Ever since Joe Girardi swapped Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson in the lineup, Swish has taken off. Is it hitting in the two-hole? Has it finally clicked in for him that he’s up for a new contract this winter? Pure luck?
Since August 8th, Nick is batting .327, getting on base at a .411 clip and has four homers over 56 plate appearances in 12 games. All of this is good for a remarkable .443 wOBA.
It’s no coincidence that Swisher has increased his productivity since this move to the second slot in the lineup. Without even looking at stats, it seems sensible for Swisher given his reputation for being a high on-base guy to set the table for the bigger hitters. On other teams, he’d probably profile more as a middle of the order hitter given the power plus on-base ability he offers. Nonetheless, his skillset has been ideal for the Bombers in the two-hole.
2010 was Swisher’s best offensive year as a Yankee up until this season. He had a .377 wOBA and 132 wRC+ while belting 29 home runs and hitting .288 with a .359 OBP. During that season, roughly 60% of his plate appearances were while hitting second.
Now, take a look at how he’s fared since moving back to second in the lineup the last twelve games, and overall batting second on the season vs. other splits:
It’s clear to see what he’s done hitting second since August 8th has brought up his overall numbers in the two-hole. Given the .343 BABIP over the past twelve games, he’s likely to see a decline in batting average. Regardless, there’s been no comparison between the two spots now that Swisher has been given consistent at bats in the second spot.
The power increase has been impressive. I doubt he’ll continue to hit a home run every 14 PAs, but his true power skill has come out more hitting second. My best guess at the power increase is due to opposing pitcher’s pitch selection. Through August 7th, Swish was seeing 58% fastballs (PITCHf/x FF, FT, FC, SI). Since then, he’s seeing 5% more fastballs, up to 63%. Now, this might not seem like much, but given an extended period of time, it makes a big difference. In terms of pitch values, the fastball is far and away Swish’s favorite pitch to hit at 12.1. The only other offering that has a positive value for Nick is the changeup, at 4.6. Why is he seeing more fastballs? The protection that Robinson Cano offers. Pitcher’s don’t want to give Swish a free base via the walk to give Cano RBI opportunities, so they’re more likely to attack the strike zone.
Also of note, since the lineup change, Swisher has cut down on strikeouts vastly, from 24% up until August 7th, down to 16% since. Walks are down about two percent, but as I said, pitchers are more willing to give him pitches to hit with Cano behind him.
The lineup swap has paid great dividends for the offense, as the team has scored 69 runs in the last 12 games (5.75 runs per game). Much of it has been thanks to Swisher, and following Granderson’s nice 5/9 weekend with a couple of homers, he may be breaking out of his funk.
This is not just any typical hot streak that a player goes into from time to time during a season. Swisher had been in a pretty rough patch in July, batting .222 with just two long balls. He hit a little bit better to open August (6/22 without a home run), but everything changed once he got the opportunity to return to the two-hole full time. With A-Rod out, Teixeira banged up, Cano and Granderson slumping, Swisher has stepped up in a big way, much in thanks to a new lineup spot.
Photo by Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons