The Importance of Nick Swisher

Fan Confidence Poll: May 7th, 2012
It's starting to look a little like 2005
(REUTERS/Dave Kaup)

Aside from yesterday’s blowout win, the Yankees slogged through a dreadful offensive slump last week that saw them score just 13 runs in six games. Six of those 13 runs came in Friday’s game, so the other seven were spread across five games. The lineup came back to life on Sunday, scoring ten runs in the win over the Royals thanks in part to the return of Nick Swisher, who homered after sitting out most of the week with a low-grade left hamstring strain.

Obviously Swisher’s presence alone did not account for the offensive outburst, but it didn’t hurt. He’d hit six homers with a .408 wOBA in 93 plate appearances before the injury, joining Curtis Granderson as the club’s second best bat behind the resurgent Derek Jeter in the early going. A player performing like that was going to be missed no matter what, but even moreso when seemingly everyone else in the lineup was battling through some kind of slump, either recent or extended. It was hard not to notice the big gaping hole in the offense last week.

Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira have shown flashes of breaking out recently, but nothing more. Swisher’s return adds a little more thump to the offense and I think the Yankees should consider bumping him up in the lineup, at least temporarily. Batting order doesn’t mean much over 162 games, but in an individual game — especially when the 3-4-5 hitters as a whole haven’t been producing — it can make all the difference. Moving Swisher to, say, cleanup will put him in position to do more damage given how Jeter and Granderson are setting the table. Once the usual 3-4-5 guys get going, they can return to their regular lineup spots.

Just to be clear, I don’t think simply rearranging the batting order will spark A-Rod‘s, Cano’s, and Tex’s bats. I don’t buy into the idea that players perform better in specific lineup spots. I believe those three will improve their offensive performances (to various degrees) in the coming weeks, but right now they’re not getting it done. Swisher has been and moving him a little closer to Jeter and Granderson could actually lead to some more sustained rallies in lieu of stranded runners and frustration. It’s a crazy concept, I know.

The Yankees do a great job of remaining patient and avoiding knee-jerk moves these days, but at the same time they don’t have to ignore little tweaks. It’ll suck seeing Teixeira making $22M+ to bat sixth, but is that really worse than watching him make outs in big spots with men on base? I certainly don’t think so. Winning the division is too important this year for the Yankees to go through another week or two like last. Moving Swisher up will create a little more continuity among the team’s best hitters and hopefully leads to more runs on the scoreboard. If not, then no big deal. Real easy to go back to the way things were.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 7th, 2012
It's starting to look a little like 2005
  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Mike, I see no problem with making changes in the lineup. But I would not pull a Joe Torre and move Arod to 8 hole. My thoughts are moves should be made and players need to be aware that for the good of the team that their position in the lineup can change. This being said. I would not put Swisher in the 4 spot.He does not handle the pressure well. To me , Swisher being a switch hitter, he would be a great number two man in the lineup following Jeter. After these two Cano, Granderson, Arod, Teix., DH, Martin, and Gardner. Obviously, play with it if half day is provided for in the lineup to any of the group. They would keep their positions. I have bunched the guys who I believe show the ability to drive in runs. In fact I might bat Ibanez in front of Teix. who I have lost much faith.

    • Kosmo

      Larry I agree with you on not batting Swisher 4th but disagree with Granderson batting 4th in which he´s had 5 ABs in his career. Granderson batting 3rd in his career is hitting .193 and with 2 outs RISP career he´s a .235 hitter last year .208 , his best game is leading off or hitting in the 2 hole.

      • LarryM.,Fl.

        Kosmo: I can’t argue stats. I’m like the old time scouts in “Moneyball.” Just have a feel for what I see. I’m sure The Binder knows about the statistics but teix. got to go down until he starts putting the ball where its pitched. He’ll still hit his HRs. with this approach.

        • Kosmo

          I´m not posting stats to discount what you say, just to make it reasonable clear Granderson is not a middle of lineup type of hitter if he was his managers Leyland and Girardi would have exploited those abilities by now. I don´t give a crap about Binder baseball anymore than you do, but managers should know their players and their limitations better than either you or I do. Granderson thrives at the top of the lineup and not in the middle.
          Tex is known for his slow starts no reason to move him aorund too much. Girardi is without a fault faithful to his players and even though Tex has struggled he will I think continue to keep him in the middle of the lineup.

      • Need Pitching

        Granderson career batting 5th: 324/395/565 (his best triple slash in any lineup spot)
        Do you really think he can rake batting 5th or 2nd, but not be capable of handling the 3/4 slot?

        • Kosmo

          Granderson is a lifetime .193 hitter in the 3 hole. Absolutely terrible. 5th hole Ya .324 both not great sample sizes.
          To me the most revealing thing about Granderson is he´s a career .235 hitter w/2 outs/RISP in 2011 .208 . IMO you don´t want someone hitting for such a low average w 2outs RISP batting in the middle of the lineup that´s why everyone is screaming to move Tex from the middle of the lineup.
          It´s to early to say it´s broke.

          • Need Pitching

            Cano career 2 outs, RISP: 240/305/400
            Granderson career: 235/329/457
            If Cano can bat there, certainly Granderson can as well.

            This season 2 outs, RISP:
            Cano 138/212/276
            Granderson 261/393/391

            Really, my only point is that you can find a split for any player that could be used to argue against a player batting in a certain lineup spot. IMO the decision should be based a lot more on total performance than trying to find somebody who has the ideal splits for a given role, especially when small sample sizes are involved. I really doubt Granderson lifetime 193 AVG is at all indicative of what he would do as a #3 hitter on a regular basis. His 364 OBP and 470 SLG batting third are essentially in line with his career norms. The biggest difference in his performance batting third is his low .244 BABIP (compared to career .312) Considering the sample is only comprised of 22 sporadic starts last season, I would think his numbers batting #3 are much more of a random abberation than indication of his ability to bat third.

            • Kosmo

              also applies to his .324 average batting 5th. I would be greatly greatly surprised if Girardi moves Granderson into the middle of the lineup.
              Still early enough not to start tinkering to much with the lineup.

  • mark

    Amen on moving Tex down.

    What is the over/under on Tex’s BA this year? .230? .235?

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      I’ll take the over on both.

    • Jesse

      I’ll take the over as well, but I say it’ll be in the .240’s.

  • Tom

    This is a comment in general about the status of our Yankees. I couldn’t remember the last time we had an AL rookie of the Year: circa Derek Jeter. My comment is we can’t have another unless we start playing some of them. Bring some up and let’s what they can do. The Nats aren’t afraid to try it.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      A good thought but the only candidate in sight is now on Seattle. Should we bring up a player from low A? Our best age-adjusted players are there.

      There is nobody like Harper in our system and our position players in the minors are blocked by all our big contract starters who can’t be budged.

      • jjyank

        Disagree with that last part. What position players are being blocked, exactly? We don’t really have much in the way of upper level position players. The only ones who could be relevant (David Adams, Zoilo Almonte to name a couple) still have something to prove in the minors.

      • Havok9120

        I’m not seeing blockages. At least, I’m not seeing blockages keeping someone better off the MLB team. Dickerson and Laird are useful pieces, but I’m not sure they would be positive replacements for the bench pieces we already have, and they certainly couldn’t supplant any of the starters based on performance alone.

    • Knoxvillain

      Cano in 2005 and Matsui in 2003. They didn’t win but they should have.

    • Mike Axisa

      I wouldn’t use the RoY as the basis for anything. Have you seen the list of recent winners? Most suck.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      …and your best young position players are currently in A ball so, no, you’re not bringing them up.

    • Ted Nelson

      The Yankees don’t have Bryce Harper in their farm system.

      • FIPster Doofus

        I’m surprised it took so long for someone to say this.

  • Stephen R

    “Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira have shown flashes of breaking out recently, but nothing more.” Disagree on that, ARod .364/.462/.500 since May 1st.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Disagree with your pronouncement that ARod has completely broken out. A one week sample is simpley a flash that he may be breaking out. Let’s see if he can continue to do well over the next 2 or 3 weeks. I certainly hope so.

    • Need Pitching

      I’m not sure it would be realistic to expect more from Arod anyways. His numbers this year are right in line with what he’s done the last 2 years.

