When the Cleveland Indians handed Nick Swisher a huge four-year deal worth $56 million back in January of 2013, the team was hopeful he would be that stick that the team was so badly looking for in their 1-9 lineup.
Swisher was coming off a productive 2012 with the New York Yankees, hitting .272 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs. The Indians would have been perfectly content with those numbers in what was Terry Francona‘s first season as the team’s manager. Instead, Swisher had some tough stretches in 2013 but was still able to crack 20 homers by the end of the year with a big September, and he wound up hitting .246 with 22 HRs and 63 RBIs.
Less than a year later, Swisher is having a year that can best be described as painful. And for an Indians team that is trying badly to stay in the AL Central race with the Detroit Tigers, trying to hide Swisher in the everyday lineup is becoming harder and harder.
Swisher came into Sunday hitting .193 with five homers and 23 RBIs. Since a stint on the DL with a knee injury, he was 3-for-33 with two homers and five RBIs, with an alarming 15 strikeouts. The two homers he hit were both game-winning shots, but a .091 average is simply not going to get it done; and 15 Ks in 33 at bats shows just how now at 33 he is overmatched at the plate.
Francona had tried to protect the team’s lineup by moving Swisher from the two spot down to the seven hole at one point, but it hasn’t come close to being enough to get him turned around. Francona continues to stick up for Swisher, stating that he feels he will turn it around and even last season he recalls how Swisher struggled early before turning it on late.
The problem is there’s no telling if Swisher has hit rock bottom, and if he hasn’t, how low can the former Ohio State Buckeye go? The Indians can’t pretend that magically Swisher is going to turn it around while he sits back and whiffs in just about half of his at bats. The team needs to start giving other players chances if this is the output they are going to get from him.
The team has at least another two-and-a-half seasons with Swisher on the roster. It’s already turning bad and could get even more ugly if this is the production they are going to get from him from here on out.
Matt Loede has covered the Cleveland Indians for 20 years for National Networks like AP Radio, Metro Networks and other local and national stations. Follow him on twitter @mattloede.