A few days ago, I looked at Robinson Cano and his swing data. Cano’s hit well, but there are red flags in his swing profile so far this year. The problems have been masked a bit since Robbie’s been hitting, and that includes a three run home run last night. Nick Swisher, on the other hand, is not hitting well. Let’s check the swing data from FanGraphs and see if there’s anything on which we can pin Swish’s slow start.
The first thing we notice is the first item listed: O-Swing%. While it’s not as high as it was last year–a career high 25.7%–Swisher’s O-Swing% is at 20.4%. His career percentage is 18.9%, but that number is likely swayed by the high mark in 2010; in five of the eight years for which data is available, Swisher had O-Swing% marks below 18%. Swinging at more pitches out of the zone is never a good thing, and it’s even a bit disheartening to see when it comes from a guy like Swisher who’s been so disciplined at the plate for his career. Compared to 2010, Swisher is also swinging at fewer pitches in the zone this year (64.6 this year, 68.4% last year). Pair that with the decreased O-Swing% and we’ve got a 40.8% overall swing percentage, down a few points from 2010.
Most troubling is Swish’s out of zone contact rate. Right now it’s at 64.7%, a career high by about three points. He’s beating his previous career high, 2010’s 61.4% mark. So it seems like in terms of hitting balls out of the zone, Swisher is doing something similar to last year’s career best year. However, this year, Swisher’s rocking a .254 BABIP (not including last night’s game). Perhaps that O-Contact% is leading to some weak contact, leading to a weak BABIP, leading to weak looking numbers, despite a great walk rate (over 14%). Let’s look at Swisher’s batted ball profile now and see what the deal is there.
Swish has hit a line drive 20.3% of the time he’s been up to the plate, yet has just that .254 BABIP. We would expect a high LD% to mean a high BABIP. That hasn’t been the case with Swisher in 2011 yet. That LD% should give us faith that a correction is due to arrive, but there’s something else a bit concerning here. Swish’s infield fly ball percentage is at 16.0%, a very high rate for him. So while there are line drives that should be falling for hits but aren’t, there are also weak fly balls that aren’t going past the dirt to greener pastures. This odd blend of contact is frankly a bit baffling and I’m not quite sure what exactly to make of it.
Nick Swisher is clearly doing something right at the plate if he’s hitting line drives in 20% of his at bats and he’s walking 14.1% of the time. But, he’s also doing something wrong if 16% of his plate appearances are ending with fly balls not being caught by outfielders. I was worried that the change in approach Swisher underwent last year may’ve had a slightly negative effect on Swisher this year. If the hits didn’t fall, could he still be productive? That question is definitely in limbo, despite the walks Swisher’s been able to take this year.