. Swisher has had 114 playoff plate appearances as a Yankee so far and so many people are writing him off as worthless. Now I don’t think this means he’ll automatically start hitting well in the very next Yankee post-season as Tino did, but I do think he’s a good enough player that he’ll eventually come through to perform as he normally performs. I certainly don’t think a player has to be labeled for life with no possibility to turn things around. Especially a guy who it seems has many more post-season at bats to come as Swisher does if the Yankees keep him around, as I expect they might.

      • hogsmog

        First of all, that isn’t the ‘RAB Narrative’- It’s possible that some people could be bad postseason performers, if not from the ‘pressure’ than because the fact that it’s colder than they’re used to, or they’re tired/hurt from a long season, or the players they are facing are better.

        The actually important thing you are forgetting here, and the thrust of the article, is that there isn’t enough data to decide if Swisher is a poor performer or if he’s a good performer who slumps a lot. Either could be true, but we won’t know unless we get more data.

        Unfortunately, most players will never see enough playoff experience for a good analysis to be made. If they do, the fact that some of these numbers come from periods 10 or more years apart invalidates them for predictive purposes.

        It’s tempting to say, “Well if you don’t have enough data to make a prediction, then stats won’t help us here and we should go with our eyes.” This isn’t true either. That’s like flipping a coin three times and seeing all heads, and saying that it’s reasonable to assume that it’s a double headed coin. The truth is that we just can’t tell.

        I think that the problem here is that many see it as a binary issue- “traditionalists see that Swisher sucks in the playoffs, where ‘statheads’ stubbornly assert the opposite.” That isn’t true- all the people who trust science are saying is that there’s no reason to make a decision based on the perceived notion that he’s going to fail in October, that we don’t know enough to make a good claim either way. Therefore, I as a scientist am happy to have Swisher as a Yankee because even though I don’t know how he’ll do in the playoffs, I’m certain he’ll help get us there.

        • Mister Delaware

          Science is for nerds, nerd.

    • Larry Koestler

      I have to disagree with you here, as that’s a widely held misconception. Statheads aren’t looking to “reduce the human experience to statistical measurement.” Rather, the goal of statistical analysis — at least my goal, anyway — is to find out reasons why, and the only objective way to do that is to look at the numbers. I’m no psychologist, and even if I were, all I could do about Swisher’s mental state in high-stress situations is speculate.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    I love Nick Swisher on our team but I’d much rather see us put together a package for Dominic Brown, and pony up the money for either or both Solar or Cespedes.

    • Landry

      Why would you be so eager to pony up the $6-8M/yr Cespedes is wanting? His box jumping skills?

      • Gonzo

        Did you see how big those boxes were though?

        • Robinson Tilapia

          And how sharp the tops were?

          I agree with Axisa that Wily Mo Pena could put out a hell of a vid.

  • Gonzo

    So you are saying he has decent trade value?


  • Monterowasdinero

    For those who think Swish tries too hard and fails as a result, watch him run out groundballs to infielders. 1/2 the time he barely reaches 1B on his jog.

    Even though I hate his postseason performance and anemic throwing arm, he is going to have his be$t year at the plate in 2012. Book it.

  • Mike HC

    Very nice informative article. Good to see the numbers back up that Swish pretty clearly does have the potential to put up big numbers in the playoffs. Hopefully he gets some more luck this season and if we are good enough/lucky enough, this postseason.

  • Skip

    He dominated David Price. Wow.

  • AJ

    Does anyone notice that nearly all the pitchers mentioned in this article are lefties? Price, Lester, Gio, Lee, Danks…so I suppose it’s safe to say that swish mashes lefties, which we knew. I’d be interested to see the numbers, but I assume the Yanks have faced predominantly righties in the post-season outside of Lee, CJ Wilson and Cole Hamels in 2009-10.

  • RetroRob

    Swisher is a bit of a streaky hitter, and he’s also a low-to-medium BA guy, who drives quite a bit of his offensive value on the ability to draw walks and get extra-base hits.

    Those trying to make a case against Swisher will note he’s a .222 hitter against CJ Wilson, ignoring his secondary numbers are solid. He’s only .211 against Cliff Lee, yet he’s hit with power (in very few ABs), giving him a high SLG average.

