What About Nick?

  • 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:

  1.  “Michael Pineda is the odd man out!!!!!” Come on.
  2. “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.
  3. 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.
  4. Freddy Garcia‘s feelings about Andy Pettitte. (WAAAAH! WAAAH! I’M A REPLACEMENT-LEVEL PITCHER AND MY OPINION MATTERS! WAAAH!)
  5. Things that reference “top-secret bullpen sessions”.

13 thoughts on “What About Nick?

  1. I kinda want to see what year Granderson has in 2012 before planning around him as a centerpiece and getting excited about resigning him for big money. After all, he was trending downward for 4 years until late 2010. I want to see him do something comparable again.

    Granderson and Swisher are basically the same age. And while Granderson is probably the better player (although some of his defensive metrics make me wonder…), if forced to pick between the two, I might prefer something like Swish at $10 M than Grandy at $18M. (We can play with the numbers, but you gey the idea.)

  2. Nice piece – thanks.

    Just a little thing: not quite in agreement on point 4 at the end. The wording conveys the impression that Garcia's feelings are unimportant because of his relatively marginal value to the team. This seems a slightly inhuman, undesirable, way to view matters.

    • Oh, I don't mean to be obnoxious about it, more that I can't stand the way the media is portraying him. He's a pro, and he'll take this like a pro, though I doubt he's psyched. I'm just annoyed by the excessive reporting on his emotional state (just like I would if it were ARod or Jeet or Mo…well maybe not Mo). I dunno if that makes sense–but it's not about his value to the team.

      • That makes perfect sense – thanks! I totally agree and almost added to my first post that players' feelings are rather over-reported in pretty much every sport.

      • Thanks for the clarification. I too am tired of the media's portrayal of it.

        Also, from what I've read, Garcia isn't saying anything egregious. He's merely being honest: he signed on to be a starter, and it's disappointing if he ends up toiling in long relief.

        He can only win in the media's eyes if he says, "Yay, I'm glad that we that Pettite will be on this team because sentiment dictates that he'll make the team better. All I want is for the team to get better, even if it means I get released as a result."

  3. I see your logic there. Last season Grandy was off the charts in everything but BA…while I don't see him replicating those monster stats, there is no reason to believe that he can't hit over 30 homers and 100 RBI's again this year. I do love the Swish though. hopefully he'll thrid time's a charm in the playoffs and he'll come through like good old Tino did against the Padres in 98!

  4. So, if the Yanks don't re-sign Swisher or Granderson, who do they get to play OF? A different free agent of comparable quality would cost just as much. I don't know whether any Yankee minor leaguer would be ready for a regular OF position in 2014. I certianly don't know of one who could play like Swisher, let alone play like Granderson.

    • That's the question, right? I mean there have to be some alternatives, but few that would be really palatable for tons less than Swish anyways.

  5. I find it interesting that so far in this off-season and spring training there has been a lot of focus on what is going to happen after this year for the Yankees. (Payroll, who gets re-signed, etc.)

    What happened to just looking forward to seeing how this season plays out?

  6. Does anyone see the yankees offering him arbitration at the end of the year? He'll probably get ~10 million for 2013 if he accepts and doesn't impact 2014 budget. If he walks, hopefully the Yanks will get a pick or 2. Im not sure if this was already understood, but the yanks seems to offer arbitration less than usual…

    • Teams have to make a qualifying offer to get draft pick compensation now, an offer that comes out to a one year deal worth roughly $12.5 million. Suffice it to say, there’s a 150% chance the Yankees will be making such an offer to Swisher for next season, barring some sort of major injury this year.