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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Goldman: The Ichiro vs. Swisher Fallacy

Positively Ichalicious? Remedy to stop cracked, chapped patch of career? Sign Nick Swisher.

More importantly, while Ichiro is a better fielder and base-runner than Swisher, he’s actually not as good a hitter. In the years that he hit .350 and up, he was roughly as good a hitter as Swisher, not better. In the years when he hit .315 or lower, he plainly wasn’t as good. The simple reason for this is that a .250 average with 35 doubles, 25 home runs, and 80 walks is far more conducive to generating runs than a .315 average, 25 doubles, nine home runs, and 40 walks, even with 40 stolen bases thrown in.

I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro. He’s a likely Hall of Famer, and I would be tickled if he hung around long enough to pick up his 3000th hit in this country to go with the 1,278 he had in Japan. However, we should understand that his central skill, an ability to (at his peak) slap .350-.370 in singles, combined with the durability to play 162 games a year, has a certain amount of value, but as right fielders go it really isn’t anything special in terms of offensive production; it looks better than it is.

If you like OPS, Ichiro has a career .784, Swisher .814. If you want that league- and park-adjusted, it’s 113 for Ichiro, 118 for Swisher. If you prefer wOBA it’s .339 for Ichiro, .359 for Swisher. True Average? .284 for Ichiro, .288 for Swisher.

As my old friend Dick Nixon used to say, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not claiming that Swisher is a better player than Ichiro, just a comparable hitter who arrives at the same place via a different set of ingredients. Comparable hitting plus better baserunning and defense makes Ichiro the better all-around performer. However, now we have to remember the seven-year age difference between the two. All-Around Ichiro is peak Ichiro, and peak Ichiro may or may not be gone. Swisher is still at his peak, though we can’t be sure for how long he’ll remain there.

Repoz Posted: October 23, 2012 at 12:48 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics, yankees

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   1. ColonelTom Posted: October 23, 2012 at 01:13 PM (#4280644)
They're not seriously thinking of going into 2013 with Gardner and Ichiro manning the outfield corners, are they? That's an awfully punchless pair.
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: October 23, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4280649)
All-Around Ichiro is peak Ichiro, and peak Ichiro may or may not be gone.


No, he's gone. The main question is if Current Ichiro is still Useful Ichiro, but Peak Ichiro is certainly Past Ichiro.
   3. GEB4000 Posted: October 23, 2012 at 03:35 PM (#4280779)
What ballplayer is at their peak when they are pushing forty? That's silly to even type. Swisher is probably past his peak. It might be in the Yankees best interest to try and keep both of them.
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 23, 2012 at 03:50 PM (#4280796)
A healthy Brett Gardner makes Ichiro somewhat superfluous. He'd be pretty good as a 4th outfielder/pinch runner/defensive replacement, but I have my doubts that'd he be all that interested in that role and the accompanying salary, even for the honor of finishing his career in pinstripes.
   5. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili (TeddyF.Ballgame) Posted: October 23, 2012 at 03:52 PM (#4280797)
Peak Ichiro is certainly Past Ichiro.


So he's also Prologue Ichiro, then.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: October 23, 2012 at 04:00 PM (#4280815)
an ability to (at his peak) slap .350-.370 in singles, combined with the durability to play 162 games a year, has a certain amount of value, but as right fielders go it really isn’t anything special in terms of offensive production; it looks better than it is.

True. But this would be very good production for a CF and Ichiro almost certainly could have played CF for most of his MLB career.

Ahh, you're thinking, that may be true Walt but he didn't -- fair or not, his hitting should be compared to other RF. And I agree ... mostly. But for a player like Ichiro, and maybe OF in general, it doesn't necessarily make sense to evaluate his offense independent of his defense. He was a meh hitter as a RF but he was an excellent defender as an RF -- because he was a good-hitting, average or better-fielding CF playing RF.

I'm talking here of his HoF case of course but it's fair to ask "if Ichiro were in CF with that bat and average defense and 55 WAR in 12 seasons, would you vote for him?"

As to 2013, yes, Swisher's probably the better bet and he's presumably the better bet for 2014. The problem with Swisher is that you're surely going to have to sign him for more than two years and, given the lack of good players on the FA market, probably at least 4. Swisher 2015-17 is the issue.

As to the Yanks in 2013. If they're going to stay under the threshold in 2014 and they're going to re-sign Cano (not certain) and they want a good chance to be good in 2013 and 2014 (and beyond), they need a boatload of 1-year contracts for 2013. They've got a shot -- Granderson's option, Kuroda's last arb year, Soriano's last year, Pettitte, Rivera -- but it means the 2013 team will be almost the exact same as the 2012 team. One of those 1-year options is Ichiro and, if he'll sign cheaply enough, he might be OK as a platoon starter and likely OK as a 4th OF.
   7. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: October 24, 2012 at 12:13 AM (#4281251)
It seems strange that the Yankees care about staying under the "threshold" all of a sudden. They could be about the 5th best team in the AL next year if they don't make improvements. That's usually not good enough for their fans. A good but non-dominant Yankee team is going to feel it in attendance. They may not care about that, but they should.

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