5 Reasons Nick Swisher Could Be Great Fit for Phillies' Lineup in 2013
The top outfielder on the free-agent market this offseason will be Josh Hamilton, but the outfielder who will carry the most intrigue is current New York Yankees right fielder and resident goofball Nick Swisher.
Whereas Hamilton seems to have very few options for where to play next, it feels like Swisher has an abundance of options for where to play next. He's been linked to a lot of teams, and it doesn't seem like anybody's taking his apparent desire for Jayson Werth money all that seriously as a roadblock.
This week, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News pondered aloud that Swisher might be a good fit for the Philadelphia Phillies. They opened up a spot in right field when they traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants at the deadline, and they might just have the funds to pursue Swisher seeing as how they only have $133 million in salaries committed for 2013 (per Cot's Baseball Contracts).
The money is going to be the iffy part either way. What isn't so iffy is seeing how Swisher could possibly fit into Philly's lineup next season, and here's a look at five reasons why he could actually be a great fit.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Good Man to Fill Hunter Pence's Shoes in Right Field
When the Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the Giants, there was no obvious answer for who would step into his shoes in right field.
Domonic Brown has since taken hold of the job. While he hasn't been a complete disaster as Philly's everyday right fielder, he hasn't quite been good enough to convince anyone that an upgrade in right field isn't needed.
Brown has had his moments in the bigs this season, but his .236/.321/.394 triple-slash line is unfortunately right in line with what we've seen from him in the past. His defense has been spotty as well, as FanGraphs has his UZR/150 in right field at -10.5 and his DRS (defensive runs saved) at -7.
Brown has done a little bit less damage defensively in left field, and it just so happens that there's likely going to be an opening there in 2013 with Juan Pierre set to come off the books at the end of this season. The Phillies could move Brown over to left field and hope that his offense comes along.
Swisher could step in and fill the hole this move would create in right field. He's obviously a superior offensive player to Brown (plenty more on this to come), and he's actually a better defensive right fielder than he gets credit for.
Per FanGraphs, Swisher has a 1.4 UZR and a -1 DRS as a right fielder this year. These numbers don't make him a Gold Glover, but they at least make him an average defensive player in right field. Brown is a below-average defensive player in right field, to say the least.
In addition, Citizens Bank Park has dimensions that won't catch Swisher off-guard. They're also dimensions that he could take advantage of at the plate.
Good Fit for Citizens Bank Park
Swisher has the kind of power that will play well pretty much anywhere, including, obviously, bandbox stadiums like new Yankee Stadium.
Ever wonder how similar Yankee Stadium is to Citizens Bank Ballpark?
Very similar, actually. If you head over to HitTrackerOnline.com and punch in an overlay of Yankee Stadium over CBP, you'll see that the dimensions are pretty much exactly the same out to right field, while the left field wall at CBP is a little closer to home plate.
These dimensions would be as agreeable to Swisher as they would be to any switch-hitter, as he pulls most of his home runs. What makes Swisher a little different from his contemporaries, however, is that he also has a surprising amount of power to left field as a left-handed hitter.
According to FanGraphs, Swisher has hit 11 of his 24 home runs this season out to right field as a left-handed hitter, but he's also hit five balls out to left field when batting lefty. A park like CBP that has close fences in both right and left field would therefore be to his liking.
Granted, we don't have much of a sample size to tell us much about how Swisher would fare at CBP on a full-time basis. Swisher has never logged a regular season at-bat at CBP, and he only collected two hits in the three games the Yankees played at CBP in the 2009 World Series.
One of those hits, however, was a home run. The other was a double.
Thus, I'll go out on a limb and guess that Swisher would be able to handle CBP just fine. And rest assured, he'd also be able to handle National League pitching just fine.
National League Pitching Won't Be a Problem
Swisher has spent his entire career in the American League, and one of the things you immediately notice when you pull up his career splits is that he hasn't performed very well in interleague play.
In 133 career interleague games, Swisher has compiled a .236/.342/.405 triple-slash line with 18 home runs. At first glance, this is a sign that he can't handle Senior Circuit hurlers.
But his case warrants a closer look at recent history. Swisher hit a solid .293/.380/.552 with four home runs in interleague play in 2011, and he finished interleague play this season with a .327/.403/.582 triple-slash line and three home runs.
What should intrigue the Phillies is the fact that the Yankees played a handful of NL East teams in interleague play this season. Swisher knocked around the Washington Nationals to the tune of a 1.548 OPS. He compiled a 1.075 OPS against the Atlanta Braves, and a 1.014 OPS against the New York Mets.
The Phillies have struggled in intradivisional play this season, posting a record of 30-35. Any help they can get to win more games within the division next season would be more than welcome.
If his performance against the NL East this season is any indication, Swisher could most definitely help.
As for where he would hit in Philly's lineup, there are two logical options.
Could Be an Answer for No. 2 Hole
Jimmy Rollins has held down the leadoff spot in Philly's lineup this season, but the No. 2 spot has been in pretty much a constant state of turnover.
Juan Pierre has gotten more action in the No. 2 hole than anybody else, but Charlie Manuel has also used the likes of Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino, Kevin Frandsen and John Mayberry in the No. 2 hole.
Production out of the No. 2 hole hasn't really been a problem, as Phillies No. 2 hitters have posted a .307 average and a solid .760 OPS this season. But with Pierre and Polanco possibly out of the picture for 2013, we could see the Phillies make a move to acquire a more steady presence for the No. 2 spot in their lineup.
That's a role Swisher can fill. He started hitting in the No. 2 spot pretty much exclusively in August when Curtis Granderson's slump became too much to bear, and the move definitely worked out for Swisher. In 22 games batting out of the No. 2 hole in August, he hit six home runs and posted a .986 OPS.
For the season, 11 of Swisher's 24 homers have come out of the No. 2 spot, and he has a fairly decent .782 OPS when batting second. His OPS in the No. 2 spot would be higher had he not gone into a brutal slump in early September.
For the Phillies, sliding Swisher into the No. 2 hole behind Rollins would allow them to have two switch-hitters at the top of the lineup. That's a tandem they wouldn't have to break up depending on the day's matchups.
If the Phillies would rather not hit Swisher second, they could hit him a little lower instead.
Could Also Fill No. 5 Hole Behind Utley and Howard
Just as the No. 2 spot in Philly's lineup has been in flux for much of the season, the No. 5 spot has seen its share of turnover as well.
Shane Victorino spent most of his time in the No. 5 spot when he was in Philly, but he's gone now and it's hard to see him coming back. Carlos Ruiz has also spent a lot of time in the No. 5 hole, but his old offensive brilliance hasn't been seen in some time.
Swisher hasn't seen a lot of time in the No. 5 hole with the Yankees this season, as it's a spot that's typically been reserved for Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. When he has hit fifth, however, he's compiled a 1.101 OPS and five homers in only 18 games.
For his career, Swisher has an .867 OPS when batting fifth, with 20 homers in only 102 games.
It sounds like a job he could handle full-time, and the Phillies could use a solid bat in their lineup to protect the likes of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. With Swisher behind Howard, pitchers may be more willing to challenge Howard with fastballs in the zone that he can handle.
Philly's offense has been a lot better ever since Utley and Howard returned to action. If the Phillies find a way to add Swisher, the good times would surely continue in 2013.
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