In turning the WAR page to right field, the first thought that pops into my mind is proven-Yankee-destroyer Jose Bautista, who not only leads all right fielders in WAR, but has been a top-10 player in the entire American League, according to bWAR (5.4). Undoubtedly, the Blue Jays would be hard-pressed to find that kind of prolific offensive contribution anywhere else given that his 70 oRAR and 6.9 oWAR are both the highest in the league. With that being said, a number of other right fielders have also had very solid seasons including our very own, Nick Swisher.
Clearly this has been a special year for Bautista, whose offensive numbers have skyrocketed past his competition. However, if we were to remove his incredible oWAR from the data set, it dramatically alters the conversation. Instead we find ourselves discussing other traditionally outstanding players like Jayson Werth and up-and-coming stars like Jason Heyward, who both posted great offensive stats (which have earned them 4.9 and 3.6 WARs, respectively). Shin-Soo Choo has also been more-than-proficient with the bat. His 54 oRAR and 5.6 oWAR both represent the second-best values in each statistic. Choo’s 5.6 oWAR might be good enough to be first in the league in any other season. In terms of total WAR, he actually leads all of the players listed above with a 7.1 which, in itself, is pretty incredible. So where does Nick Swisher fit into this arrangement?
Well, his offensive production (including a triple slash of .289/.360/.508) over the course of the season has translated into a more-than-acceptable 3.3 oWAR (essentially, a touch below a handful of excellent right fielders). One can’t help but speculate that if he didn’t sustain the knee injury (along with its lingering side effects) his numbers would undoubtedly be even higher than they currently are and he potentially could be on equal footing with the others. Historically, Swisher has always been relatively productive behind the plate in terms of discipline (along with a bit of pop in the bat).
This year, because he was able to strengthen his batting average, he’s been a much more complete player. To his credit, he deserves every bit of that 4.0 WAR, which is the sixth-best of the group (his 3.3 oWAR represents the fifth-best of the aforementioned players). While Swisher may never achieve the recognition representative of a truly elite outfielder (or a 2010 Bautista), it doesn’t require much stretch of the imagination to foresee him as a continually plus bat.
Defensively, Swisher has been a bit shaky. His 0.7 dWAR is good enough to earn him seventh on the list. Defensive metrics aside, this is probably a fair assessment (yes, I’m actually referring to the “eye test”). His routes, at times, are puzzling and he does bobble the ball every once in a great while. In his defense though, he does typically catch the balls that are within reasonable enough proximity. Swisher has also been known for the occasional heads-up throwing play as well.
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