Nick Swisher: a little bit Roberto Clemente, a little bit Von Hayes

With Nick Swisher’s new deal with the Indians, let’s take a look at some comps and projections for his career performance.

Nick Swisher / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Swisher / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Here are players who, through their Age 31 season, had a 118 OPS+ (minimum 4000 plate appearances):

Rk Player PA OPS+ AB HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
1 Roberto Clemente 7031 118 6548 143 841 .310 .348 .455 .803 *9/8745 PIT
2 Carlos Beltran 6520 118 5719 263 987 .281 .357 .496 .853 *8/D97 KCR-TOT-NYM
3 Phil Cavarretta 6459 118 5686 67 777 .293 .370 .413 .783 *3879 CHC
4 Joe Judge 5572 118 4796 40 556 .296 .378 .417 .795 *3/9 WSH
5 Thurman Munson 5486 118 4962 110 662 .292 .347 .413 .760 *2/D9735 NYY
6 Stan Hack 5387 118 4649 43 455 .304 .391 .408 .799 *5/3 CHC
7 Von Hayes 5379 118 4658 139 646 .272 .360 .430 .790 9387/5D CLE-PHI
8 Jesse Barfield 5289 118 4664 239 709 .259 .338 .471 .809 *9/8D7 TOR-TOT-NYY
9 Bill White 5151 118 4645 163 690 .294 .354 .473 .827 *37/89 NYG-SFG-STL
10 Nick Swisher 5013 118 4241 209 673 .256 .361 .467 .828 *9387/D1 OAK-CHW-NYY
11 Kevin McReynolds 5000 118 4519 183 695 .269 .326 .453 .779 *78/9 SDP-NYM
12 Joe Rudi 4959 118 4539 141 654 .273 .318 .436 .754 *73/9D85 KCA-OAK-CAL
13 Curtis Granderson 4799 118 4224 210 591 .262 .341 .492 .834 *8/7D DET-NYY
14 John Stone 4764 118 4281 74 679 .313 .377 .472 .849 798 DET-WSH
15 Nick Markakis 4556 118 4055 117 549 .295 .365 .455 .819 *9/78D3 BAL
16 Elmer Valo 4492 118 3707 43 410 .285 .402 .396 .798 *97/8 PHA
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/23/2012.

This is quite a list. Some guys are greats. Some guys are overrated. Some guys are underrated.

What might the future hold for Swisher? Here’s what the guys on the list above did for the rest of their careers:

Rk Player PA OPS+ From To Age HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
1 Joe Judge 3606 109 1926 1934 32-40 31 478 .300 .378 .424 .802 *3 WSH-TOT-BOS
2 Roberto Clemente 3180 157 1967 1972 32-37 97 464 .334 .384 .521 .905 *9/8 PIT
3 Stan Hack 3121 123 1942 1947 32-37 14 187 .296 .399 .377 .776 *5/3 CHC
4 Carlos Beltran 1829 137 2009 2012 32-35 71 256 .288 .371 .497 .868 *98/D NYM-TOT-STL
5 Elmer Valo 1599 107 1953 1961 32-40 15 191 .275 .388 .379 .767 97/8 PHA-KCA-TOT-BRO-LAD-CLE
6 Bill White 1527 110 1966 1969 32-35 39 180 .256 .341 .394 .735 *3 PHI-STL
7 Phil Cavarretta 1242 118 1949 1955 32-38 28 143 .291 .383 .430 .813 *3/97 CHC-CHW
8 Joe Rudi 1118 84 1979 1982 32-35 38 156 .227 .283 .385 .668 *7/3D9 CAL-BOS-OAK
9 Kevin McReynolds 1039 102 1992 1994 32-34 28 112 .248 .336 .418 .754 *7/9D KCR-NYM
10 Von Hayes 673 73 1991 1992 32-33 4 50 .225 .304 .306 .611 /*987D3 PHI-CAL
11 Thurman Munson 419 95 1979 1979 32-32 3 39 .288 .340 .374 .714 /*2D3 NYY
12 John Stone 244 86 1938 1938 32-32 3 28 .244 .337 .380 .718 /*798 WSH
13 Jesse Barfield 105 22 1992 1992 32-32 2 7 .137 .210 .221 .431 /*9 NYY
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/23/2012.

These guys are ranked by plate appearances. Three folks from the 1st list don’t show up on this one: Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson both just finished their Age 31 seasons, so they have no stats for Age 32 onward. Nick Markasis is actually still younger, and so he shouldn’t really even be on the first list.

