The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is Nick Swisher Overly Susceptible to Good Pitching?

I was thinking a bit more about the Nick Swisher graphic that Jonathan posted a few days ago.  It appeared to show that in the postseason Swisher saw a lower frequency of pitches in the middle of the plate and I was wondering if that was at least part of the explanation for his disappointing postseason performance as a Yankee.

Basically, what I was thinking is that Swisher tends to more damage against bad pitching and that he would do worse than expected against good pitching, assuming good pitching is better at working the edges of the plate.

I didn’t do a real rigorous study although I suppose whatever I see here may entice me to look at this in a bit more detail.

So here’s what I did.

1) Looking strictly at 2011, figure out the average wOBA allowed by the pitchers that faced Swisher, weighed to the number of PA Swisher had against them. 
  a) Take the pitcher’s overall wOBA against times PA vs. Swisher.
  b) Sum those up and divide by total PAs

The collective wOBA against by the pitchers that faced Swisher was .319.  MLB average was .314.

2) Take Swisher’s 2011 wOBA and compare that to the .319 average.  Using Baseball Reference’s data and ignoring SB/CS I get a wOBA of .354 for Swisher.  I haven’t adjusted for park or anything else.  So Swisher had a wOBA that was .354/.319 = 1.11 times better than what the average pitcher he faced allowed.

3) Think of a cutoff point to delineate “good” pitchers vs. “bad” pitchers.  This is somewhat arbitrary, but I set the cutoff so that 33% of his PA would fall against “good” pitchers, which in this case was pitchers with a wOBA against of less than .299.

4) Compare the ratio of his wOBA vs. good/bad pitchers to his overall wOBA ratio

Split PA wOBA awOBA Ratio
vs. .299< 221 .296 .277 1.07
vs. .299+ 434 .391 .340 1.15
655 .354 .319 1.11

What this table shows is that Swisher had 221 PA vs. pitchers who allowed a wOBA against of less than .299, and the collective wOBA against for those pitchers weighed by the times Swisher faced them was .277.  He had a wOBA of .296 against them, so his ratio was a bit worse than his overall ratio.  If you prefer to think of it in terms of standard deviation, a .354 wOBA hitter would have a range of .285 to .423 within 2 standard deviations over 221 PA, but looking at it that way ignores the fact that you shouldn’t expect a batter to hit as well vs. good pitchers, because, well, they’re good pitchers.

There’s not enough of a disparity here to make me think Swisher is especially susceptible to good pitching.  The difference between 1.07 and 1.11 is likely as much due to random variance as anything else.  Looking at more years might show a bigger gap, but I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle.

That’s not to say that there’s no reason that Swisher hasn’t performed in the postseason other than bad luck.  He may be pressing more and/or he may be teh unclutch or whatever.  But being exposed by better pitchers doesn’t seem to be the primary reason that he’s got an average wOBA of .370 over the last three regular seasons vs. an average wOBA of .265 over the last three postseasons.

--Posted at 10:22 am by SG / 18 Comments | - (0)


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I love things like this; be interesting to read how people discount it.  One of the reasons I end up rooting for guys like Swisher in the post-season is to just end the narrative; of course it will just change to another narrative.  Rather than, “Swisher’s sample size increased, so his post-season numbers are regressing to his true talent!” (okay, that’s not a very good headline so I can see why it isn’t used), we’ll get, “Swish-ing to decaf fixes Nick’s post-season woes!” (assuming Swisher even drinks coffee; he’s probably this way naturally)

[1] I like to assume that Swisher is contstantly on amphetamines.

[2] Certainly seems that way doesn’t it?

Mike Axisa wraps up Girardi’s post-season, er, wrap-up.

Quick thoughts…Hughes and Nova look to be penciled into the rotation but not guaranteed, all coaches should be returning, lineup will probably look different in April than it did in the post-season, and that’s more than just swapping Montero for Jorge.

Is Swisher on verge of collapse?

Swisher has acknowledged that said he sometimes gets a little over-excited and antsy at the plate, and Joe Girardi said he was hoping Swisher would find a way to contain his emotions this time.  Unfortunately didn’t happen.

Kenny Williams apparently considered making Konerko the Player/Manager of the White Sox.

Wow, what a trip THAT would have been!

[7] Still seems like a better idea than allowing Guillen to manage a team.

wouldn’t trust Guillen to change the chain on my bicycle.

I didn’t see an antsy, overexcited Swisher at the plate during this postseason run.  I’ve seen that “swing out of your shoes” Swish though.  The 2011 postseason Swish looked like a guy who was being way too picky, seemingly waiting for the perfect pitch.  He’s always had a great eye, but it seemed a lot of times that he got called out a few times on pitches that were too close to take.  Maybe he trusts his eye too much? 

Also, I know he sees a lot of 3-2 counts, but how many 2-strike pitches does he foul off, a la Gardner?  Just curious.

Talking heads on ESPN are talking Montero/Killer B to the Reds for Joey Votto.

I’d really like to see them save for Kemp for a year, Swisher is a fine contract and player. Montero instead of Jorge will help the offense, Gardner should get better, the Yanks are fine on offense.

Ugh, I’m just annoyed at the possibility of more super long term contracts crippling this team until I’m old and crippled.

Gardner is 28, 29 next August, and his OPS+ this year was worse then last.  Is he really a favorite to improve?

Agree they have to resign Swisher.

“Ugh, I’m just annoyed at the possibility of more super long term contracts crippling this team until I’m old and crippled.”

Like the kind Matt Kemp is going to get?

[11] Votto is great, but its a trade that makes no sense. What happens to Tex? Talking heads are talking out of their asses.

Joey Votto would be awesome, but come on, that trade makes no sense for either team (unless Votto could play RF, I guess).

Gardner is 28, 29 next August, and his OPS+ this year was worse then last.  Is he really a favorite to improve?

He had a career .324 BABIP for 2008-2010.  His BABIP in 2011 was .304.  His batted profile in 2011 isn’t much different than 2008-2010 (a few more line drives and infield fly balls, and fewer fly balls).  In theory, his 2011 line was about 8 hits worse than expected.  Add 8 singles to his line and you’re probably talking about a four run improvement.

It’s not like there’s some magic switch at the average peak age that means a player automatically starts declining.  If I had to bet, I’d say he’ll be a bit better next year.

If I had to bet, I’d say he’ll be a bit better next year.

If he hits at the top of the order more often - being above average offensively - that should also add some more total runs he’ll be generating.  Even if his rates stay the same.

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