Nick Swisher has come to be defined as a classic Moneyball player. One of Billy Beane’s picks in the draft that the book chronicles, Swisher is a power hitting outfielder that sees a ton of pitches and draws an obscene number of walks. He is a decent defender but not particularly fleet of foot, and is not the most instinctive player out there. In recent weeks, he has made a number of mental mistakes, with three of them being magnified due to their coming against the Red Sox. This has led those that favor grit and “clutchness” over production to proclaim that Swisher is nothing but a platoon player, and let his 5th among all right fielders and 12th among all outfielders OPS be damned. However, as Derek Jeter just illustrated over the last few days, poor stretches like the one that Swisher just went through happen to even the most fundamentally sound of players over a season, and Swisher just happened to bunch his poor fundamental plays for the season in a two week span.
In Saturday’s game, Jeter came to the plate in a one run game with runners at first and second and nobody out. He failed in both of his bunt attempt and then promptly hit into a double play. I do not think he should have been bunting, but once he was, he needed to come through with the proper fundamental play, and he failed. Similarly, last night, Jeter came up with two outs in the 9th and runners on the corners, with the Yankees trailing by one. Matt Lindstrom was all over the place, walking Johnny Damon prior to Jeter’s AB and nearly uncorking a wild pitch. Rather than make the rattled closer throw a few pitches, Derek swung at the first pitch and grounded out to short. I think it was a total brain lock, and still cannot believe that he swung at that pitch, which was not particularly good anyhow.
What do we learn from this little exercise? These things happen. Rather than judge a player on a few isolated instances, we need to look at their entire body of work. Swisher’s body of work presents us with a player who has provided the ability to reach base and some power to a greater degree than all but 11 other outfielders in all of baseball. He deserves to keep his job when Xavier Nady comes back, and a few baserunning mistakes should not change that.
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