Nov
08

What Went Right: Nick Swisher

By

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Since coming to the Yankees four years ago, Nick Swisher has been a model of consistency. He’s played between 148-150 games each year with New York, hit between 24-29 homers, posted a .359-.374 OBP, hit to a 120-129 OPS+, produced a 124-135 wRC+, and has been worth 3.2-4.1 fWAR. It’s been the same thing year after year, and outside of the postseason, that’s been very good for the Yankees.

The 31-year-old Swisher opened the season by coming to camp in noticeably improved shape — “It’s the best-looking I’ve ever been,” he joked — and he mashed in Spring Training (.323/.344/.710). He carried that over into the start of the regular season, going 17-for-60 (.283) with four homers in the team’s first 15 games. By the end of the month he owned a .284/.355/.617 batting line with six homers in 21 games. May was rough, but by the All-Star break he had his season line at .262/.336/.477.

By Swisher’s standards, that actually wasn’t all that good. He was hitting for power and a not horrible average, but the walks just weren’t there. Walks are a Swisher trademark, and he got back on the horse and became a free pass machine in the second half…

The Yankees were fading in the standings but it wasn’t because of their right fielder. Swisher hit .298/.392/.510 in the first month after the All-Star break and carried a .272/.356/.485 batting line into the season’s final month. While everyone focused on the Orioles, the rejuvenated Ichiro Suzuki, and the molten hot Robinson Cano, Swisher quietly hit .407/.521/.661 with more walks (14) than strikeouts (12) in the final three weeks of the season to help the Yankees keep the Orioles at bay. He capped the year off with a 7-for-11 series against the Red Sox, singling with the bases loaded in his final at-bat of the season.

Swisher got painted with the unclutch brush a long time ago, but he was (by far) the team’s best hitter with runners in scoring position in 2012. He put up a .301/.406/.589 batting line in 181 plate appearances with men on second and/or third, a 164 wRC+ that ranked fourth among all hitters in those situations this year (min. 150 plate appearances). His docket of big hits included this extra innings homer against the Orioles, this huge game against the Red Sox (the 15-9 comeback win), and this go-ahead homer against the Braves.

When Mark Teixeira went down for more than a month with a calf injury, Swisher stepped in at first base and the Yankees didn’t miss a beat. He started 27 games at first and played 41 games at the position overall, his most since 2008 with the White Sox and more than the first three years of his Yankees career combined. Swisher avoided the DL for the seventh straight season — he did miss a week with a hamstring issue in May and another week with a hip issue in July — though he did dip below 150 games played for the first time since 2005. He only made it into 148 games in 2012.

Swisher’s season ended with another poor postseason showing (5-for-30, .167), something that unfortunately became a trend during his four years in New York. The Yankees will probably never come out and say it, but I think the playoff struggles are at least part of the reason why they’re comfortable letting him walk as a free agent this winter. His Yankees career will likely come to an end this winter with a .268/.367/.483 batting line (128 wRC+) batting line in 498 games and 2,501 plate appearances. Swisher’s performance this year — .272/.364/.473 (128 wRC+) with 24 homers — was one of the team’s three best offensively and a big reason why they held off the Orioles to win the AL East.

Categories : Players

54 Comments»

  1. gc says:

    I’m getting the popcorn out for this one….

  2. Rey22 says:

    One of the top 5 trades of Cashman’s career. Absolute steal, great contract, awesome performance. A shame they’re letting him go.

    • Robinson Tilapia (IS Nate Silver) says:

      I don’t know if I’d categorize it as “letting him go.” He’s a free agent. Some reports have him demanding a price higher than what the team is willing to give. It’s possible he gets it. It’s possible, although not likely, he comes back more on the team’s terms.

  3. Robinson Tilapia (IS Nate Silver) says:

    Oh how I wish we could see the real-time reactions of some folks while reading this.

  4. Murderers' Row Boat says:

    He was really good for the Yanks. Just not $100m contract good.

