The Quietly Consistent Nick Swisher

For a relatively uncelebrated player, Nick Swisher has been reliably good for a very long time. Since 2006, he’s played 145 or more games per season, hit over 20 home runs, and walked enough to make the Greek God of Walks feel like a second rate deity.  He slipped a bit in 2013, checking in at $7 of value, but there are a few reasons to expect a bounce back campaign in 2014.

Swisher dealt with a shoulder injury that he suffered early in the season and re-aggravated in June. That, combined with age, probably explains his career low .177 isolated power. There is a dearth of information on the internet about the shoulder injury, so it’s unclear if it’s fully healed or something that could continue to dog him in future seasons. Swisher recently turned 33-years-old, so he is entering the portion of his career where his durability could become compromised.

Aside from the shoulder issue, Swisher makes a very boring study. The available data fail to suggest any noteworthy changes in his profile. His fly ball distance remained a robust 295 feet in 2013 (294 in 2012), which ranked him between Evan Longoria and Anthony Rizzo for the 40th best distance. His fly ball, ground ball, and line drive rates have been practically unchanged for the past three seasons. He is whiffing slightly more frequently these last two seasons, but his strikeout rate was only slightly higher than his career averages. Other avenues of analysis like PITCHf/x failed to reveal any new information.

Steamer projects a useful .255/.353/.446 line with 24 home runs, 82 runs, and 87 RBI. The runs scored and RBI totals depend on how the Indians use Swisher. With his healthy on base and slugging percentages, he could score more frequently at the top of the lineup or drive in more runs if batting in the middle of the order. He was frequently used as the second hitter in 2013, so expect his output to skew more towards runs scored.

There is a saying in fantasy baseball – “boring players win championships.” The unspoken understanding is that reliable veterans are a market inefficiency. Most owners spend so much time getting excited about high risk, high reward players like Eric Young Jr. that they ignore safe plays like Swisher. This could result in Swisher being undervalued, especially in auction leagues.

Owners may also see Swisher’s modest decline in 2013 and expect additional decline in 2014. While they could be correct, knowing he played most of the season with an injury has me buying Steamer’s projection for a mild bounce back.

Swisher won’t be anybody’s top target in the outfield, but he should be watched closely. His use case reminds me of Jayson Werth and Hunter Pence last season. In my home league, I was able to roster both players for $15 combined and according to Zach Sanders, they were worth $54. Swisher probably doesn’t have that much upside because he doesn’t steal bases, but he could provide up to $20 of value on a $7 bid. Don’t sleep on him.

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Skating Tripods
Skating Tripods

The shoulder injury most bothered Swisher when he was batting from the left side. Since he obviously had more plate appearances against RHP, that helps to explain the ISO drop. Still had nice power production against LHP. Treatment seemed to help throughout the season since his power perked in September, so I think he’ll be fine going forward. He won’t play much, if any, right field next season, so that should limit some of his injury potential.


Yeah, he did perk up in September.