‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Earlier this year, I began to ponder Nick Swisher’s future in pinstripes. The slugger who completed an All-Star worthy 2010 seemed to have been replaced by an entirely different ballplayer.
Swisher’s playoff struggles seeped into his play during early months of the 2011 season. Through the end of May, Swisher only was able to manage 3 home runs and 20 RBIs. Even more worrying was his batting average of .213 and on-base percentage of .335 he carried as June began. The most attractive attributes in Swisher’s game is his ability to draw walks, work pitchers and contribute a fair amount of long balls had diminished.
His OBP was far bellow his usual range of .360-.380 and his power stroke had seemingly vanished. With a $10.25M club option hanging over him, maybe the pressure was beginning to get to the carefree Swisher who cherishes wearing the pinstripes. His lackluster play certainly wasn’t helping his chances of remaining in the Bronx beyond 2011.
If Swisher’s struggles continued into the second half, it would have been very likely that Brian Cashman would have exercised the $1 million buyout rather than the $10.25 million option at season’s end. Thankfully for the Yankees and his own cause, Swisher caught fire in late June. He began driving in RBIs and stringing together multi-hit games. Most importantly, Swisher’s patient approach at the plate returned as his OBP surged over .370.
That approach is Swisher’s bread and butter. It is a rare ability that few hitters possess. Compare Swisher to most slugging outfielders and you’ll notice that he sometimes draws two or three walks in a single ballgame. His patience is equal to a lead-off man yet he still boasts the power of a corner outfielder.
Swisher’s on-base percentage now stands at an impressive .385. If he continues at this rate, he’ll finish 2011 with the highest OBP total of his career and the proper résumé to make Cashman’s decision to pick up his 2012 option very easy. The upcoming free agent class of corner outfielders is wafer-thin. Outside of Carlos Beltran and Michael Cuddyer, there aren’t a great deal attractive right field talents.
It’s a safe bet that Swisher will now remain a Yankee through 2012. $10.25 million sounds like fair market value and Cashman has always appreciated what Swisher brings to the table both in ability and personality.
We all know he is an extroverted guy who keeps things loose in the locker room. Combining his talent and role in the Yankees’ clubhouse probably makes picking up Swisher’s option the simplest task of Cashman’s off-season checklist.
Do you agree it is a certainty that Swisher will remain a Yankee in 2012? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.