    He’s hit quite poorly against Justin Verlander in a few ABs, but look one spot above him and we see he’s hitting almost as bad against Brian Matusz, a lefty we’d expect he’d crush. What we see are a bunch of small sample sizes that add up to his collective numbers that say more about who he is as a hitter than any individual stats against specific pitchers. Yes, quality pitchers are harder to hit for all batters. If Swish is hot, he’ll hit them, too, so it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he has a postseason in the future where he hits .400/.500/.600.

    At the same time, we can’t remove the human element here. Players are not robots and they have times when they do press, and it’s quite possible this is now in Swisher’s head. Think back to A-Rod prior to his breatout 2009 postseason. He was visibly pressing. I remember one series (it might have been the 2007 Tigers) where he was squeezing the bat handle so hard I thought he was going to turn it to dust.

    The Yankees early exit the last few seasons are due to a collective loss in hitting, including Derek Jeter, Tex, A-Rod, Swish, etc. Past performance, good or bad, is not indicative of future performance, no matter what the Mike Francesca crowd want to believe.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    There is a human element to every single thing we do and, yes, people do behave differently in moments of high stress, yadda yadda yadda. The fact that we can’t pinpoint or quantify it, though, makes it so that any discussion as to “clutchiness” or “bending under pressure” will never evolve past pure speculation. There’s no exact diagnosis for this sort of thing. This is why you can’t expect these sorts of arguments to ever rise above an exchange of opinion and, when, someone starts yelling about it being obvious that Swisher pushes too hard in the postseason, etc., they’re going to quickly run into trouble.

    • thenamestsam

      +1 Well said.

  • theyankeewarrior

    My blind eye tells me that he struggles vs. top RH pitching. He never seems to struggle from the right side of the plate. Last year, he and Tex were tough to watch as lefties and beasts as righties.

  • theboogiedown

    Gotta give this same treatment to Mark Tiexera if you haven’t already done do. I think he gives off a similar post season perception.

  • CJ

    Great piece Larry. I think this sort of batter vs pitcher is the most important in depth analysis of a hitter. While some will argue the validity of small sample size, there is a real unique feel for how a hitter sees a given pitcher. The ability to hit good pitchers is a very important analysis.

  • Thinking man

    Maybe the fact that the postseason is a small sample has something to do with him struggling. Allow me to explain. Let’s discuss Peyton Manning.

    Manning is a career 9-10 in the postseason. I’m making an educated guess that if Manning would have played these 19 teams in a regular season format, I doubt he would end the season 9-10.

    However, these 19 games were each played as a due or die game. Pressure intensifies, human emotion comes into effect. There is a different adrenaline, expectation, drive, unexplained reactions we have when faced with a do or die situation.

    As far as Swisher is concerned, if the playoffs were to be a 162 game affair, the human emotion of pressure and anxiety is removed. In the postseason every game matters, every swing, every catch. If you’re lucky you only play in 11 games. You need to produce in those games or you’re out. Literally and figuratively.

    In sports there is that unpredictability, that uncertainity, the understanding that at any moment our favorite team can win it all or lose it all. This is what I love and hate about sports.

    It is that unpredictability, and uncertainity that someone like Peyton Manning would win the Super Bowl in 2006 after being called a “choker”. Same reason why Alex Rodriguez carried the Yankees to a 2009 championship. The human mind is too complex to try and explain in a post on RAB, but it may be the answer to why we succeed and why we fail when it matters the most. Remember, 90% of the game is half mental.

    By the way, I have just recently begun to get involved in RAB discussions and I have to say it’s awesome. Kudos to everyone!

    • RetroRob

      It probably means that Manning never should have been called a choker. Wasn’t that also the knock against Elway before he won a couple of Super Bowls? The media loves to put tags on players, and there’s an segment of fans who blindly follow.

      The randomness of it all suggests some guys careers in the post season will start out better than others, while others might end stronger. The guys who start slow are chokers, the guys who get hot are clutch. Meanwhile the guys who start out strong are always given the benefit of the doubt. Jeter really doensn’t much the last few post seasons in the post season, yet he’s the last player on the team who will be questioned.

