In 2010, Nick Swisher came into the year with a narrative in tow. After struggling in the 2009 playoffs, where he hit just .128/.255/.234/.489 with one home run, Swisher decided a new approach was needed. He started swinging at more pitches and going more for contact. Sure enough, the plan worked. He posted a career best batting average of .288 and still managed to have a solid Iso of .223. The overall product, a .377 wOBA, was not much different than the product in 2009 was (.375 wOBA) when Swisher did his usual thing at the plate (low average, high power, lots of walks). 2010 did feature, though, a single digits walk rate and a higher-than-normal O-Swing% for Swisher, proof that he did change his approach a bit. The change in approach led to a high BABIP of .335, just the second time (2007, .301) that Swisher had been above a .300 BABIP. In terms of peripherals, 2012 is looking a like 2010 for Nick, though the results haven’t come yet.
The more aggressive Swisher definitely seems to be back. Before last night, he had a 26.0 O-Swing%, compared to a 25.4 mark in 2010. There are some differences in the pitch profile, though. His swing rates and contact rates are both down by a lot from 2010. So, while he’s taking a similar approach that was once successful, it’s just not working out the same way.
Swisher’s walk rate this year (not including last night’s game) is 7.8%, in single digits like 2010. His strikeout rates are nearly identical at 21.4 this year and 21.9 last year. He’s also hitting for similar power with a .230 Iso in 2012 and the aforementioned .223 Iso in 2010. If we look at the batted ball profile, Swisher’s actually hitting more liners in 2012, with a 22.2% LD rate. In 2010, it was a solid 19.6. His ground ball rate is actually a bit higher this year, 37.0 to 35.5. Line drives and grounders usually become hits, but that’s not happening for Swisher. Going into last night’s game, his BABIP was at .276, the lowest he’s had since his disastrous 2008 (.249). To link this with the swing data, it would seem that Swisher’s running into a combination of bad luck (high line drive rate, low BABIP) and bad contact (high-ish GB%, low BABIP). If he’s going to stick with the more aggressive approach, perhaps Swisher’s going to need to shorten up his swing a bit to make more contact. If not, he’ll need to go back to being the selective player we’re all used to. He’s proven in his Yankee tenure that he can be successful and productive using both approaches and he’s got plenty of time to correct himself.
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