You already know that we have a surplus outfielder, assuming that one of Gardner or Melky plays center field instead of Nick Swisher. As the Yankees head into spring training, writers are beginning to assume that Swisher is the choice pick to sit on a normal day. Disregarding defense for the moment (Swisher is better), let’s look at the numbers:
- Swisher career: .244/..354/.451, 112 OPS+
- Nady career: .280/.335/.458, 108 OPS+
Now, they appear to be pretty similar. Swisher probably is a bit better, but there isn’t a lot of difference here. Nady is coming off the best season of his career, while Swisher is coming off the worst. Last season:
- Swisher 2008: .219/.332/.410, 92 OPS+, .249 BABIP
- Nady 2008: .305/.357/.510, 128 OPS+, .334 BABIP
Nady again looks like the favorite, but it seems clear that Swisher was very unlucky in 2008. His raw patence and power scores remained very solid. If you take his poor luck and boost his batting average 25 points to his career average, you get .244/.357/.435 – which is below his career average, but not by much. Swisher entered 2008 coming off two 125 OPS+ or better season. Nady also got a tad bit lucky on his career year.
There’s one big reason, in my mind, to hand Nady the bulk of playing time. Nady just barely missed Type A status in last year’s Elias rankings. If he has another year like last, he’ll not only be a very valuable player, but he’ll also reward the Yankees with two draft picks following his departure. If the Yankees don’t consider that important, then the numbers say that they should let Nady and Swisher battle for the spot in spring training. When you factor in defense, they are very similar in value. By no means should Swisher be immediately banished to the bench.
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