      As I said in one of my other notes, I don’t dismiss the human element. That’s impossible. There are guys I want up at the plate in certain situations more than others. I don’t expect them to become better players, but I believe they are more likely to be unaffected by the situation and will deliver at the level their skillset suggests they will. Yet I also believe that even the players who have difficulties, such as A-Rod when he first came to the Yankees, eventually will produce. Swisher will also produce. I have no idea if the postseason is playing in his head right now. I do know that he has the skills to produce.

  • YankeeGrunt

    The argument that he doesn’t hit good pitching is an extension of the (empirically verifiable) observation that he fares poorly when behind in the count. Because good pitchers are unlikely to get behind in the count we would expect him to fare worse against them. But if you think I’m exaggerating, look at his stats with pitchers ahead. .366 OPS, slugging just .208. Compare that to Teixeira, who has some of the same trends but still has a .579 OPS with the pitcher ahead. Cano OPSes .699 with two strikes and .588 with the pitcher ahead. Swish’s late-innings & close (situations that implicate specialists and elite relievers) OPS is .683, compared to .825 for Cano. It’s not imagination, Swisher is a valuable player over the course of a season but struggles when he HAS to swing at pitches.

  • Mrs. Peterson-Kekich

    If pitchers have relatively little influence over balls-in-play, wouldn’t it make sense that a batter like Swisher — who is more towards the TTO end of the spectrum and, thus, has an above-average percentage of plate appearances in which the pitcher does heavily influence the outcome — would be more adversely affected by elite pitching? (Conversely, I would expect him to do disportionately well against sub-par hurlers.)

  • Dexception32

    I have a different theory altogether. The other human element in all of this, umpiring. Has anyone done an analysis of the difference in strike zone between the playoffs and the regular season? I think these particularly patient hitters like Tex and Swish are prone to slumps in the playoffs because the strike zones tend to be alot more variant in the playoffs. For some reason they are always just a little more pitcher friendly it seems and guys like Swish don’t adapt and constantly find themselves down 0-2. I know its narrative at this point, but there was a ton of griping on both sides about some of the strike zones and I think hitters like Swish are hurt more than most by it.

  • Fishjam

    I’m not sure if this article proves or disproves anything aside from showing he does well against some good pitchers and poorly against others. I’m always shocked that with all of the stats available, there isn’t one that keeps track of a hitter’s performance against different levels of pitching based on FIP or even just ERA. I’m of the belief that Swisher’s & Tex’ struggles in the post-season have to do with their struggles vs RHP, better overall scouting and their reliance on pitchers getting themselves into trouble.

    Much of Swisher’s value is tied to drawing walks and jumping on fastballs when he’s ahead in the count. This may be anecdotal but it seems that the better pitching seen in the post-season is being more aggressive with him and taking his strengths away. He always seems to be behind 0-1, 1-2, etc. and unable to benefit from the hitter’s counts he excels in.

    This is why I think the Yanks need to go after some more aggressive hitters with higher BAs. Drawing walks definitely has it’s value but it is too reliant on the pitcher making mistakes. When you are forced to swing against a pitcher being aggressive, you need to hit your way on base. The 90’s dynasty teams had multiple .300 hitters. The 96′ team had 5 x .300 hitters in their lineup and 7 starters over .292.

  • Howard Cosell

    What a dumb ass post – Really!~

    Perfect scenario of using stats inappropriately. Do you really think it only deals with the pitcher perse? The guy cannot hit in a high pressure playoff scenario – end of discussion.

    Whether the pitcher is big time starter or a mediocre reliever, Its the playoffs – that’s what he can hit well against….

    Why not do some pressure stats with Swisher – like scoring runners with 2 outs or late inning hits and RBI’s in the 8th and 9th inning with the score difference of 2 runs or less…..


  • godfather

    think we need a new word here; “banalysis” would do it; statheads be aware that numbers don’t splain it all; they’re often just shorthand for what is more relevant; how many line drives did swish hit while experiencing a pronounced wedgie, while being blinded by a hottie in the stands? i like his hustle and liveliness, but more so, his ability and the persona that indicates he’s a helluva teammate

  • Plank

    how many line drives did swish hit while experiencing a pronounced wedgie, while being blinded by a hottie in the stands?

    I don’t know. How many?

  • Tomm

    How could this person write this article without acknowledging the severe split Swisher has between lefty and right at-bats? Especially since so many of the the good pitchers that he hits are lefties? Jesus God, you people are dumb.