Secretly building trade value

girardi_cashman300_032409.jpgI HAVE THIS FRIEND NAMED ADAM … And whenever I write here that Brian Cashman or Joe Girardi say something completely indefensible, something like, “Xavier Nady is the starting right fielder,” he writes me and says that I’m too quick to criticize and that there’s a secret plan afoot that will set matters aright. Adam hasn’t actually issued his usual warning this time around, but he must have gotten through to me in the past (maybe it was regarding Kyle Farnsworth, though I’m still not certain), so I have decided, in my best Pollyannaish way, to believe that Mr. Girardi is building Mr. Nady’s trade value. There are teams out there, hungry, less discriminating National League teams, that might like to have an X-Man of their very own. There is a master plan at work of such savage cunning that the terms “Pinstriped Weaselry” don’t do it justice. You heard it here first: some club is gonna get suckered.*

(*The foregoing may prove to be a work of pure fantasy. Management is not responsible for any personal items left unattended in your vehicle.)

Meanwhile, my pal Rob Neyer proves that great minds think alike:

So, let’s see … younger, better against right-handed pitching, better fielder, better baserunner … gee, why would you want to give that guy a regular job?

Oh, don’t worry; it’s not as bad as all that. Considering all the Yankees’ creaky old geezers, there should be plenty of at-bats for a (relative) whippersnapper like Nick Swisher. These sorts of things do tend to find their natural balance, eventually. But with the questions about Alex Rodriguez’s availability and the tough competition in their division, one might reasonably wonder if “eventually” will come soon enough.

When I saw the headline, “MLB bans Pichardo 50 games”, the chain of association rapidly led me back to the Royals righty of the last decade Hipolito Pichardo, and thence to the short-lived Yankees lefty Hipolito Pena, who I recall as being distinctly more hippo-like than his listed 6’3″/165 pounds. The Yankees received Pena from the Pirates in 1988 in exchange for Orestes Destrade, an underpowered first baseman (later broadcaster) who the Yankees seemed to have no use for, given that it seemed like Don Mattingly had the better part of 10 good years left. No disrespect meant — I’m sure it means something noble in Spanish, but forget being a boy named Sue, I can’t think of anything more frightening than being a boy named Hipo … Seth McClung actually pitched well for the Brewers last year. That’s hard to believe, but it’s harder still to accept that he might sub as closer for Trevor Hoffman … It’s difficult to think of a player, aside from a Buck Weaver or Shoeless Joe Jackson, who has fallen as hard and fast as Andruw Jones … With third baseman Jack Hannahan likely to be squeezed off of the Oakland roster, the Yankees could take a run at the glove man. He won’t hit much but is a lefty bat and a strong fielder … The White Sox may regret signing Gavin Floyd to a four-year, $15.5 million contract. The same luck on balls in play that affected  Swisher in a negative fashion last year benefitted Floyd. He’s due to regress and in a hurry … If I took all the decisions I’d ever made because they seemed like good ideas at the time and stacked them one on top of the other, I could climb that pile and just scrape the bottom of the moon with my fingertip.

Final warning, and aren’t you relieved: Jay Jaffe and I will be at the Penn Bookstore at the University of Pennsylvania (3601 Walnut St.) this evening at 5 PM. I hope to see some new and familiar faces there tonight.


  1. letsgoyankees

    Again, Nady should start. Why? People make comments like, “Nady’s older, and therefore probably won’t hit his career high again, and Swisher’s younger so he won’t hit his career low. But the fact of the matter is this: Who would you rather have, a hitter coming off his best yr. or his worst yr.? Nady did nothing to lose himself a job he basically had already won. And anyway, since when was Nady a bad defender? Remember, Swisher was a good first baseman, not outfielder. There’s no gurantee his defense would be any better than Nady’s.


    Sadly, Steven, I was unable to make your event tonight at Penn. I hold out hope that you and some fellow BP’ers will hold an in-season event in Philadelphia this year.


    letsgoyankees, how about you check the stats before you say things that don’t make sense. Nady was hitting about .330 when he came to the yankees had a good two weeks then proceeded to stink up the joint and finish with a .268 avg with the yankees (.305 for the year, thats a 25 point drop in 2 months). Unfortunately all anyone remembers is the first two weeks he was here and was on fire, not the last month when he was swinging at everything. oh and as for the defense Swisher has played more games in the outfield than at firstbase and was just as good a defender in the outfield. Check out the stats.

