A visible difference from Swisher

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Nick Swisher is like a different hitter this year. In 2009 he was the same old Swisher, taking pitch after pitch in hopes of either running into one or drawing a walk. It worked out well, as he produced a career year. But he wasn’t satisfied with that. During the winter he worked with Kevin Long, which apparently resulted in a new stance and a new approach. Swisher is no longer the guy who finds himself with multiple full counts per game.

This year Swisher’s walk rate is a career low 9.3 percent after it was a career high 16 percent last season. Yet this doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily swinging earlier in the count. He has still seen 4.04 pitches per plate appearance this year, which, while worse than his 4.26 P/PA last year, still ranks 19th in the AL. The difference, it seems, is that Swisher is taking fewer pitches inside the zone, as evidenced by his 26 percent strike-looking rate, easily the lowest of his career. That means he’s swinging at more pitches in the zone, which are presumably better pitches.

You can see this in his strike zone plots. For 2009 I stopped at September 10 so we’d have a similar number of plots on each. Here’s 2009:

And 2010:

There’s a lot more white inside the zone this year. Most of his takes come around the edges, which is the way it should be. Last year he let a lot of hittable pitches pass him by. This year he’s taking advantage of those opportunities.

The result, by most measures, has been a smashing success. Swisher’s batting average currently sits at .292, even after a mild slump. He has never hit higher than .262 in any season. His wOBA is at a career high .383, thanks to a career-high .521 SLG. He’s hitting breaking balls much better than he has in the past as well. This has led to a much evener batted ball distribution. Here’s his 2009 spray chart:

And 2010:

There are more plots on the 2010 chart because he’s clearly put more balls in play this season. But the 2010 chart looks fuller, too. Swish has hit the ball to every part of the ballpark, while in 2009 he tended to put the ball into left field. He has used the right field line much more in 2010 and his doubles total, 31, just four fewer than last year, thanks him for it.

We’ve seen a new Nick Swisher in 2010, and it’s one that I think we can get used to. It’s amusing to recall that shortly after the Yankees acquired him that he was designated as fourth outfielder. Now he’s the right fielder of the forseeable future. Given the year he’s putting together, I think that’s something we can live with.

Rivera’s walk-off blast gives Trenton 2-0 series lead

Here’s Keith Law’s write-up about his scouting trip to see last night’s Double-A Trenton game (sub. req’d). “(Dellin Betances) is just 22, has good arm strength and has a workhorse, top-of-the-rotation body,” said KLaw, “but the poor command and secondary stuff put him far from any kind of high-end starter ceiling.” He also mentioned that Austin Romine looks straight up tired, and that Pat Venditte is basically throwing junk from the left side. Nothing new there.

Also, J.B. Cox was suspended following last night’s tantrum, and I suspect he’ll soon be released. Insubordination is bad enough, but there’s no need for the organization to tolerate that from a non-prospect. Especially when it’s not his first incident of the season.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Columbus in 10 innings) the best-of-five series is now tied at one … they beat up on an old friend in this one before blowing the lead late … The Ghost of Kei Igawa gets the ball in Game Three tomorrow
Reid Gorecki, CF: 0 for 3, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 SB
Kevin Russo, 2B: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 1 CS – singled in the go-ahead run after Gorecki got himself into scoring position with a steal
Juan Miranda, 1B & Brandon Laird, 3B: both 0 for 4 – Miranda walked and struck out
Jorge Vazquez:  0 for 5, 5 K – aside from the game tying homer in the ninth inning yesterday, he’s 0-for-8 with seven punchouts in the series … he’s got to do better than that with Jesus Montero out
Chad Huffman, RF: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K
Eric Bruntlett, SS: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI – check out the no-hit middle infielder getting in on the action
Justin Christian, LF: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI – he’s absolutely killing it of late … the hit streak is now up to 21 games
P.J. Pilittere, C: 1 for 3, 1 BB – who needs Montero? … I keed, I keed
David Phelps: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 6-7 GB/FB – 63 of 111 pitches were strikes (56.8%) … not his greatest effort, but good enough to win nonetheless
Royce Ring: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-0 GB/FB – just two of his six pitches were strikes
Zach Segovia: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K – ten of his 15 pitches went for strikes
George Kontos: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K – just 12 of his 25 pitches were strikes (48%)
Kevin Whelan: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 17 of 32 pitches were strikes (53.1%) … walked in the tying run in the bottom of the eighth … I’m sure Dave Miley really misses Jon Albaladejo right about now … actually, wait, Miley was ejected in the third inning for arguing a force play at second
John Van Benschoten: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1-1 GB/FB – just 11 of his 23 pitches were strikes (47.8%) … look at how many freaking guys the bullpen walked in this one, awful

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Open Thread: Off to Texas

Almost. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The Yankees are off today, prepping for a flight to Texas to take on the slumping Rangers. Josh Hamilton and Cliff Lee are both banged up, and they’ve won just three of their last ten games. Of course that means very little, because Texas still has enough firepower and good enough pitching to beat anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

As the Yanks get ready for that matchup, use this for your open thread. The NFL season starts tonight, with the Saints taking on the Vikings in an NFC Championship Game rematch at 8:30pm ET on NBC. Baseball-wise, either the Cardinals-Braves or Rangers-Blue Jays will be on MLB Network depending on where you live. Chat about whatever you want, just be cool.

