Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nick Swisher Futility Update


In some ways it's a little unfair to single one person out after and impotent offensive output like last night, but this has been a long time coming for Nick Swisher.

It's not that Swish is having bad luck at the plate, hitting balls hard but having them find defenders. He's having poor at bats, not working walks and missing hittable pitches. In his three at bats last night, he popped out softly to first, flew out softly to right and struck out looking on a change up right down the middle in the 8th inning.

In the first two at bats, Lee threw a lot of tough pitches, staying away from Swisher or keeping it below his knees. But in the third one, six out of the seven pitches he threw were directly in the middle of the strikezone (follow the link for higher resolution):

Swish was even given a generous ball on the second pitch of the at bat - the green square which was clearly high enough and right down the pike. So what did Swisher do with the five (really 6) pitches that were in his - or Major League hitter's - wheelhouse? He took three for strikes (and one for a ball) and fouled the other two off.

You don't take three four strikes in those respective locations in one at bat unless you are completely lost at the plate and are simply resorting to guessing. You don't foul the other two off unless your rhythm and timing are out of whack.

It was as if Lee & Ruiz had figured out that Swisher wasn't going to hit the ball no matter where it was and decided to just lay it right down the middle.

Yes, it's one at bat, but it's emblematic of how awful Swisher has been since Game 2 of the ALDS. He got a great pitch to hit in the last at bat of Game 5 out in Anaheim from Brain Fuentes and couldn't do anything with that either. He's hitting .114/.205/.143 this postseason and still starting every game. He's walked three times and struck out 12. He has four hits in 40 plate appearances, only one of which has gone for extra bases.

Swisher is prone to extended slumps and he picked a pretty terrible time to have one of his worst of the year. The sporadic schedule has probably negatively affected as a switch hitter since he has two swings that he needs to keep working and both have seemingly fallen into a state of disrepair.

I'm well aware that this is going to sound stupid and I'm certain Joe Girardi won't do it, but what has to happen for Brett Gardner to start in center field and Melky Cabrera in right? How bad does Swisher have to be before you give him the night off? Because I don't think he could get much worse. At least the alternative would provide a significant defensive upgrade in the outfield, something that's not nearly as hit or miss from game to game.

With Pedro starting in Game 2, Swisher is going to have to spin around and hit from the left side of the plate. He hasn't batted lefty since Game 5 in Anaheim which was a full week ago, but again, pretty much anything would be an improvement over how he looked last night. In his career, he tends to get one base a little better against lefties and hit for power more successfully against RHP. Either of those things would be fantastic.

I would love for Swisher to go out tonight and jack a homer or drive in a couple of runs and shut me and his other critics up. But there are absolutely no signs that he will. You can say he's due, but that's not what his at bats are saying.

Please Nick, do something, anything before the postseason is over. Bad Octobers make for long offseasons. And it's going to be a couple days longer if you don't get it going soon.

4 comments:

  1. Joe in Jersey10/29/09, 12:32 PM

    Jay,

    Love your blog man. You guys do a great job. I couldn't disagree with you more on this however. Teix has been awful as well, we aren't suggesting sitting him. Man did he look awful in his at bats yesterday too. You play your best players, Swish is at a totally different level from Gardner, and he has been playing well in the outfield so I don't see the defense as that much of an upgrade. Swish will or won't hit better this PS, but you don't sit a starter for a reserve that's a panic move. In any given 7 games you will have some players get hot (Jeter) some be about avg (Matsui) and some may be ice cold (Swish, Teix). In these 7 games it is who's pitching that matters, and how they're pitching. You should have done some analysis on who Joe should turn to in the BP between the starters and Mo. That is going to be way more important. Looks to me like Joe likes Marte as the top lefty right now, and I'm not sure who I want to see between Robertson, Hughes, and Joba.

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  2. I would love it if more commenters identified themselves by first name and location a la WFAN callers.

    Joe, you're right in that it would be perceived as a panic move which is why it won't happen, but it's one that could easily work. If Brett Gardner makes a start gets on base twice during a game, he'll have done something Swish has done twice in ten games this postseason. And that's before you take into account his defense. You might not see that as significant but it is. You're adding range to your CF and LF with one move. With a righty on the mound and the lefty-heavy Phillies line up, there are going to be a lot of balls hit between those two guys.

    The reason I didn't focus on the bullpen was because nothing that happened last night made me think differently about the pecking order out there. Hughes first, Robertson in a tight spot, Aceves if you need an inning or two, Marte first for lefties, etc. If Hughes and/or Robertson get some balls in the zone called correctly, we're looking at a totally different game.

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  3. And thanks for the kind words at the beginning of the comment, Joe. Didn't mean to gloss over those.

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  4. I'm a Swisher fan, but yeah I have been thinking of Gardner playing the field for him. Swish is in a bad slump and this is not the time of year to let things ride. You dig a hole and it can get deep in a hurry. Seems like Gardner ends up in the field in the later innings anyways, so it shouldn't be such a significant thought to let him start. You play the guys who are hot, and Brett might just be an animal waiting to be unleashed. He's better than just a PR in my humble opinion. And with Swisher barely above .100, this isn't much of a gamble.
    I hate to bring it up, but look how Mike Scioscia handled Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli. Napoli starts. Mathis is an after-thought, yet he got hot, and they stuck with him. THAT was a bigger gamble than Gardner/Swisher, but I give credit to Scioscia for not over managing it and just letting his hot guy ride out his streak. Sure, they lost, but I doubt anyone puts any blame on Mathis or that decision to start as they did. Am I wrong on this analogy?

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