      2010: 270/341/506 .363 wOBA, 123 wRC+
      2011: 276/362/461 .361/125
      2012: 269/377/433 .365/131

      The only significant differences are better OBP (highest BB% since 2009, so he may negatively regress there), and lower SLG, but his SLG and ISO have declined every year since 2007, so that may just be part of the larger trend and not something that will necessarily improve much. I’d imagine ARod will go on a short term HR barrage at some point this season, but unfortunately, I think his overall numbers now are pretty much what ARod is now – still a solidly productive player, but no longer elite.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    $wi$h is going to have a career year. I believe that money motivates him-as it does most-no matter what he says. For me, it will be all about his post season performance (if we get there). If we don’t, it won’t be his fault and he’ll get a great offer from us. If we do, and he performs as he has in the past, what do we do then?

    • Plank

      Swish signed a below market deal and has never been a free agent. Why are you writing his name with dollar signs?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Because you know Nick Swisher’s actually done that at least once in his life.

        • Plank

          We all know what you’re about Robin$on.

      • Steve (different one)

        Swisher is so motivated by money that he can exactly tailor his performance to how much he wants to earn. Think about it, he was playing for a contract LAST season, but he also knew the Yankees had a reasonable option. So, there was no need to play TOO well. But if he was terrible, he’d go into free agency coming off a down year. So the goal was to play just good enough to get his option picked up and then have a great year the next year. Pretty savvy.

        • Plank

          He’s like a Bond villain.

  • Luisergi

    I know it wont happen, but when Gardner returns, and if he comes all right out of the gate, i’d go;


    *Voldy woud be a cool pet name for Girardi
    *I don’t give a tiny rat’s ass about salary when it comes to the batting order… If the guy is sucking, drop him, and give more at bats to the guy that is getting the job done.

    • Bonnie Parker

      I like it. Girardi will never bat Swisher 4th though. It’ll either be Cano or A-Rod 4th. What they could do is just move Swisher up to 2nd not just against lefties but righties as well. Granderson would slide down to 3rd. A-Rod 4th, Cano 5th and Teixera 6th. I’m not worried about A-Rod and Cano, it’s Teixera who has had a sub .850 OPS for over two seasons now. And that’s not going to cut it for a 1st baseman making as much as he does.

      • Luisergi

        Totally agree on Teixeira, just drop him, let him work with Long, and see if he can make his way back to the top of the order…

        I just like the line up this way, cause it seems so long.

        Hitting 2-3-4 you have the guys that are actually hitting good right know. If/when the opposing pitcher passes them, the next guys are, in theory great hitters, even HOFamers, who are suposed to be hitting 2,3 and 4th… This would stress the guy in the mound in a big way, and it could bring great results to the team.

        I’m a believer of this; The every day line up should be put togheter acording to present performance, not past performance…

      • Need Pitching

        ARod also has a sub .850 OPS for over 2 seasons now

        just saying

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      Swish will then go into a pressure/choke slump. Why start his post season so early?

      • Luisergi

        Well if he does that you can always dump him back in the line up…

        • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

          Voldy/Gandhi. I just cannot see us winning with him as a DH in the post season. Why do I detest him so much? He has been better than I thought though.

          • Luisergi

            HAHAHA, i kinda like the guy…

            Anyway, i don’t think he will be the DH after de trade deadline, ergo, not in te PS.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      While that might be benficial, let’s see Gardner continue where he left off after he returns before having him bat leadoff. Jeter has been unbelieveably hot. I’d love to see him at the plate with more runners on the bases to see if he can help the team score more runs. However, having Gardner batting 9th may produce similar results (just not in the 1st inning). Give that a bit more time to ensure Gardner doesn’t return to the .260-.270ish hitter he was last season.