There are a few guys on this list–Munson, Stone, and Barfield–who played just one more season despite a solid OPS+ through Age 31. Munson died late in his Age 32 season, while Stone’s performance trailed off and he contracted tuberculosis in that final season. Barfield was just done.

Two guys really stick out–Clemente and Beltran both blossomed at Age 31 and actually hit much better in the second half of their careers. Beltran, of course, benefits from having not finished his career yet–we can expect his OPS+ to trail off.

Looking at these 13 guys, their post-31 career average performance is 1,516 plate appearances with a weighted average OPS+ of, you guessed it, 118.

The good news for the Indians is that they can reasonably expect Swisher to maintain his career OPS+ of 118, which is a decline from his recent years but well within reasonable expectation. The bad news is that if he manages only 1,516 plate appearances, he won’t have played all that much on his new 4-year contract.

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24 Comments on "Nick Swisher: a little bit Roberto Clemente, a little bit Von Hayes"

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Ed
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Andy – Thanks for profiling the Indians’ latest acquisition. Indians’ fans seem ecstatic over the signing though personally I thought it was a poor decision. It’s the classic front office maneuver of trying to distract the fan base by dangling shiny, sparkly things. The problem I have with the signing is this….the Indians are likely to be bad for at least a few more years. By the time the return to competitiveness in 3-4 years (if that even happens), Swisher will be in decline and his contract will prevent us from signing/acquiring players who could actually help us.
MikeD
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It really depends what the Indians do with Swisher over the coming four/five years. Similar to the Cubs signing Sanchez, the Indians could get a good year to year-and-a-half out of Swisher, and then turn around and trade him for another piece or two that will help them in their rebuilding. With the current inflation in contracts and Swishers very consistent production, his contract is certainly moveable. Same thing with Sanchez. He can help the Cubs now, but his greatest value may come in a trade a year or two from now.

Mike L
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Swisher is a solid player. In the comments on Greinke, I noted that his last three years of WAR and OPS+ mirror Greike’s WAR and ERA+. But that’s not really high praise for either. Solid is not superstar. And the problem with free agent contracts is that they usually don’t happen until the player is in his early thirties, limiting his reasonable rate of return in later years. With an OPS+ of 118, it’s not going to take a lot of age-related decline to make Swisher just a bit above average. Big money teams might be able to absorb that,… Read more »
bstar
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The market is paying at least $7 million/WAR for free agents. At $56 million, all Swisher has to do is produce 8 WAR over the next 4 years to earn his contract. He’s not getting paid to be a superstar, just to be an average outfielder. He produced about 10 WAR over the previous four seasons, so his contract seems reasonable enough to me.

Hartvig
Guest
While I don’t think that $56 M was a huge overpay for Swisher what Ed says makes a lot of sense. If they were a player or 2 away from contending I could see it but if they’re building for the future I don’t get it. It’s not like he would be a great bargaining chip at the trade deadline for a great prospect with that much money still owed. It’s kind of like management is telling the fans: We don’t think we have any chance of contending for the next 4 years but we don’t want you to think… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
“It’s kind of like management is telling the fans: We don’t think we have any chance of contending for the next 4 years but we don’t want you to think that we’ve thrown in the towel either.” Perfect summary, Hartvig, and one that I would endorse. It’s the reason I wish the Mets would have re-signed Dickey, even though I think they ended up with a good trade. Cleveland hasn’t topped .500 in 5 seasons, and 3 of those 5 saw 69 wins or less. They just traded their best offensive player of the past several years, mainly for prospects.… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
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2013 Cleveland:

$6.5 Asdrubal
$6 Mark Reynolds
5.75 Ublaldo

Estimated Arb:

7.2 Chris Perez
5.7 Masterson

Nobody else over 3
__________________

Swisher is barely a downgrade to Choo, and certainly a plus in the clubhouse (it seems).

But I’ve got to question a front office that deliberately acquires Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs.

Estimated strikeouts from the 2013 Indian lineup:

100 Kipnis
200 Stubbs
100 Santana
130 Swisher
200 Reynolds
100 Cabrera
60 Brantley
? 1B
? DH

Ed
Guest

Reynolds will probably play 1st. The 3rd baseman will be Lonnie Chisenall. So far in 374 PAs, he has 76 Ks. So he should fit right in!

Doug
Guest

What do you think about the staying power of switch-hitters? Do they last longer because they always have the platoon advantage? Or, do they not last as long because they’re not really as good as non-switch hitters with the same OPS+? That is, if they were as good they should have a better OPS+ because of that platoon advantage.

