Now that the 2013 season is complete, it’s time to take a look back at the team and how each player performed on the field. This morning we started things off with Carlos Santana. Now we will take a look at one of the Indians key offseason acquisitions: Nick Swisher.
2013 Projection: Nick Swisher came into the 2013 season with huge expectations. After spending the previous four seasons manning right field for the Yankees, the former Ohio State Buckeye decided it was time to come home to the great state of Ohio. After an intense recruitment by the Tribe’s brain trust, Swisher signed on the dotted line for four years and $56 million. This easily made him the biggest free agent signing for the Indians in quite some time and at the same time raised the stakes for the team headed into 2013.
For Swisher, moving from what was predominantly a supporting role in New York to a headliner in Cleveland meant expectations like he had never experienced before in his career. Swisher was expected to play right field and first base for the Indians while holding down the cleanup spot as the Tribe’s primary run producer. As such, Swisher’s 2013 projections were higher than what we had seen in the past. The new role combined with more opportunities to drive in runs out of the middle of the order meant more home runs, more RBI, and just more everything.
In addition to his on field contributions, it was expected that Swisher would have a positive impact within the clubhouse. Known for his loud, outgoing personality, Swisher was thought to be the guy that would keep things loose when times got rough while also improving a clubhouse chemistry that was thought to have degraded severely thanks to the leadership, or lack thereof, from former manager Manny Acta.
So what happened?: the 2013 season did not go as well as many had hoped for Nick Swisher. The stress of his new role combined with a mysterious shoulder injury that lingered for most of the season resulted in numbers that didn’t quite live up to the four years and $56 million contract he signed during the offseason. Then again, there is the possibility that Tribe fans placed too much stock in Swisher’s abilities as a middle of the order juggernaut. As you will see below, with the exception of RBI, Swisher’s final 2013 number closely resemble those of the projections above.
However, things got so bad for Swisher hitting out of the cleanup spot, that Terry Francona was forced to move him back into the two spot in the lineup. Swisher hit predominantly out of the two spot with the Yankees and Francona felt the move might help jump-start the bat of his struggling first baseman/outfielder. Surprisingly, the move worked and Swisher’s season turned around in the second half. He went from hitting .249/.355/.419 with 9 home runs as the cleanup hitter to .256/.337/.467 with 13 home runs out of the two-hole. By season’s end, Swisher led the team with 22 home runs
And while Swisher may have struggled at times on the field, his reputation as a leader in the clubhouse proved to be true. His ability to keep the team together during even the roughest of rough patches proved to be invaluable. In a day and age when statistical analysis is favored over things like chemistry and a good chin, it was refreshing to see a player make such a substantial impact on a team through the things he did off the field. Perhaps no other moment made this point as evident as Swisher’s organization of a Cleveland Indians Harlem Shake video during spring training as a team building exercise.
Where do we go from here?: Barring a complete and total change of direction by the Indians this offseason, Swisher will be back in the fold for 2014. As he enters year two of his four-year $56 million contract, we should have a better idea of what to expect from him. Just over 20 home runs and about 70 RBI should be all we expect of him. Swisher proved this past season that he is not the big bopper in the middle of the order that the team thought he could be. This is something that may need to be addressed this offseason unless the Indians feel comfortable with Santana in the cleanup spot or re-examining Swisher in that role.
One thing we should continue to expect out of Swisher is a youthful exuberance. His enthusiasm is infectious and rubs off on everyone around him. There is no reason to expect that to change any time soon. Look for him to continue fostering team chemistry and community pride in a number of different ways in 2014.
Lastly, Swisher is not expected to undergo surgery on the shoulder that caused him to miss time this season. Reports out of the Indians camp say that Swisher’s nagging shoulder will only require rest and that he should be ready to go when Spring Training rolls around. This can be seen as both a positive and a negative. It’s always good when a player doesn’t have to go through the surgery/rehab process, but there is no assurance that rest will be the cure for what is ailing Swisher. The Indians can ill afford to lose their leader for an extended portion of the 2014 season. Stay tuned.
Key Moment: During Spring Training, we all got to see first hand what the effect of Nick Swisher in the clubhouse can be. His organization of the Cleveland Indians Harlem Shake video helped bring the team together and helped pave the way for some of the great moments we witnessed during the 2013 season. You could tell this team was getting close and by season’s end they were even closer. (Refresh page is video fails to load properly)