Does Nick Swisher Smell Bad Or Something?
You may remember that in both mine and Dave Cameron’s off-season plans, our main “big-splash” acquisition was 1B/OF Nick Swisher. Strangely, though, it seems that many Mariners fans are very sour on the idea of bringing Nick Swisher on board. Brock and Salk have said multiple times since free agency began that they wouldn’t pay Swisher close to $100 million. Commenters on Reddit also seem very opposed to the idea. For one of the most consistent above-average players in the game, this is just baffling. With all the enthusiasm about Josh Hamilton, a player who is far more risky, it doesn’t make sense that nobody likes Nick Swisher.
Since Swisher joined the Yankees in 2009, he’s been worth 15.0 WAR. Hamilton, over the same time span has been worth 18.3 WAR. There seems to be a myth that Hamilton is this amazing superstar, while Nick Swisher is just a slightly above-average player, and that’s just not true. Swisher also offers consistency: his WAR has been between 3.2 and 4.1 the last four seasons. Hamilton offers more upside–his best season was 8.4 WAR–but he’s also more prone to inconsistency; his worst season in this time span was 1.4 WAR.
It’s not like Swisher is just a Yankee stadium hitter, either. As Jeff Sullivan pointed out at Lookout Landing, since joining the Yankees, Swisher’s numbers haven’t been inflated by Yankee stadium; he’s hit .269/.372/.460 at home, and .267/.362/.504 the road. Interesting to see that Swisher has actually hit for a bit more power on the road than at home. You can pretty much expect Swisher to put up a wRC+ of 120 or better, no matter what home park he’s playing in. The idea that Yankee Stadium made Nick Swisher’s numbers is just not true, and if you believe that then you need to do some research before shouting opinions based on nothing more than speculation so loudly.
Another point in Swisher’s favor is his durability. Swisher has played in at least 150 games from 2006-2011 (he missed the cut by two games in 2012). You know that Swisher is pretty much going to be able to be in the lineup every day for an entire season, which is not without value. While Hamilton can provide a similar WAR total in fewer games, you then need to have another player who’s not a total disaster to fill in for those games Hamilton will miss. Durability is a skill, an important one, and it’s a skill Swisher has.
Also, Swisher has positional flexibility. As I mentioned yesterday, Hamilton is basically only a left fielder unless you want to give away bunches of runs in center field. Swisher, on the other hand, has been worth +4.5 UZR/150 in right field, +10.6 UZR/150 in left field, and -0.2 UZR/150 at first base. Swisher offers you average or better defense at three positions on the field, which would allow the Mariners the flexibility to acquire a first baseman or an outfielder. Hamilton can only play one position, so it limits the team’s options on other players they can acquire.
It’s not that I’m down on Hamilton. If you told me they’d both sign for a 5-year deal worth $100 million, I’d obviously choose Hamilton. That’s not the point of this article. The point is that Nick Swisher has been almost as good as Hamilton for the last four seasons, is the same age, and offers some attractive skills that Hamilton doesn’t have. Just because Swisher isn’t as flashy doesn’t mean he’s not as valuable. He’s an above-average hitter with power, who is durable, and offers positional flexibility. Why is everyone so down on him? Maybe he doesn’t wear deodorant. He seems like the kind of guy who wouldn’t wear deodorant. Come on Nick, put some deodorant on!