Though Nick Swisher is still providing solid value for the Cleveland Indians at defense at 3.3 fielding runs above average, the Tribe didn’t bring him in just for that.
No, the four-year, $56 million contract that the two sides agreed to was for a middle-of-the-order bat; one with 25-homer pop that would consistently produce counting numbers for a lineup badly needing to boost its offense to play with the big boys in the AL Central. While Cleveland is definitely doing the latter at just three games back of the division-leading Detroit Tigers, they’re still looking for the first part of that bargain.
Or, to simply put it, Swisher has mostly disappointed this season.
That may sound a little weird considering he’s still a 1.7 fWAR player for the Indians in 2013, but as he has been primarily a first baseman (67 appearances in 93 games), what he brings to the table is mediocrity among his peers … and that’s to put it nicely.
With a .247/.347/.399 triple-slash heading into play on Saturday, Swisher is currently suffering a power outage like he’s never seen in his career. His .746 OPS is only three points ahead of the one from his disastrous 2008 season where he only hit .219 for the year; and even then, he still posted a .410 slugging percentage with 24 homers.
Yes, with just 11 homers to date, a .152 ISO and a sub-.400 SLG (for the first time in his career), Swish is on pace for career lows in … well, all of them really.
2013 could be the first full season in which the 32-year-old hits less than 20 home runs, and his other counting numbers may follow in the trend as well. For an Indians team that’s going to be stuck with him through his age-35 season, that’s not particularly good news.
Still, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel yet.
The team has taken to batting him at the no. 2 spot in recent games, and it may have given him the spark he needed. Over the last 11 games, Swisher has posted a sterling .306/.360/.478 triple-slash in 46 at-bats from that spot; but more importantly, he’s hit a pair of homers and doubles in that span — topping his entire month’s worth of production in those categories from June.
So, maybe Swisher hasn’t given the Indians that no. 4 bat they were looking for, but if hitting second solves the mystery of his missing power down the stretch, I’m sure the Tribe will be more than happy to take it.