Nick Swisher is having a typical Nick Swisher season. That is to say, he’s having a good season. In fact, he’s having a great season. He is on pace to break his career highs in average, slugging, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+. So, how’s he doing it?
Shockingly enough, Swisher is hitting for a high batting average. I’ve repeatedly said Swisher will never be a .300 hitter but this year, he’s doing just that–well, just about. His average sits at .299 right now, which would also be a career high if it holds up.
Over the winter, Swisher worked on closing up his stance and trying to hit for more contact. So far, it’s worked. His contact rate is up to 81.6%, 4.9% higher than his career average. His swing percentage is also up 6.4% from his career norm to 39.0%.
Whatever Swish and hitting coach Kevin Long worked on over the winter has led to a big change that’s thus far paying dividends. That doesn’t mean all is 100% correct and we should expect these numbers from Nick all season long.
Right now, he’s ripping the cover off of the ball to the tune of a 25.5% line drive rate (career: 18.9%). He’s doing this while avoiding grounders (30.2% this year, 35.8% overall). This has led to a very high .343 BABIP. Swisher’s career BABIP is .278. This isn’t to say that Swisher doesn’t hit the ball hard, he just doesn’t put a lot of balls in play (that’s what a lot of homers, walks and strikeouts do). It is to say, though, that there is likely to be a correction coming. When that happens, Swisher’s batting average will drop.
This is where I get a bit worried, but not too worried. Swisher’s walk rate–10.8%–is on pace to be his lowest since 2005 (10.5%). Granted, that’s still an above average walk rate and Swisher’s IsoP (.226) is near his career mark (.216) but the slight “lack” of walks seems troubling. Hopefully, as Swisher’s batting average falls, his walk rate continues to rise and he still avoids making outs even when the hits don’t come.
While I don’t think we’ll see a .299 average or a .914 OPS or a .400 wOBA at the end of the season, I don’t think the drop off will be huge. ZIPS projects Swisher to have a .364 wOBA from here on out which would give him a .374 wOBA for the season (.375 last year) and I think we’ll all be happy with that.