The graph provided above outlines Nick Swisher’s plate discipline and contact rates on the season. As you can clearly see, in each respective category – from O-Swing percentage (percentage of pitches a better swings at outside of the strike zone) to O-Contact percentage (percentage of times a batter makes contact when swinging at pitches outside of the zone) – Swisher is performing “above” his career averages, an issue I have pointed to earlier in the year. He is swinging a lot more this season, and at everything, whether it is in the zone or not. Subsequently, he is making contact a lot more, as he has sacrificed some patience for a few hits.
The reasoning for this abrupt shift in hitting could be attributed to – and is more than likely related to – Swisher’s new batting stance. Over the winter, Swisher revamped his stance with the help of Kevin Long, and, ever since, he has been a different player. It is as if his new stance has provided him with an entirely different offensive approach. For instance, consider that, a season ago, Swisher’s walk rate was 16% and his career average was over 13%. Conversely, this season, with his new stance at work, Swisher has walked just 9.5% of the time—which will be his lowest mark to date if maintained. In the same vein, he is also seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance, as he normally sees around 4.25 P/PA, on average – he saw 4.27 P/PA in 2009 – but has seen only 4.09 P/PA in 2010. The explanation, it seems, is that he has taken to his new stance pretty well, and, therefore, is swinging more rather than walking, because he is having an easier time reacting to breaking pitches than he has in the past (slider, in particular). Pitch type value data suggests this, as well.
Though Swisher’s new stance is aiding him and his .317/.397/.563 line, luck has also lent him its hand. Swisher’s BABIP is currently .376, which is much higher than his .281 career average. Though we can assume that his BABIP might closer to .300 this year due to his altered batting stance, a .376 mark is just too high for a player like Swisher (it is largely the result of an other worldly .443 BABIP in May). Eventually, some of the hits will stop falling for him and his numbers will flatten out a bit (ZiPS projects him to bat .258/.364/.467 going forward, leaving him with a .277/.374/.498 line at the end of the year). Once that occurs, it will be interesting to see whether or not his plate patience picks up again or if it remains at its current levels.
Table/Screenshot via FanGraphs