LGT Community Projections: Nick Swisher

Nick Swisher - Christian Petersen

Next is Nick Swisher, the first big free agent signing of the winter. He initially was going to be the starting right fielder, but after the Michael Bourn signing, he's moving to first base. You've seen Swisher the person in action, but how about Swisher the player?

Before getting going on Swisher, a quick reminder:

  • If you haven't done so, please feel free to post your projection for the first three players in this series; I won't compile the results until after we've gone through all the starting positions. So you have until the end of next week (the 22nd) to post your entry.
  • There's a couple easy ways to get to those projections: first you can click on the link in the sidebar above, or you can click on the red Community Projections button at the top of this post.

Background

Nick Swisher's professional career started with a bang; he was the first player picked by Oakland in the 2002 draft, later made famous in Michael Lewis' Moneyball. Swisher attended the Ohio State University, and already at age 31 is one of the best MLB players to come from the school.*

*Frank Howard is by far the best alumnus from Ohio State, but Swisher is in a small group behind him (Larry Hisle, Dave Burba, Jake Miller).

Early in his fourth season with Oakland, Swisher signed a five-year extension that would have kept him in Oakland through the 2012 season. However, after the 2007 campaign he was traded to the Chicago White for a package of players that included Gio Gonzalez. The 2008 season with Chicago was the only one in which he didn't manage to post an OPS+ of 100 or greater, and was traded to the Yankees after the season in what would turn out to be one of the most lopsided deals of the past decade. Chicago received Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez, and Nunez; Betemit would hit .200/.280/.311 for the White Sox before leaving via free agency, and Marquez and Nunez just made very brief appearances with the White Sox.

Meanwhile Swisher regained in New York the hitting stroke he showed in Oakland, becoming a key piece of New York's lineup. During his four seasons in New York, his OPS+s were 122, 129, 120, and 126, and usually was good for between 2.2-3.5 Wins Above Replacement. It should be noted that during his four years with the Yankees, Swisher was still on the contract he signed while with Oakland, an important distinction when comparing him with other certain Yankees who joined willingly.

Swisher became a free agent for the first time this winter. He visited several teams, but Cleveland put on a full-court press, enlisting the help of Urban Meyer, Jim Tressel, and Thad Matta to help sell Swisher on coming to the Indians. Swisher would leave Cleveland without signing a contract, normally a bad sign, but a couple days later he would choose Cleveland, signing the biggest free agent contract in franchise history.

Nick has quickly made his presence felt in the clubhouse, masterminding the recent Indians version of the Harlem Shake, but what about Nick the player?

First, Nick's defense should improve with his move from right field to first base. A first baseman in college, Nick was moved to the outfield in the pros, and while he's been adequate in right field, becoming a full-time first baseman should represent another team defensive improvement, given that the initial configuration was going to be Swisher in right and Mark Reynolds at first. Since the Michael Bourn signing, that has turned into Drew Stubbs in right, Swisher at first, and Reynolds at DH.

Swisher is a switch hitter, and it makes little difference whether he hits left-handed or right-handed, as you can see below. In other words, opposing managers aren't going to play matchup against Swisher late in a game unless Swisher has struggled against a particular pitcher.

I Split PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
vs RHP as LHB 3461 749 184 7 162 408 829 .250 .342 .478 .820
vs LHP as RHB 1546 335 67 2 47 259 240 .270 .402 .441 .842
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/15/2013.

Swisher is also a very patient hitter, consistently seeing over 4 pitches per plate appearance (league average is 3.79). He's averaged 83 walks per season since 2005, his first full season in the majors. Now along with those walks are going to come strikeouts, a side effect of working deep into counts; he's averaged 132 strikeouts a season, but given everything he does at the plate, you can certainly deal with that.

This may be the kiss of death, but I'll say it anyways; Swisher has been a remarkably durable player, appearing in over 148 games in each of his last 7 seasons. A lot of baseball is showing up, and Swisher has done just that, so far avoiding the Disabled List in his career.

Swisher was not affected much by the short porch in Yankee Stadium; he usually hit just as many home runs on the road as he did at home. Of the 24 home runs he hit last year, it looks like only one wouldn't have gone out had it been hit in Progressive Field.

Overlay_1363336787_125127365_medium

via www.hittrackeronline.com

Swisher is a below-average base runner, and will be one of the few batters in the projected starting lineup than may be pinch-run for late in a game. He has 12 career stolen bases, so you won't have to agonize over those much when pondering your projections.

Historical Stats

Year Age Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2004 23 OAK 20 71 11 15 4 0 2 8 8 11 .250 .352 .417 .769 101
2005 24 OAK 131 522 66 109 32 1 21 74 55 110 .236 .322 .446 .768 102
2006 25 OAK 157 672 106 141 24 2 35 95 97 152 .254 .372 .493 .864 125
2007 26 OAK 150 659 84 141 36 1 22 78 100 131 .262 .381 .455 .836 126
2008 27 CHW 153 588 86 109 21 1 24 69 82 135 .219 .332 .410 .743 93
2009 28 NYY 150 607 84 124 35 1 29 82 97 126 .249 .371 .498 .869 122
2010 29 NYY 150 635 91 163 33 3 29 89 58 139 .288 .359 .511 .870 129
2011 30 NYY 150 635 81 137 30 0 23 85 95 125 .260 .374 .449 .822 120
2012 31 NYY 148 624 75 146 36 0 24 93 77 141 .272 .364 .473 .837 126
9 Yrs 1209 5013 684 1085 251 9 209 673 669 1070 .256 .361 .467 .828 118
NYY (4 yrs) 598 2501 331 570 134 4 105 349 327 531 .268 .367 .483 .850 124
OAK (4 yrs) 458 1924 267 406 96 4 80 255 260 404 .251 .361 .464 .825 118
CHW (1 yr) 153 588 86 109 21 1 24 69 82 135 .219 .332 .410 .743 93
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/15/2013.

Projections

Here's what ZiPS has to say about Swisher:

ZiPS Projection
PA 592
2B 30
HR 19
SB 1
SB % 33%
BA/OBP/SLG .251/.344/.425

Pretty pessimistic; it this happens, it would be Swisher's worst offensive season since 2008. It would translate (assuming league conditions are similar to 2012) to a 103-105 OPS+.

Here's Cairo:

Cairo Projection
PA 630
2B 33
HR 21
SB 2
SB % 50%
BA/OBP/SLG .261/.353/.440

This is a bit below his career averages, but not by a whole lot.

Here's my attempt:

Ryan's Projection
PA 605
2B 35
HR 20
SB 1
SB % 50%
BA/OBP/SLG .274/.364/.453

I'm chopping off a bit of power because of the move to Progressive Cleveland, but keeping his other numbers close to his career averages, and given how metronomic his career has been, that isn't going out on a limb.

What do you think?

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