  • Bonnie Parker

    Interesting because I had said in the confidence post that the team had lost its soul when Swisher got hurt and then Mariano went down for the year. The team looked lifeless vs the Os and in a couple games vs the Royals. The offense should be able to carry us at times. When they don’t the only starter that can overcome it is CC. If Phelps and Nova are only giving up 2-3 runs we should be able to win those ballgames. Swisher adds another big bat to the lineup and he’s a high energy guy that gets everyone else going.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    I’d rather retain swisher for 3 years 30m-36m than the inevitable 6-7 year extension for around 20m AAV that Cano is looking at.
    Not basing that at all on their hot/cold starts either, I felt this way back in march. I think sacrifices have to be made if they are serious about $189 and while Swisher is seen as the guy who is a lock to go while Cano and Granderson will stay, I think you could make a pretty good argument that Swish is the guy to keep while we let 1 (or both) of the other guys walk.

    • Guest

      For Swish to stay for 3 at 30-36, he needs to cool off.

      If he has a career year, (he’s “in the best shape of its life” and that appears like it might make a difference for him at least in terms of pop), then we’re looking more like 5yrs, 80 mill, no?

      Given the insanity of the market this past off-season, the fact that he’s not young but not ancient either, and the fact that he’s been pretty good at baseball for a while now, I think 3 yrs 30-36 mil is a bit of pipe dream if he has the big year it looks like he’s poised to have.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      That’s something to think about, but you also need to consider how you replace the player that leaves? Would it be easier to replace Swisher’s production at a lower cost or Cano’s? Tough decisions are definitely coming up soon.

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    I’d like to see the Yankees trade Swisher to the Nationals for Matt Purke.

    • Mike Axisa

      The Yankees have enough young pitchers with missing velocity.

  • Steve (different one)

    So….maybe not putting Swisher on the DL, which so many blasted, was the right move?

    How would we like sitting here facing another 7 games without him?

    • Mike Axisa

      Well, let’s see him play the field and not re-injury himself first. And how many runs did not having a real outfielder cost them last week?

      • Steve (different one)

        No one said there wasn’t a downside to the decision. But there was also an upside: EIGHT additional games of a bat we are now saying should hit cleanup. The question is whether the good outweighs the bad. Was such an assessment ever presented by those blasting the decision? Not really, just 100% focus on the downside.

        And I am also not saying they shouldn’t have called up an outfielder for Gardner. That is a separate decision and could have saved some of those defensive runs they gave up.

        But keeping Swish off the DL? Maybe not so dumb?

        Not saying I have any of the answers, just looking for some nuance….

    • Bonnie Parker

      I thought they should have at least brought up another outfielder who 1. Isn’t 40 and 2. Isn’t an infielder. They had too many pitchers in the pen for no reason. They could have sent one down, brought up an outfielder and been just fine.

  • Darren

    You’re talking about Fantasy Baseball, right? because in real life, the manager has to take into account (million dollar) ego, familiarty, expectations, etc.

    So, Cano is staying at 3 or 4, Arod is staying at 3 or 4 and tex isnt going anywhere lower than 5.

    Thank you, good night. Be real.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Sure. Some of these ideas, though, aren’t too drastic. There’s no ARod to the eighth spot, Tex to the eighth, etc.

      Tex to 6 seems reasonable to me. ARod to 5 seems reasonable, although less necessary. I don’t believe either of these players would have a shitfit over trying this out, especially if they realize their own struggles.

      I just to spoke to Jorge Posada and he’s still not batting ninth. Really, Jorgie…

  • CP

    In the 22 games that Swisher has played for the Yankees this year, they have scored fewer that 4 runs only 5 times. In the 6 games that he missed, the Yankees scored fewer than 4 runs 5 times.


    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      Mr. April!

  • jjyank

    …garbage time?

  • Midland TX

    Swisher’s torrid start is just as unsustainable as the collective 3-4-5 hitter’s slump. It seems unfair, even hypocritical, to nit-pick every bunt sign or intentional walk, only to offer up a different flavor of LaRussaesque overmanagement, like screwing with the lineup.

  • Rich in NJ

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Swisher has a better offensive career than Texeira over the next three to four seasons, although I hope not because Texeira’s contract could become a tremendous albatross given their reported payroll shrinking aspirations.

    • Ted Nelson

      It’s possible, but Tex is also a notoriously slow starter with a 50 point split between his career April wOBA and any other month.

  • Ted Nelson

    On the season A-Rod is at a .365 wOBA… He’s not killing it, but he’s hardly struggling on the season. In April it was a .349 wOBA.