Nick Swisher was signed by the Indians not only to serve as the team’s emotional and veteran leader, but also to be the primary cleanup hitter for a newly refurbished Indians lineup. Unfortunately, while Swisher has been everything the Indians thought he would be and more inside the clubhouse, he has yet to really get things going at the plate. Is it just a slump or a sign of a much larger problem that threatens to submarine what was once looked like a promising season for the Indians?
One could point to the end of April when Swisher missed a few games worth of action due to a bum shoulder. However, it’s not exactly like Swisher was knocking the cover off of the ball prior to his shoulder issue. Prior to the injury, Swisher was hitting .265/.386/.410 and had only hit two homers and driven in nine runs. It also didn’t help that the Tribe had yet to explode offensively as a team. Despite that, the numbers were somewhat encouraging. Swisher was getting on base and it just felt like positive results would come in time.
Following Swisher’s return to the lineup, he has actually been worse in terms of his triple slash. Since May 4, he has batted only .223/.306/.415 (not including Wednesday’s 0 for 4 performance). He’s driven in 14 runs during this period and also hit five home runs, but that is not even close to the type of production the Indians thought they were getting when they made Swisher their primary target this past offseason.
Perhaps the biggest factor in Swisher’s struggles has been his impatience at the plate. For a veteran player, Swisher has been poor at drawing walks. Since May 4, he has walked only 15 times while striking out 37. For the season as a whole, Swisher is currently on pace to strikeout somewhere around 150 times. That is up slightly from his career average of 144 strikeouts per 162 games. Could this slight change account for why Swisher has yet to put together a solid stretch of hitting this season? Perhaps.
Most recently, Swisher slogged his was through an absolutely awful stretch at the plate that saw him go hitless in six straight games. This hitless streak spanned 26 plate appearances with three walks and seven strikeouts. It should come as no surprise that those six games were within the Tribe’s most recent eight game losing streak. Without Swisher producing out of the middle of the order, the Indians’ offense was a shell of what we had seen throughout much of May. Then again, it’s hard to pinpoint the Tribe’s recent offensive woes solely on Swisher. Nobody was hitting.
With that said, is it possible that Swisher is still feeling the lingering effects of his mystery shoulder injury? I say yes. After all, he only missed three games total while dealing with the sore shoulder. Was this really enough rest to stave off whatever potential issue may have been developing? It’s possible and the Indians would like us to believe that, but it just seems unlikely. Throw in the fact that Terry Francona has had Swisher in the Tribe’s regular lineup every single day since, except for a brief stint of paternity leave, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Swisher’s shoulder were still acting up.
Considering that the issue was with Swisher’s left shoulder, it would make perfect sense then that it is affecting his performance at the plate. Swisher bats from the left side of the plate the majority of the time. Without a solid foundation behind him with which to drive the ball he may be unintentionally looking to compensate with slight mechanical changes that he is unaware of. Even the slightest adjustment can cause enough change in the swing plane which would result in less solid contact and possibly even more swinging and missing. All of this may help explain why Swisher hasn’t homered since May 27 and has exactly only one extra base hit in his past 60 at bats.
As much as it hurts to admit (and I really don’t want to speculate), Swisher may be due for some rest here in the next couple of days or possibly even a trip to the disabled list to address any lingering shoulder issues. He’s clearly not right. Whether it is lingering shoulder soreness that has robbed him of his power and ability at the plate, or the stress of being a new parent, Swisher needs a break before he breaks down both physically and mentally. The Indians can ill afford to lose Swisher for a prolonged period of time so it is best that they address any issues now before they can get any worse.