Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 14, 2008
BASEBALL: Swish

Excellent move by the Yankees to buy low and pick up Nick Swisher (don't be fooled by David Pinto's headline) coming off a terrible year in which he hit .219. Swisher's only 28, he can play 1B and RF and even play center in a pinch; he was an excellent player in 2006 and 2007, and he had productive stretches in 2008 (in 71 games from June 3 through August 26, he batted .262/.374/.545, averaging 41 HR, 91 walks, 116 Runs and 116 RBI per 162 games). It was really just his batting average that fell off, as his Isolated Power was essentially unchanged from 2007. Swisher will always struggle with his average, but basically he's a good player hitting .255, but not when hitting .220.

Pinto notes that Swisher particularly struggled on the road, so a change of park alone won't help him. It's certainly possible that he's just washed up young, as sometimes happens to young players with his skill set (the Yankees had a similar failed experiment with Morgan Ensberg, who's a couple years older, this season), but the odds favor a return to productivity, similar to Johnny Damon after his off-year at age 27. Swisher was probably miscast as a leadoff man, batting .210/.354/.324 in the role (by contrast, he actually hit better when playing center field than 1B, so you can't blame the strain of a tougher defensive position). My guess is that he's the kind of player who will particularly benefit from a lower-profile role down in the lineup, even on the bigger stage New York provides.

The Yankees got him fairly cheap (cheap enough that I'm left wondering why Omar Minaya didn't go after him, given the Mets' holes in the OF corners). Part of the reason, as usual, was money: Swisher "has three years left on a five-year, $26.75 million contract." Wilson Betemit has his uses but is pretty much your classic expendable utility infielder at this point, and has been used mostly as a first baseman of late. Jeff Marquez, a 24-year-old starter who posted a 3.65 ERA with just 5.45 K/9 in 2007 at AA and a 4.47 ERA with 4.47 K/9 mostly at AAA this season, would appear to be a marginal prospect at best. 23-year-old Jhonny Nunez has a career minor league ERA of 3.64 and has pitched just 27 innings above A ball, and so can't really be projected much; I don't know anything about him but his numbers, but my guess is that a guy his age with good K rates and spotty control will probably get converted to the bullpen. As Pinto discusses, Kanekoa Texeira, the reliever the Yankees got in return, seems a much better prospect than either of them; he "does exactly what a team wants; lots of strikeouts, few walks and a minuscule number of home runs."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Swisher is the classic underrated, Bill James type of player. High secondary average, low batting average, durable with underrated defense, hits both ways. Yankees got a steal.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at November 14, 2008 11:39 AM

I think it's a smart move on several levels. It gives them a solid defensive first baseman, but also one with the versatility to go to the OF if it turns out that Posada can no longer catch. And it dials down the star system a bit, bringing in a guy who's more of a gritty role player. I don't really think the Yankees want to become even more of a walk/strikeout/three run homer team than they already are, but Swisher will be taking Giambi's place, so that's not really a big change.

Posted by: Jerry at November 14, 2008 11:52 AM

Now, I'm a sucker for sinker/slider guys, because they have a chance to be groundball/strikeout pitchers and those are the best kind, so that may skew my thinking here--but the most interesting thing about this deal to me is that there's a non-zero chance (even if not a great one) that Pinto's joke headline ultimately proves out, and that Kanekoa Texeira ends up being the biggest name out of this deal. As you note, there's a significantly greater chance that he ends up the second-most valuable player in this deal, behind Swisher. How the heck do you throw a guy like that into a salary dump?

Posted by: The Ancient Mariner at November 14, 2008 1:42 PM

Nice analysis. I like the trade. Save the big money for pitching.

Posted by: MVH at November 14, 2008 6:12 PM

Last time the Yanks picked up a third baseman with Swisher's skill set coming off a bad year they got 99 RBI from the 9 hole.

Great pickup by Cashman. Why can't Omar do this sort of thing?

Posted by: Mike at November 15, 2008 7:39 PM

Omar could have made the deal but then he discovered that Swisher doesn't fit with the long term plan for the Mets. Long term plan? Acquire only players who:

1) Speak spanish
2) Are former Expos
3) Are over 33

All three in one is best.

Posted by: Steve Johnson at November 16, 2008 12:00 AM

Your assuming Swisher doesn't speak spanish? being a SOCAL guy and baseball player in general (who works with a ton of spanish only collegues) I'd think most baseball player speak spanish (unless they're asian or something)

Ahem anyway. back to the point I think ideally they probably should still get Teixiera and push Swisher to left with Damon in CF, it's a risk on Damon's part but it's a contract year anyway. the Yank's long term OF outlook is very blurry right now, with Cabrera bombing and Jackson may or may not be ready anytime soon (and may or may not be good to begin with) and Nady's not someone you hinge long term plans upon, I'd think that they would probably want to keep him in the OF.

on the other hand, the OF FA class of 09 is looking quiet good, Holliday / Bay / Crawford ? Winn/ Giles / Damon? long term and short term solution all come in bushels

If defensive numbers are to be believed, Swisher also did better as a corner OF than 1B in 08. (but was horrible in CF, which we really don't need numb3rs to tell us)

Posted by: RollingWave at November 17, 2008 4:49 AM
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