Monday, April 24, 2006

Swisha Da Wigga

Nick Swisher is an interesting character. He talks a lot. He thinks he's black. And a good ol' country boy.


This off-season, I thought Swish would have a rough go of it this year. That hasn't proven to be the case. He's off to a really good start. Take a quick perusal of the internet and you'll find mixed reactions regarding Swish. Some believe he's "evolving". Others say he's already "made the leap". Then there's the skeptics who toss around words like "fluke" and "hot streak".

So let's take a look at the numbers.

Year Team(s) AB Avg OBP Slg% BB/K BB/PA K/PA

2002 Vancouver/Visalia 227 .242 .360 .410 .661 .143 .217
2003 Modesto/Midland 476 .256 .363 .447 .624 .136 .218
2004 Sacramento/Oakland 503 .266 .400 .523 .925 .178 .192
2005 Oakland 462 .236 .322 .446 .500 .105 .211
2006 Oakland 61 .328 .397 .787 .400 .088 .221
The most surprising thing about Swisher's start has got to be his average. It's never been spectacular. Hell, it's never been decent. But as high as he's bumped up his average is this season, his OBP hasn't made the same leap. As a matter of fact, he's walking at a lower rate than he ever has.

Is this because he's being more aggressive at the plate?


Last season Swish saw 4.13 pitches per plate appearance. That was 8th best in the league. This year he's at 3.79 #P/PA. That's about 40 spots lower. I'd say that was a pretty significant drop.

But the rise in average, OBP and Slg% is probably more significant. And important. So if Swisher's going to keep knocking the snot out of the ball, he stop walking. He can even keep doing that silly hippity hoppy handshake with Milton Bradley.

But here's the bad part: Swisher's still striking out. And striking out a lot. Take a look again at Swisher's K/PA rate throughtout is professional career. It's been pretty consistent. The guy will strikeout about once every five plate appearances. That's still the case this year. In fact, his K/PA rate is slightly higher than it's ever been. He's on pace to strike out 135 times this season. That's ridiculously high. I'd tend to think that it means he's going to get figured out. Guys that strikeout a lot and walk a lot tend to be successful, but guys with high strikeout rates and low walk rates don't. And Swish ain't walking.

Now if history tells us that Swisher will strikeout a lot and hit for a low average and he's STILL striking out a lot, why is his average so high this year?

Zach, from Elephants in Oakland, believes that a good part of Swisher's success this year has been because he's really been punishing pitchers on mistakes.
"I made a couple of bad pitches and they took advantage of them."

--Mike Mussina, on the homeruns he gave up to Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez
Swisher's first homer off of Carlos Silva was a good piece of hitting on a 91 mph fastball that was left over the plate. Swish took it the other way for an opposite field shot. Swisher clobbered an 0-0 92 mph inside fastball off of Silva later in that game.

Padilla left a fastball up and over the plate that Swisher pulled for his fourth homer of the year.

(If I could figure out how come I can't save screen caps from the MLB media player, I'd post some pics. Maybe some of you nerds could help me out.)
"I tried to guide it in there, and I guided it down the middle of the plate."

--Justin Verlander, on the first HR he gave up to Swisher

"I was thinking, 'Here comes the change,' twice. The first time, he threw a fastball, and I swung anyway and fouled it off. The second time, I said, 'Here comes the change,' and you've just got to believe it was coming."

--Nick Swisher, on the second HR he hit off of Verlander
Swisher's grand slam came off of a Jeff Weaver breaking ball that really hung up there good.

Yesterday, Nick turned on a high, inside fastball from Escobar.

I'd stop with the fastballs middle in, if I was writing the book on how to figure out Swish. He's pummeling those pitches pretty good. Are those pitches "mistakes"? I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that they were "bad" pitches, but they ARE pitches he can certainly handle.

The interesting part will be to see how Swisher adjusts when guys start working him away, away, away. He hasn't shown with any amount of consistency that he can take those the other way. Hopefully, he can adjust better than Dan Johnson.

So IS Nick evolving as a hitter?

Maybe. He's changing some. Taking advantage of pitches he can handle early in the count, instead of working deep into counts. So far the results have been really good, but I don't think I'm at all ready to say that he's the "real deal".

I'm still very concerned that he's striking out. He's 0-4 with three strikeouts and just one walk on full counts this year. With a full count, a good hitter will either 1) battle until they get a good pitch to hit or 2) battle until they draw a walk. Swisher's striking out. That worries me.

I worry that he won't adjust. That the average and power will go away when he's continually getting worked away. And with the walks diminishing and the increasing strikeouts, that could be bad news.

I guess we'll see.


Anonymous smac said...

He hasn't missed many meatballs.

His swing is shorter, though. Noticed that?

And he hasn't had to hit from the right side very much, yet, where he remains just this side of hopeless.

Monday, April 24, 2006 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Roman said...

That's a good point about his swing being shorter.

Something that my analysis completely fails to cover is the mechanics of his swing and the effects Gerald Perry has had on them. I'd image that'd be pretty hard to measure statistically.

Monday, April 24, 2006 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Oakland Si said...

Sitting in section 217, I had a good view of the pitching and batting on Sunday. (I'm normally down the third base side.)

I was more impressed with Swish's single to left early on Sunday off Escobar, than with his homer. That pitch from Escobar was a good pitch, but Swish went with it and got the hit.

It'll be interesting to see whether he can continue to adjust to the pitchers.His swing does look shorter.

DJ, on the other hand, looks terrible in the batter's box. His front foot is so far behind him when he sets, that I got the impression it's slowing him down. Of course, there could be other problems with DJ.

Monday, April 24, 2006 9:40:00 PM  

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