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Swisher vs. Choo: Did the Tribe improve?

Swisher vs. Choo: Did the Tribe improve?
December 23, 2012
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The Indians added their biggest free agent addition since Roberto Alomar in Nick Swisher on Sunday afternoon. The majority of fans are happy to see the Indians take a player from the Yankees for once, and not the other way around. I can tell you that as a New York resident, the Yankee fans are not happy. Many think Swisher was their second best hitter.  There is a small group of fans who are amusingly mad that the Indians overpaid, and worry that the Indians will regret this deal. Yet this is a deal made for this year, so for now I am going to focus on how this affects the team now. 

The addition of Swisher should be viewed as the replacement for Choo, who was traded recently to add a pitcher with front line potential in top prospect, Trevor Bauer.  Choo is two years younger than Swisher, but the players have been just shy of the all-star level for most of their careers.  Now let's look at the numbers last year for these two players.










OPS+ vs. LH


Shin-Soo Choo











Nick Swisher











According to the stats, Swisher is the more valuable of the players, while Choo was the better hitter.  While it might be shocking to many, Swisher is actually the better defender, being worth a win and a half more defensively. While no one is going to confuse him as a great defender, nearly anyone is a massive upgrade over Choo. Swisher is an average defender, but still remains an upgrade. This in general has been a theme for this offseason, as the defense of the outfield has been greatly improved. I mentioned it on Twitter, but the defense upgrades alone for the defense are worth almost three wins next year.

The question with these two hitters is what do you value more: getting on base or power production.  Choo is an on-base percentage machine, and one of the best in baseball. Swisher can work a count and get on base, but is just not as good at making contact. Perhaps the key differential is that when he does make contact, the ball is much more likely to leave the park.  Swisher is a virtual lock for 20 homers a year, and he has crushed lefties, which has been such a problem for the Indians line up for years.

I guess how much you love Swisher and how happy you are with him as a replacement comes down directly to stats. Most, in the end, say that Choo is a better hitter,  but the game of baseball is about more than hitting, which is why Swisher will make this team better next year.  He is going to improve the defense and bring power to a lineup that was sorely missing it last year. The addition of the power is not going to cause more strike outs, as Choo actually struck out more last year.  At the end of the day, I think this is an upgrade for the Indians in RF, even though the Indians top hitter was in RF last year in Choo.

I personally am very happy with this addition. When you look at the advanced stats, ones that compile everything we see, the Indians got a hitter very similar to the one they just gave up. This is a team trying to fill a whole and did so with a very good major leaguer instead of a player that every other team declined to sign, which is what they did last year.  By trading Choo they got a pitcher with frontline potential, then did what fans would have thought was unthinkable: they then filled the void by reaching into free agency and signing a player away from the Yankees who had been part of the heart of that team for the last four years.  This is a move you expect a savvy front office of a big market team to make, not the Tribe.

At the end of the day, the biggest needs for this team going into the offseason when it came to everyday players were adding power and helping balance out a lineup that could not hit lefties. This signing shows a team trying to fill both of those roles, I will miss Choo and not doubt he is a very good player, but for what this team needs Swisher is the better player for them next season.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at

User Comments

December 24, 2012 - 12:31 PM EST
My excitement about Swisher over Choo is his success against lefthanders - a problem opponents of the Indians have exploited.

Against lefties, Swisher has batted .296 over them in the last three seasons with an OBP over .400.

He has more power batting lefthanded and more RBI but a lower BA, more strikeouts, and fewer walks.