  4. letsgoyankees

    atorres-You’re right in saying I didn’t know Swisher played outfield. I was mistaken there. However, you’ve still given me no reason Swisher is a better defender. You say check out the stats, but you’ve given me none on the defense. How about error count? I’m not a big DEF fan because a lot of it has to do with pitching, but why don’t you give me that too? Something. I check out the stats more than you do apparently. Swisher batted somewhere in the low 200’s. Nady, despite a low finish (in a pennant race, by the way, the Yanks were already out of. The White Sox weren’t.) he STILL batted over 300 with 90+ RBI’s. You also need to look at if he makes the Yanks a better team. I point to a game to the Angels. 6 RBI’s in what was at the time a huge game. We’re not winning it w/o Nady. My point was that that was Nady’s best yr. and Swisher’s worst yr. I want the player coming off of his best yr. If you don’t realize that much at least, check the stats.

  5. pfoj

    “I’m not a big DEF fan because a lot of it has to do with pitching, but why don’t you give me that too? ”

    DEF is a team stat, not sure how you want it to be used here. But, it has practically nothing to do with pitching. The career DER of defenses behind Roger Clemens was .713, is .710 for Jeff Weaver, and .720 for Jaime Moyer. An average pitcher, a terrible pitcher, and a HOF level performer, and there is practically no difference between them. Doesn’t look like a stat influenced too much by pitching.

    For some individual defensive numbers, let’s look at Ultimate Zone Rating. It has Nick Swisher at +16.1 runs in about 2500 innings in either RF or LF. In 4000 innings corner outfield innings, Nady is +.7 runs.
    Baseball Prospectus’s RATE, where 100 is average has Swisher at 113 and 100 in LF and RF, respectively. They have Nady at 92 and 95.
    Please never ask for an error count again. Errors are worthless for evaluating defensive value.

    “My point was that that was Nady’s best yr. and Swisher’s worst yr. I want the player coming off of his best yr.”

    This makes no sense. You want the player who will have a better 2009. History suggests that is Swisher.


    Thanks pfoj, really good job with the stats there.
    might i also add in terms of offense, letsgoyankees states that swisher had his worse year while nady had his best year. Which is true, funny thing though they still had the same amount of hrs. and even though there avg. were about 100 pts off they still have about the same on base%..
    oh and the yanks weren’t “out of” the play off race until about the last week of the season…


    I don’t understand why Nady over Swisher is such a bad decision. Even if you prefer Swisher, it can’t be by enough to question the coaching staff who happen to be watching everything these guys are doing on the field.

    On paper, I think Swisher is a little better than Nady, but not by much. Nady’s three year average, which I find to be a more indicative for a 30 year old than lifetime, is .289/.343/.481. Swisher’s three year average is .246/.363/.454. Granted, they both had abberations last season in opposite directions and Swisher’s lifetime stats are better than Nady’s, but I don’t think that you can predict that Swisher is going to be notably better.

    The second thing to consider is that Swisher is better suited to plug into different positions. If Swisher was definitively better than Nady, then I’d say that you start the better player. But since they are pretty close and we have question marks at DH and the outfield, the smart managerial play seems to be to go ahead and prepare Swisher for a role that involves roaming around the field and the lineup.

    I think the better performer will still get the most ABs this season, regardless of how they start off.

  8. letsgoyankees

    atorres (and pfoj)-The Yankees were not OFFICIALLY out of it, but let’s face it, after the last Yanks-Sox series of the season, everyone knew they were done.
    A 100 pt. diff. in avg. can’t be overstated. Neither can A LOT more RBI’s (not sure of the exact amt., but it was a lot!). And pfoj-overall history suggests Swish, but recent history suggests Nady. Let’s say they were both rookies, second season. I know they’re not, but just say. You’d take Nady. Why? He had a better season last yr.! I think he’ll do good for us because he’s proven he can. And I said I thought DEF was influenced by pitching because the stat sounded to me like it was how many balls fell in for hits. Look at the Rays. Their team DEF went way up. Why? Their pitching got much better.
    Since when were errors a bad way to look at how someone plays defense? That comment made no sense to me. Obviously, if someone makes a lot of errors, that’s bad defense. I know their are other factors at work there, but isn’t it common sense?
    I don’t understand why this debate is so mean spirited. It seems like you’re trying to personally prove that I’m some sort of idiot.
    Oh, sorry about this Steve, but I’ve never been a big fan of Baseball Prospectus, or any sort of system for predicting how teams will do. I bet Prospectus didn’t have the Rays in the Fall Classic, right?

  9. pfoj

    1. Sorry if I am sounding condescending, I really do not mean to sound that way.
    2. Baseball Prospectus didn’t pick the Rays to make the World Series, but no one did, so that’s not a fair criticism. However, they did pick the Rays to win 90 games, which is probably as optimistic as any major prediction was.
    3. Obviously more errors are bad, but trying to compare two players with their error counts makes as much sense as comparing them entirely through triples or something. It is not a stat that tells you much about value.
    4. The Rays’ pitching got better because the defense got better, not the other way around. There was some real improvement in the pitching, but that didn’t cause the DEF gains. There has been study after study after study and they all show that pitchers have very little effect on it. It is almost entirely a defensive stat.
    5. You made up a situation that isn’t true. If last year was the only sample we had, than obviously Nady would be starting. But, we have much more than that. And over their careers Swisher has been a superior hitter. You are overrating the most recent season in your predictions, it really isn’t that much better for predicting that two years ago is.