  5. art vandelay says:

    I randomly ran into nick swisher the other night out here in california. Talked to him for about 10 minutes, super super nice guy. Was asking me about my family on the east coast … he was with his smoking hot wife and had no obligation to talk tome for that long. I told him thanks for his time if he goes elsewhere, just don’t go to the sox. I snapped a photo with him and he went on his way … btw, i didn’t know swish got rid of the swish hawk and he rocks some black rimmed glasses. Hes as much as a bro in person as I expected. Anyway, I hope him the best.

    • Robinson Tilapia (IS Nate Silver) says:

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I’m not surprised in the least in an interaction like this.

      • art vandelay says:

        Ha, yea, I was coming out of a door at work and bumped into him. My boss asked me who that was because he was so nice to her (he held the door for her before I ran into him) and she had no idea who he was. Anyway, he was dropping dudes and bros, It was pretty funny. Shame he won’t be back.

    • jjyank says:

      Very cool. He always struck me as that kind of guy.

    • sevrox says:

      See the pic?

  6. Bubba says:

    It will be sad to see Swisher go but, as good as he’s been in the regular season, he’s not someone you should overpay for.

  7. Robert says:

    We all love Swish,great guy but he couldn’t hit good pitching or in the clutch. I wish him well and hope we get a good player with the draft pick we recieve…..

    • Winter says:

      “He couldn’t hit good pitching.” This just cracks me up. Of course he was worse against good pitchers. That’s why those pitchers are good. It’s absurd to expect hitters to perform as well against top caliber pitchers as they do against league average pitchers.

    • LarryM., Fl. says:

      Robert, I agree he was not clutch in the playoffs BA. 167 and good pitchers who possessed and above average fastball and good breaking pitch was problematic to him.

  8. There's the Door says:

    Years of false hustle for show, grins for the camera, and dreadful at-bats in pressure situations. A pretend star. BTW, that line drive he whiffed on turned the Detroit series.
    People gotta stop watching baseball with their calculators and start using their eyes.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      What the hell is false hustle?

      • Winter says:

        It’s when no matter how hard you try, you just don’t move very fast. Have you ever seen a Molina run? So much effort, so slow. Not sure how it applies to swisher though…

        • Mike Axisa says:

          Molina can’t run fast just because he’s slow, not because he’s not trying. “False hustle” seems to imply a lack of effort, which is not something you can accuse Swisher off. If anything, he tries too hard.

          • Preston says:

            It means that they have some odd hatred for a player that does all the right things. There are to many cameras in a ballpark for you to be smiling for the camera. He’s just a good natured guy, and his “false” hustle means he tries hard on every play, and they don’t like him anyways.

      • RockinDaBronx says:

        false hustle is doing diving cartwheels for balls 10 feet out of range, it’s running up the outfield wall for homeruns that are clearly bombs hit into the upperdeck,etc

        • There's the Door says:

          Exactly, thank you. Don’t forget rolling over three times after you miss an easy catch in a crucial situation.

      • Vic says:

        I guess you never played the game.

  9. Eddard says:

    Swisher is a postseason choker and therefore cannot be trusted with a big contract. Re-sign Ichiro and call it a day.

  10. The Real Eddard says:

    Real Eddard here. That post above was from an impostor. Swisher should not be retained unless he’ll sign a 1-3 year deal at no more than $15 million per season. We can’t get bogged down with another 7 year deal with a player over 30 years old. If it’s Upton and he’s only 25, fine, give him a long contract. But these guys like Granderson and Swisher are going to have to be let go because the F.O. already gave out too many big contracts to old players.

  11. Professor Clitjangles says:

    You and your factity facts.

  12. forensic says:

    As good as he’s been in the regular season, that’s as bad as he’s been in the postseason.

    /McCarver’d

  13. Andrew says:

    If Swisher were on another team, fans would be clamoring the sign him. For shame.

