Stephen Goldman has a new piece up on the YES Pinstriped Bible site. I disagree with his take, and he makes some common mistakes in his evaluation.
Hitting through Sunday: Nady is batting .244/.262/.488. Swisher is batting .265/.409/.324. He’s taken drawn nine walks in 14 games. Nady has drawn no walks in 14 games. Why even pretend to have a competition?
Huh? I hate quoting spring training stats for veterans, but Nady’s OPS this spring is .750 wheras Swisher’s is .733. Swisher didn’t win the job with an outstanding spring, and coming off both players production last year, that’s what he would have needed to do. Also, Nady was likely working on getting his swing down, and had no interest in drawing walks. That means nothing as to what will happen in the regular season. There WAS a competition, Nady was the lead horse going in and Swisher didn’t do enough to win the job.
If you’re Brett Gardner, currently batting over .400, you now have to be very nervous, as Melky Cabrera is hitting in the upper part of his range and may tempt the Yankees to see something that’s not there — Melky Cabrera is to the Yankees as toxic assets are to Tim Geithner. More to the point, why even pretend to have a career? Nady is a lifetime .280/.335/.458 hitter, subpar for a corner outfielder. Last season, he hit .268/.320/.474 for the Yankees, which is very close to what he had done in his career prior to his half-season of hot hitting with the Pirates (.272/.327/.441). This is what the Yankees are signing on for.
Nady has evolved from a platoon player who couldn’t hit righties when he came up, to an all around hitter who actually hit righties BETTER than lefties last season. And it wasn’t a career year, it was the steady progression of an improving player. Here’s his platoon splits:
2004 vs R .178 .213 .311 .524
vs L .344 .417 .563 .979
2005 vs R .223 .270 .431 .700
vs L .323 .400 .452 .852
2006 vs R .263 .312 .424 .736
vs L .336 .418 .551 .969
2007 vs R .274 .322 .479 .802
vs L .295 .356 .463 .819
2008 vs R .317 .357 .529 .886
vs L .262 .361 .444 .805
Note the steady annual progession in OPS vs Righties. Last year was no fluke, it was something he was building towards his entire career.
Also, he cites the weaker second half he had with the Yankees last year. The implication is he regressed to his career averages or had trouble in the AL. There’s one problem with that theory, he had an almost identical dropoff in the 2nd half of 07.
1st Half 07 .291 .344 .504 .848
2nd Half 07 .255 .303 .425 .728
1st Half 08 .321 .377 .525 .901
2nd Half 08 .284 .333 .492 .825
Roughly an 80 point dropoff in OPS both seasons. Its worth noting that he was more of a platoon player when he came up in 04, so this could be a result of wearing down over the course of the year as he evolved into a full time player, or a simple lack of conditioning. But it has nothing to do with switching leagues.
I haven’t even addressed the most obvious reason why Nady gets the job over Swisher, which is the absence of A-Rod. Nady’s righty bat is needed to provide some much needed balance to the batting order. While Swisher is a switch hitter who has hit lefties and righties equally well over the course of his career, last year’s line of .197/.359/.386 vs lefties is something the Yanks can’t risk repeating. Not after the difficulty they had against Lefthanders last season and with Nady entering prime in a contract year.
Compare that to Nick Swisher before his season of difficulty in Chicago. His career rates were .251/.361/.464. In all the important areas, he kicks Nady all over the yard, and he has shown this spring that his batting eye is still just fine. It really is amazing that a club’s decision-makers can have all of the information in front of them and still come to a judgment that has no relationship to the facts. If Girardi insists on making Nady the regular over Swisher, we’re talking a two-win swing in the standings for the Yankees.
Two wins? Their career lines are virtually identical and the difference between the two defensively is a few plays a year. That doesn’t add up to 2 wins by any metric. If anything, Nady would be worth two wins over Swisher if they both repeated last year’s offensive numbers.
He brushes off last season as an anomaly for both players, but I’m not so sure. I view this as two players whose careers may be heading in opposite directions. Also, if Nady is typically a 1st half player then take advantage of that until the All Star break. I still keep an open mind towards Swisher, and want him to get plenty of ABs and a chance to earn more playing time. If he does so, I’d be open to dealing Nady at the trade deadline if an offer is enticing enough. But Swisher has to prove last year was a fluke before I hand him the everyday job.
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