  10. senatorbobdole

    Looking at just last season might also bring the following conclusions:

    Ryan Dempster is a better pitcher than Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Josh Beckett, Josh Lackey, and Felix Hernandez.

    Cliff Lee is just as good as Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, Sabathia, and Roy Halladay.

    Aarong Harang and Justin Verlander are both inferior pitchers to Wandy Rodriguez, Tim Wakefield, Dave Bush, Chan Ho Park, Carlos Villanueva, Braden Looper, Nick Blackburn, Brian Moehler, Greg Smith, Paul Byrd, Jason Marquis, and Edwin Jackson.

    Kevin Youkilis is about equal to Mark Teixeira at the plate, while Aubrey Huff is about equal to Miguel Cabrera at the plate.

    Lance Berkman is a speed demon.

    Francisco Rodriguez is the best closer in baseball.

    Dustin Pedroia is one of the most valuable hitters in baseball.

    Mark DeRosa has more homerun power than BJ Upton.

    Ryan Ludwick, Nate McClouth, and Raul Ibanez are at least as productive as Vladimir Guerrero.

    Xavier Nady is better than Nick Swisher.

    There are so many others as well. Could some of these things repeat again in 2009? Sure. There is a chance that Huff will equal Cabrera’s output again. There is a chance that Braden Looper will be better than Justin Verlander. There is a chance that Cliff Lee will be just as good as Johan Santana. There is a chance that Dempster will be better than Josh Beckett. There is a chance that Xavier Nady will be better than Nick Swisher.

    But it is more than likely that the vast majority of things listed above were one-time flukes. Anybody who thinks that Aubrey Huff is just as good a hitter as Miguel Cabrera is nuts. But if you just look at 2008, then it might be difficult to make a distinction between the performance level of the two hitters.

    That is why “recent” history has to include more than just the previous season. You need to look at the last 3 seasons. Then you will reverse every single conclusion made above. Sure there is a chance that Cliff Lee will be just as good as Johan Santana, but the past 3 years suggest that there is a much much greater chance that Johan Santana will be completely superior to Lee. Similar arguments can be made regarding Huff/Cabrera and Youkilis/Teixeira and Wakefield/Harang, etc..

    There is certainly a chance that Xavier Nady will be better than Nick Swisher. But the last 3 years suggests that there is a much greater chance that Nick Swisher will be better than Xavier Nady. And that’s why Swisher should be the starting Right Fielder.


    Please explain why a guy who has a three year average of .289/.343/.481 is worse than .246/.363/.454. Also, Chone (last season’s most accurate predictor) projects Nady at .273/.342/.456 and Swisher at .247/.360/.454. Marcel is almost identical. PECOTA inexplicably predicts Nady to have the worst OBP of his career, but they also weren’t so kind to Swisher. You average the three and these guys are almost dead even.
    I have no problem with anyone who wants to make the case for Swisher based on defense because that’s the direction that I would have gone, but this notion that Swisher is clearly a better offensive player has no statistical basis. You can nitpick the numbers and find a slight edge for both players depending on the category. If you choose to use lifetime numbers, then you also need to explain how Nady’s work as a part time player in San Diego is equally indicative as his numbers in his prime.

  12. letsgoyankees

    SenatorBobDole-You’re talking about people who have been clearly far superior players their entire careers. Like scatteredroots said, in the end both players are very similar (I’ve looked up the stats myself, they really are) and truth be told I really don’t think who wins CF will make a huge difference. However, for the sake of arguement, I’ll say that BECAUSE both players are similar you have to go by the previous year. And Nady’s was far superior. And pfoj-I can’t buy that the Rays defesne turned their pitching around so much. You’re telling me that if those pitchers moved to different teams with bad defense their numbers would perhaps not be quite as good but comparable?
    And I realize nobody picked the Rays to win the WS. Which is why I don’t like any of those baseball prediction type books. Anything can happen, so these books could be proven wrong by the time the first injury hits.
    And no worries about being condescending.

  13. letsgoyankees

    SenatorBobDole-And anyway, since when did K-Rod’s numbers make him the best closer in baseball. Record # of saves sure, but Mo’s ERA was lower, I’m pretty sure, and Brad Lidge was 40 for 40 in save opportunities. Not to mention K-Rod IS one of the best closers in baseball right now.

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