- He’s in the last year of a contract that will pay him $10.25 million in 2012.
- He started 2011 horribly, not hitting a home run until the end of April, and barely kept his batting average above .200 through June.
- He ended the season with a triple slash line of .260/.374/.449.
- He only hit six fewer home runs in 2011 than 2010, but he struck out 14 fewer times in the same number of plate appearances.
- His BABIP tumbled from a career high .335 to a more normal .295; and his HR/FB rate dropped to 14.3%, below his career average.
- The Yankees are trying to cut costs, and have three marquee players in line to re-sign or let walk: Swisher, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson.
- The latter were by far the Yankees’ two best hitters in 2011: Granderson had a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .372 and Cano was only two points lower at .370. Both fantastic numbers.
So, if the Yankees are going to keep anyone, it seems like Swisher would be third in line, right?
Actually, yes. I didn’t come into this article with some grand plan to convince you all that Swisher is worth keeping at any cost. There are no numbers that put him in a favorable light when compared to Granderson and Robby. But there is this: Swisher is an above average to good hitter, and a slightly above average right fielder. And that’s a pretty cool thing to find.
Let me explain: contrary to some analysis, Swisher has been pretty solid in the field. Over his three years with the Yankees, he has a RF UZR (I know how Jeterites feel about UZR, and I’m with you, just hear me out) of +2.23. He has a career +2.47 in the outfield. Solidly above average—not hugely, but solidly.
And guess what: he was the either the third or fourth best hitter on the Yankees last year according to the most advanced metrics. He had a .354 wOBA, good for fourth after Granderson, Cano, and Alex Rodriguez (.360), but he had a very good 14.2 batting runs above average (bRAA—or a 21.4 weighted runs above average, wRAA and a 122 weighted runs created, wRC+, if you prefer FanGraphs), which is good for third, above A-Rod.
And this is in a down year. In 2010 he connected for a fantastic .377 wOBA, and a 28.5 wRAA (132 wRC+) and in 2009 he was only slightly worse, with a wOBA of .375 and a wRAA of 23.5 (124 wRC+). And, in 2011 he was worth 3.8 Wins Above Replacement, down only .3 from 2010 (4.1). These are really good numbers.
So. Let’s imagine for a second that all the mental and physical training (that’s a link to a New York Times article, so don’t click if you want to save your 20 articles per month) Swisher has put himself through during the offseason pays off: we’re at the end of 2012, and Swish has had a career year, posting similar numbers to 2010 (many of which would have been good for first on the team in 2011, particularly his .377 wOBA). There aren’t many players in the league who could provide the Yankees with this kind of production, and many of them would cost more than around $10 million per year.
Basically, the question boils down to this: how much stock do you put in this $189 million ceiling? I’m of the mind that Swisher might be willing to take a small pay cut (or at least not a raise) to stay with the team and avoid free agency. But if the Yankees can’t sign Granderson or Cano to get Swish, then we might be saying good-bye to the salute in the right field bleachers in 2013. Which would be sad.
There are two things I’d like to say before I wrap this up: first, his age (31) could be an impediment to a deal, and secondly, his failure to hit in the post-season might be the huge metal pillar that breaks the camel’s back. I’m not denying these things. But I still think it’s worth talking about Swisher, and not automatically assuming that he’s gone.
For more on this, check out a similar debate over at The Yankee Analysts.
And, because I enjoy making silly lists, here’s a list of five stories that I’m already exasperated by because of the Andy Pettitte signing:
- “Michael Pineda is the odd man out!!!!!” Come on.
- “Ivan Nova is battle tested.” I love Super Nova, but he pitched fewer big league innings than Pineda last year. So I guess this is similar to 1. But still.
- Anything about the Roger Clemens trial: whether Pettitte will have to miss time because of it, what he might say, how being involved might affect his performance. This needs to stop.
- Freddy Garcia‘s feelings about Andy Pettitte. (WAAAAH! WAAAH! I’M A REPLACEMENT-LEVEL PITCHER AND MY OPINION MATTERS! WAAAH!)
- Things that reference “top-secret bullpen sessions”.