Doug
Editor
Since I asked the question, I’ll offer the answer that initial indicators look good for Swisher and the Indians. These are the 10 switch-hitters, including Swisher, with OPS+ in the 113-123 range through age 31 (min. 4000 PAs). Pretty decent group. Rk Player OPS+ PA From To Age R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Tm 1 Howard Johnson 123 4960 1982 1992 21-31 672 1092 204 672 576 891 .253 .340 .456 .796 DET-NYM 2 Victor Martinez 121 4224 2002 2010 23-31 509 1120 131 638 411 482 .300 .369 .469 .838 CLE-TOT-BOS 3 Roberto Alomar… Read more »
Doug
Editor
And, here’s what they did after age 31. One was already done and the rest were split half-and-half between decent contributors and not. Which half will Nick be in – my hunch is closer to the “decent contributors” group. Rk Player WAR/pos OPS+ From To Age G PA BA OBP SLG OPS Tm 1 Chili Davis 12.7 126 1992 1999 32-39 984 4026 .284 .382 .482 .864 MIN-CAL-KCR-NYY 2 Carlos Beltran 12.2 137 2009 2012 32-35 438 1829 .288 .371 .497 .868 NYM-TOT-STL 3 Roberto Alomar 11.4 108 2000 2004 32-36 657 2817 .291 .362 .435 .797 CLE-NYM-TOT 4 Frankie… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest

Of course the jury is still out on VMart- however unless he catches more than I’d expect him to it’s not likely he’s going to put up big WAR numbers- altho if he hits like he’s capable of and can catch 40 to 60 games without embarrassing himself I think he certainly has a chance to put up a couple more 3+ WAR seasons.

mosc
Guest
swisher does look a lot like hojo stat wise doesn’t he? Their swings aren’t terribly similar. Hojo had that ridiculous bat speed you can never fully appreciate without seeing in person. He was also more consistent from both sides of the plate. Swisher has a nice power swing from the left but there’s lots of length in it. From the right he slaps a lot of balls. Swisher’s power numbers from the right are nothing special where hojo was equally feared (though later in his career he struggled against lefties when that bat speed just evaporated). Hojo was pretty similar… Read more »
MikeD
Guest
Trying to project what a player will do as he ages is always interesting. I think with Swisher I wouldn’t be looking at players with similar OPS+’s at similar ages, but I would try to identify similar type hitters. Swisher for example is not a good match for a Clemente or a Munson. He’s a patient hitter who doesn’t expand the strikezone and attempts to get himself into a good hitter’s count, or more likely a fastball situation. Von Hayes feels like a good comp. Von Hayes’ career pretty much ended after age 32, but he’s only one data point.… Read more »
Edmundo
Guest

Note that Chili Davis played all of 40 innings in the field after age 30, 2 of which were as pitcher! I’m not sure how that figures in to any comparison other than he couldn’t get nicked up in the field.

Ed
Guest
Here are two interesting comps for Swisher: Pat Burrell and Paul Konerko. First, let’s look at Burrell: OPS+ ages 28-31: 128, 122, 128, 125 And now look at Swisher: OPS+ ages 28-31: 122, 129, 120, 126 An almost perfect match. Both are slow, strike-out a lot and draw a lot of walks. Both had an uncharacteristically poor season earlier in their careers (Burrell had an OPS+ of 90 at age 26; Swisher had an OPS+ of 93 at age 27). The Burrell comp is pretty depressing since he’s been hurt and/or played poorly post age 31. Now Konerko. Both Konerko… Read more »
Tom
Guest
With their payroll the Indians will always have a tough time competing, but that doesn’t mean they should close up shop. Orioles happen. Cardinals happen. Swisher improves their chances greatly over the nothing they had after trading Choo and he is a solid bet to earn his pay. And forget rebuilding, they’ve rebuilt with Kipnis, Brantley, Cabrera, Santana, Chisenhall, McAllister, etc. The only way you rebuild more than that is buy a tee ball team. They need to take a shot with the group they put together. They have to hope Francona can somehow get them to play a full… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest

To be completely fair, the idea that Tampa Bay has managed to remain competitive in the AL East for the past 5 years has surprised me (at least a little) almost every year. The Indians do have some talented young players and if a few things break their way maybe it wouldn’t be out of the question them to compete in the Central in a year or 2.

If Baltimore could do it this year then I’m not ruling anything out except for the Cubs winning the World Series.

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