    • RetroRob says:

      Fans would be clamoring for his signing, pointing out how he’s exactly the type of player the Yankees need to get back to their recent dynasty days. Not a superstar, just a player who grinds out ABs, drives up pitch counts helping the team to get to the weaker bullpen, switch hitter, good power, good OBP, can play an acceptable defense in the short RF, and would serve as a backup at first for the increasingly injured Teixeira. Good character and clubhouse man.

      And they’d be right on all points.

      It’s why Swisher will be in demand by many teams, hoping they’ll get solid production at a decent price. Teams that many here believe are smarter than the Yankees. They want Swisher. I wonder what that says.

      • jjyank says:

        I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and you’re right. If Swisher was on another playoff contending team these last 4 years and put up the same numbers, I bet everyone here would be screaming to get him signed.

  14. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    Love him or hate him, one thing that’s almost a certainty is that his replacement next year will be an inferior player and the Yankees will be worse off without him.

    • jjyank says:

      Yeah. I think the poor postseason showing really just left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. If Swisher was at least average for that 9 game sample, I bet a lot of people would think differently.

      I’m not defending his postseason numbers, but I do think that it’s possible he changes course in the future. You’re right, his replacement is going to be worse, unless there is a big trade coming. I, for one, will miss Swisher.

      • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

        I think there’s a lot more to his poor postseasons than just small sample size but even so, his performances during the regular season does still hold a lot of value.

        • jjyank says:

          Yeah, I agree that it might be more than SSS noise. I’m just saying that I don’t believe it is some sort of chronic, unfixable problem that will plague the rest of his career.

          And like you said, you gotta get there first. Swisher has been a pretty important piece of that for the last 4 years.

          • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

            I agree. I could easily see some BABIP luck in one of these postseason games getting him back on track.

            • Mr. Sparkle says:

              His sample size of postseason failures might be a little too big (46 games and 181 plate appearances) to think that at some point the trend is going to change. You say “getting him back on track.” If you look at his career postseason numbers, you’ll realize he was never actually on track.

  15. Preston says:

    I’m going to miss Swisher, not only was he good, he was fun to watch and easy to root for. I think that it is pretty clear the Yankees could afford to give some money to one of Granderson or Swisher, and I’d prefer it be Swisher. Sign Swish for 5/85 and let Grandy walk next season. No reason to go cheap on the OF this year, next year we can grab a cheap LF option(Gardner in CF, Swisher in RF) off the scrap heap when we actually need to get under the 189. Or better yet some combination of Austin, Heathcott, Mesa and Flores might be ready to step into the role.

  16. yanks or death says:

    good regular season player and awful postseason player. hope he kills another AL team in the playoffs like he did to yanks for past 4 years.

    • RetroRob says:

      He’ll be on the Rangers and will probably kill the Yankees in the postseason.

      It’s baseball.

    • Rooting for U.S. Steel says:

      Would those be the same four years in which he helped the Yanks reach the postseason — every year?

      I truly don’t get the hate for Swisher. I’m seriously baffled. I saw the same playoff games all of you did. Guy likes to play in NY, guy is able to play in NY (admittedly not well at all during the postseason). Pinning the team’s postseason underperformance on him is mystifying.

      Not sure what upsets me more: The posters who bash Swish or trumpet Josh Hamilton as a potential pickup.

      Hamilton is, by all accounts, a solid gent, but I am absolutely (and without any proof or inside knowledge whatsoever) convinced that his body is going to give out on him a few years into his contract.

      Whichever team takes him on is going to have another Albert Belle on its hands — albeit without the climate control issues or trick-or-treater rage.

  17. Moose says:

    Solid player all around but exposed time after time in the playoffs which is where our spoiled genration expects to be every year – at this point i for one don’t want to go into next year fielding this exact feast or famine, k or infield popup lineup— where changes can be made, even of they don’t pass the calculator stats test, they should be made….

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