Thursday, October 15, 2009

Swisher v. Abreu

This morning, Matt did a great job debunking the myth of Bobby Abreu's resurgent season and magical contagious plate discipline out in Anaheim. I also want to chime in on Abreu's production this season, but in relation to his ostensible replacement - another cheap acquisition via trade for the Yankees - Nick Swisher.

Although Xavier Nady was slotted as the starting right fielder and Swisher was supposed to man first base at the time the Yankees declined to offer Abreu arbitration on his $16M 2008 contract, Nady was done for the season by April 14th and Swish ended up getting over 600 plate appearances for the Yanks. Abreu sounded a bit like a spurned lover when talking about the Yankees cutting him loose but the reality is that at the time $16M was far too much to offer a corner outfielder with limited range when the market are held players like Raul Ibanez, Adam Dunn, Milton Bradley and Pat Burrell - even before taking into account the state of the baseball economy.

The decision made itself. The Angels waited out Abreu's attempts at a large, multi-year deal and got great value on highly productive hitter. Meanwhile, the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira and Swish ended up taking Abreu's place in right field of the New Yankee Stadium. They made essentially the same amount of money in 2009, so who got the better player?

Both guys love to work the count and put up solid OBPs, but that's pretty much where their similarities end. Let's take a look at the numbers (bold print represents an advantage):

A cursory look at the basic stats would give the nod to Abreu. His batting average is far higher than Swisher's and he batted in 14 21 more runs while stealing 30 bases.

However, while Abreu complied 41 more hits than Swisher, he actually had 14 fewer go for extra bases. The OBP advantage goes to Abreu, but more importantly, the slugging crown is Swish's by a wide margin. The home run totals are skewed by the New Yankee Stadium (although Swish only hit 8 at home), but not so much that Abreu would have hit twice as many there.

Abreu batted either second or third in the Angels' line up while Swisher was typically hitting somewhere between 6th and 8th for the Yankees, which explains the difference in RBIs. The 30 stolen bases at a 78% success rate do represent a major advantage for Abreu, but adding those 22 net total bases to Abreu's total isn't enough counteract Swisher's advantage in slugging percentage while subtracting the 8 times on base brings with OBPs closer together.

Usually, you would expect the guy who is a better base stealer to have the advantage in fielding as well, but that's not the case in this scenario. Swish didn't even attempt to steal a base all year long but still was better, or should I say "not as bad" as Abreu in right field.

Mainly on the strength of defense and power, Swisher had a higher value for the Yankees this year. Since Abreu hit all the plate appearance-based incentives in his contract this year, it means that Swish was the cheaper option by about $700,000 as well.

Both teams made out very well, but for different reasons. Swisher was cost controlled because of the deal he signed buying out his arbitration years and Abreu's contract was one of the most team-friendly in a historic buyer's market. The Yanks got an average fielding slugger while the Angels got a singles-raking base stealer. And with the teams meeting in the ALCS, I don't think there are too many regrets with how this scenario played out.


  1. Swisher: underrated, solid ballplayer

  2. Great post, guys. Swisher is a very good ballplayer. Cashman deserves a lot of credit for that trade.

  3. abreu had 103 RsBI this year

  4. Totally agree- Swisher is a better upgrade over Abreu. How many times did Abreu hesitate before the wall on long flies? Several times he bobbled it because of this. Swisher doesn't slow down ever. Also can do a good 1st base, and can pitch to boot.

  5. Swisher isn't a baseball player... he's an athletic guy who can handle a fastball

  6. Thanks Chris.

    Ali - Abreu got a terrible rap for being scared of the wall but I don't think that really factored in to that many balls. Swish also makes some unforced errors out there.

    I'm not sure I see the distinction, Anon. I'd guess about 75-80% of position players fit that mold.

  7. Considering age differences, I'm certainly happy with Swisher over Abreu. I'd have loved abreu's numbers this year, don't get me wrong, but Swisher slightly more than made up for them, and is a much better bet to continue this rate of production for another few years than Abreu. Great move by Cashman

  8. While I wholeheartedly agree that Swisher was a great addition to this Yankee Club and would rather have Swisher and his Salary over Bobby Abreu and his salary, I think that part of the equation is where they hit in the batting order.

    Now Abreu has a ton more RBIs that Swisher and we could just right that off to luck, but Abreu bats at a very important position in a very potent Angels lineup. Now its not the Yankees lineup with its peak with Alex and Teixeira, but the Angels lineup is a circular lineup with no batter below a 100 OPS+.

    I would argue that its similar to Robinson Cano. Just looking at his basic stats, BA, OBP, SLG, you would think he would to be at a key spot in the lineup. But something happens to Cano with runners on base and he is not effective for whatever reason. Abreu remains an effective center piece of the Angels offense.

  9. Check out the difference in IsoD too. Swisher is over .120 and Abreu is sub-.100.

  10. I guess you guys forget that in baseball there are two stats that are key to measure how good a baseball player is. These are Batting w/RISP and Batting Average w/RISP and 2 outs. Well, here are Abreu and Swisher's numbers:

    Abreu BA w/RISP .354 with 84 RBIs - BA w/RISP 2O .311 with 29 RBIs
    Swisher BA w/RISP .227 with 48 RBIs - BA w/RISP 2O .163 with 14 RBIs

    So, who's better? and who will you want in your team?

  11. Who showed John Kruk our blog?

  12. The main reason that Yankees could not keep Abreu last year was the high salary. I don't think Abreu would accept $6.0M offer from Yankees. Abreu rejected the new 16M 2-year offer from Angels recently. Anyway, Swisher is a good replacement for Yankees.

  13. Bobby Abreu is soooo much better. Look at career and current stats. How could you compare them. And Abreu jumped into the wall TWICE in the ALCS, both times were the only times the ball got to the wall. Look at the post with RISP. NOT COMPARABLE!!!