|Swisher (right) leading an aerial celebration after a Yankee win. (Icon/SMI)|
Nick Swisher is a naturally affable fellow. That doesn’t mean he avoids sadness and frustration when he struggles; trust me, he felt plenty of that in 2008 while in Chicago. Earlier this season when Swisher hit a home run against the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen said, “Good for him. Enjoy it. I wish he could do it for me, he was a very horse(bleep) player for me.” Now re-read that quote in Guillen’s accent for added comedic effect.
That does mean, however, that Swisher truly enjoys it when the going’s good. And right now, the going is certainly good for Nick Swisher.
Starting off of the field: Earlier in the season Swisher became engaged to Joanna Garcia. A quick Google image search should confirm why he should be happy and you jealous about this news. More importantly, on the field he is on pace to have his most productive season to date, passing the 3.7 WAR he accumulated back in 2006, a season in which he blasted 35 home runs despite batting just .254.
In a Joe Morgan-pleasing move, Swisher has transformed his approach at the plate resulting in fewer walks and more hits. Last week at FanGraphs David Golebiewski did a fine job documenting the changes in Swisher’s approach, which can be summed up as: more aggressive.
The reason Swisher is benefiting so much from his new-found aggressiveness is because this season he is doing significantly more damage with the balls he puts in play. An increase in line drives partially explains this and the other part, as Mr. Golebiewski notes in his third chart, is due to more of his grounders and liners falling for hits.
With no other information, we couldn’t be sure whether Swisher is hitting the baseball more sharply—and therefore should be expected to have more of his balls in play become hits—or whether he is simply getting lucky. Whenever HITf/x data becomes available, it should be able to separate the luck from skill but for now you will have to rely on my eyewitness account.
As someone who watches his fair share of Yankees games, it does seem like Swisher is truly making solid contact more often than before. So even though some regression should be expected next season following his breakout campaign, expectations should not be lowered much since it is more of an increase in skill, not luck, that has cause Swisher’s impressive 2010 performance.
If you were smart enough to jump on this jolly bandwagon cheaply before this year began, Swisher should make for a good keeper and keep the laughs coming next year too.