Yankees claim Steve Garrison, remove DeLaRosa from 40-man roster

Via Mike Ashmore, the Yankees appear to be claiming lefthander Steve Garrison off waivers from the Padres. The move comes at the expense of Wilkin DeLaRosa, who was removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Garrison. Much like the Chad Huffman claim back in April, this move has Kevin Towers’ fingerprints all over it.

Garrison, 24 this weekend, is a local kid from Trenton. Almost exclusively a starter in the minors, he works in the upper-80’s/low-90’s with his fastball, and also features both a curveball and a slider. Apparently he also throws a changeup as well. Garrison has battled injuries and ineffectiveness over the last two years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yanks shifted him to the bullpen full-time. Remember, the claim is not yet official, though the WDLR cut is.

Jeter seeking $20 million…

…for his apartment. As Derek Jeter‘s contract nears an end, so too is his time up as owner of Apartment 88-B of the East Side’s Trump World Tower. According to a brief bit in The Times, Jeter is looking to offload this apartment for $20 million. He originally paid just $12.6 million for the four-bedroom/5.5-bath condo in 2001. Curbed has some photos of the 88th-floor and its views of the East River, Queens and Long Island. Now, cue the rampant speculation of what this real estate deal means for his Yankee future in 3…2…1…

Mapping out a plan for Pettitte

Credit: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

When Andy Pettitte left his July 18th start with a groin injury, the team hoped he would return within five weeks. Now, nearly two months later and with the Minor League season dwindling away, Pettitte is on the verge of his first rehab start.

Still, he and the team do not know when the lefty will make his triumphant return to the Bronx. In fact, according to Pete Caldera from The Record, the Yankees may ask Pettitte to make another minor league rehab start. “We’ll just wait and see,” Joe Girardi said. “What I want to see is command of all his pitches, and for him to come out of that start feeling really good.”

Besides Pettitte’s groin, the Yanks’ biggest concerns focus around the Minor League schedule. Pettitte takes the ball for the AA Trenton Thunder tonight in the second game of the Eastern League semifinals. The Yanks’ farmhands have a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five set, and if the Thunder advance, Pettitte’s second rehab start would be Game 1 of the EL finals on September 14. He would then line up to start in Baltimore on September 19. If all goes according to that plan, Pettitte would enjoy four Major League starts before the playoffs.

The problems arise if Trenton cannot advance. Then, the Yankees would have to turn to their other Minor League teams in the playoffs. The AAA club in Scranton is currently playing in the International League postseason tournament. They lost the first game of their best-of-five set, and they too would play on September 14 if they can take three of the next four games from the Columbus Clippers. The Single A Tampa Yankees have advanced to the Florida State League best-of-five finals but play on September 14th only in the event of a full series. Trenton remains Pettitte’s best hope.

If Trenton doesn’t advance, the team’s plans for Pettitte could be up in the air. They could have him throw some intense sim games or work out in Tampa. They seem hesitant to bring Pettitte back after just one rehab outing and then against the Rays in Tampa Bay for a key AL East showdown.

As the Yanks enjoy an off-day and hope to get back their 11-2 lefty with his 2.88 ERA as soon as possible, all eyes will be on Trenton tonight. “I’m going crazy. I want to go pitch,” Number 46 said to Caldera yesterday. “I’ve been out almost two months. I want to go pitch and get going here. I feel like I haven’t done anything in so long, like I haven’t even pitched this year yet. I’m just excited to get back out there.” So are we, Andy. So are we.

Montero undergoes minor surgery, will miss remainder of the year

Jesus Montero, the Yankees’ number one prospect, will miss the rest of the season after undergoing minor surgery to on his ankle yesterday, General Manager Brian Cashman said on ESPN 1050 today. While George A. King of The Post initially reported that Montero could return if Scranton advances in the playoffs, the Yankees will hold out their catching prospect no matter what. Montero underwent surgery to have an infection on his right ankle cleaned out last night, and the injury is not considered serious. This news, however, should put to rest talk of a September call-up for Montero.

The 20-year-old hit .289/.353/.517 with 21 home runs and 34 doubles after a very slow start at AAA, and he will be in the mix for a Big League job come Spring Training 2011.