With 91 victories already under their belt, the Yankees hardly needed another boost in a cakewalk to their first AL East division title since 2006. But the only offense in baseball to crack the 800-run plateau this season has recently found another weapon: a red-hot Nick Swisher.
General manager Brian Cashman acquired the switch-hitting Swisher from the Chicago White Sox at a discount last November, after the 28-year-old outfielder batted just .219 in 2008, the lowest average of any big leaguer with at least 500 plate appearances. Many attributed Swisher’s struggles last season to bad luck — evidenced by a lowly .251 batting average on balls in play — and that theory is gaining credibility with his recent resurgence.
Taking over as the Bombers’ starting right fielder following the departure of Bobby Abreu and injury to Xavier Nady, Swisher has seen time in every lineup slot other than the nine hole this season, but he’s primarily served as the sixth or eighth-place hitter for manager Joe Girardi. He began the 2009 campaign on a month-long, .312/.430/.714 tear with seven homers in April, helping the Yankees compensate for the absence of Alex Rodriguez.
After a few months of inconsistent performance, Swisher receded into relative anonymity, even though he entered September with 22 dingers — one of a record seven Yankees with at least 20 long balls this season. Now, he seems to be heating up at the right time once again.
The former Ohio State Buckeye standout started September with a bang, smashing a two-run homer in the first game of the month. He has since authored three more, including a walk-off job against the Rays on Tuesday night. Having reached base in each of the last 11 games and collected hits in 10 of them, Swisher has compiled a gaudy .324/.465/.735 line this month, putting smiles on the faces of Yankees fans and fantasy owners alike.
According to FanGraphs, Swisher — second only to the Rangers’ Nelson Cruz in OPS among AL right fielders and above-average defensively — has provided the Yankees with $16.3 million in value, while costing them just $5.3 million this season.
As the Yankees march toward their record 19th 100-win season and first since 2004, it’s worth noting that the addition of Swisher has been nearly as vital to New York’s success as the free-agent signings of Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett.
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