Ken Davidoff's baseball insider

Yankees, Mets, trade rumors, free agents, off-the-wall predictions and other MLB musings.

What's going on with Nick Swisher?

The Yankees won again yesterday - four more wins, and Islander505 wins his bet against NaOH! - and while things are far from perfect in their world, you can apply that to all 30 teams. The Yankees occupy first place in the American League East, up on the Red Sox by a half-game (one in the loss column) and leading the Rays by a game and a half (two in the loss column), and they're tied with the Cardinals for the major-league lead with 250 runs scored.

Let's focus for a moment, however, on a notable imperfection: Nick Swisher.

He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored yesterday, and he now sports a woeful .321 on-base percentage and .289 slugging percentage.  Watching him regularly, it just feels horrible, doesn't it? The lack of power speaks for itself, and when Swisher goes up there, you think he has no shot of getting a hit. At least, I do. 

Jason Catania, on FanGraphs.com, produced a nice Swisher write-up on Tuesday that details some of the ways in which Swisher has been unlucky. Basically, his BABiP is below average, despite a decent line-drive percentage, and his home run-per-flyball ratio is lower than it should be. Swisher's walk/strikeout percentage is also quite better, in the small sample of this season, than it has been in prior years.

We'd be fools to ignore these numbers. After all, the Yankees noticed that Swisher suffered from some bad luck during his 2008 season with the White Sox, a trade occurred and Swisher contributed significantly to the Yankees' 2009 World Series title and the 2010 postseason appearance.

But the White Sox were quite motviated to dump Swisher not only because of his poor surface numbers, but also because they didn't want to deal wtih him anymore. He struck them as a moper who couldn't handle the spotlight, who struggled to climb out of slumps and who simply wore people out.

The "struggling to climb out of slumps" thing is interesting. Swisher is a notably streaky player. Check out the month-by-month breakdowns for his 2008 and 2009 and the ensuing great variance from month to month. He was more consistent in 2010.

I wrote about this issue back in June 2009 - the story doesn't seem to exist on our website anymore - and here's what Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long said at the time: "“He’s an energetic guy. The team feeds off him. When he goes in a slump a little bit, guys feed off that, too. We’ve talked to him about being up-tempo, whether he’s going good or bad, because our team kind of feeds off Nick Swisher.”

Swisher, at the time, said he was trying to learn from the ultra-even-keeled Derek Jeter.

Those lessons seemed to work for a while. Now, however, Swisher - married, as the FanGraphs link notes, to Joanna Garcia - has switched agents from the Ohio-based Joe Bick (whose reputation in the industry is gold) to the Los Angeles-based Dan Lozano, in preparation for what seemed like a big payday for 2013. 

A season similar to 2010 would prompt the Yankees to exercise their $10.25 million option for 2012 on Swisher, unquestionably, and put him in position to be a free agent for his age-32 season. Jayson Werth, a corner outfielder like Swisher, just got $126 million over seven years from Washington, starting with his age-32 season.

If he keeps up his current numbers, though, the Yankees won't even bother with the option, and Swisher will enter the free-agent market with the world knowing that the Yankees - the team that can afford anyone - said, "Thanks, but no thanks" to a reasonable salary.

Is he feeling that pressure, now that he's off to such a slow start? He would never say, but it fits his profile. We'll see if he can snap out of it. And if he doesn't,...well, the Mets have a pretty good rightfielder who could very well be available in a trade.

--Remember, contest tomorrow.

Tags: Nick Swisher , Kevin Long , Joe Bick , Dan Lozano

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Newsday Baseball on Twitter

Follow Newsday's baseball writers on Twitter.

advertisement | advertise on newsday