Just the kind of balance the Indians need. Choo's speed and SB will be missed but hopefully Stubbs can offset that.
December 24, 2012 - 11:55 AM EST
I know Choo was not great right fielder but he does have one of best arms in baseball and was up for gold glove this year I believe. I like attitude Swisher will bring as hard-nosed player and winner with Yankees. He should be a vocal leader to Tribe's young guys. Swisher for Choo seems like wash offensively except for improved power number Swisher brings. Indians also improved because of Choo trade with promising young starter, proven outfielder (I'll take Stubbs over Duncan and others any day of the week). I'm just happy Tribe finally signed top flight free agent who was willing to come to Cleveland. i was also happy to see ownership finaaly pony up and pay top dollar for a badly needed free agent. Go Tribe. This signing gives me some optimism for the coming MLB season.
December 24, 2012 - 10:19 AM EST
While some may say the Indians overpaid for Swisher, I am just happy they landed a star this year. Swisher's bat will be a plus in our young lineup and his leadership in the clubhouse will be invaluable. He has hit .395 lifetime at Progressive Field and defends RF well. He can also fill in at 1B, if needed. I love the signing and I don't think the Tribe is done making deals yet!
Gregg Leeb
December 24, 2012 - 6:41 AM EST
No one mentions the positive impact Swisher will have on balancing the line up. With all the lefties in last years lineup Kipnis, Chisenhall, and Brantley faced lefty after lefty coming out of the bullpen.

For further long term improvement I think the Indians should be looking to trade ACab to St Louis for pitching
December 24, 2012 - 4:01 AM EST
Yeah, what joe werner said.
Of course I have no idea what a uzr/150 is... That is my ignorance
But "quasi-similar"??? Say it ain't so joe!
December 24, 2012 - 1:58 AM EST
Choo vs. Swisher is not the issue.
Swisher vs. an AA, minor leaguer, is the issue.
Choo was gone, soon, no matter what.
There was a gaping hole to fill.
The Indians filled it as well as they possibly could.
Great day for Indians' fans.
December 23, 2012 - 11:50 PM EST
I just look at the overall OF, and between Swisher, Brantley, Stubbs and (hopefully) Fedroff, we shouldn't be too bad.

Add in the potentially solid IF of Reynolds, Kipnis, Cabrera and Chisenhall, along with Santana at catcher, and we shouldn't be too bad on the field.

Seems like it should be an average team anyway, hopefully some pitching surprises make us a contender.

I'm hopeful though.
December 23, 2012 - 10:40 PM EST
I am proud of ShapAnt & crew.

In a tough and expensive completitive FA season they proved the naysayers wrong (Just being used to up the cost of landing elsewhere) landing a solid B-List player (one of the 1st names mentioned in the 'after Hamilton decides' derby) and arguabely IMPROVED the club after loosing a fan favorite who was indesputibly following his Dr Evil Agent to greener pastures - which turn outs to be a very furtive SW Ohio. (The Red will be prohibitive fav's to win the Series - at least in the top 5)

Wow. I love it.

It is possible - provided we can land at least a servicable 3rd or 4th starter (Marcum/Saunders) - & we get rebounds from Carrasco (where he was when his elbow blew) & Masterson (circa 2011) and Ubaldo cares enough to concentrate on finding it PAST THE FIRST TIME THROUGH A LINE-UP....

...who knows. Maybe just maybe 2013 could be a lot of fun.

This just might be the best off-season since Hart walked off with 1/3 of the Padres farm club.


If somehow this current haul was finished off with K. Lohse I believe we would have a genuine aim for the Tigers darkhorse.

It's my sincere hope that the F.Office and team at least rouses enough fan interest to get paid - hopefully with an extra 3k- 5k season ticket holders - and - at least 2.5 million come Sept.

They earned it.
December 23, 2012 - 10:29 PM EST
First of all, offensively is probably slightly in Swisher's faver and the fact that he's a switch hitter means that Francona has much more flexibility with the lineup and with making moves late in the game.

Secondly, for whatever reason, Choo's defense got worse this season. He was ranked in the bottom 5 of all RF'ers defensively. What was once a plus weapon, his arm, became a liability. Yes he still has the cannon, but his throws were all over the place.

Thirdly, if Choo has a good year this season, he's going to probably command pretty close to what Swisher got. And having Swisher for 4 years means we're set in RF.

And of course, last but not least, we were able to add a FOR prospect who is close to ML ready right now, a CF'er who is a plus defender and has decent power and is a serious base stealing threat. Yeah, his numbers weren't great last season, but he's far better than the mess we had in LF. And it also allows them to move Brantley to LF where he will be a very good defensive OF'er.

And of course, we have added 2 very good middle relievers which helps to solidify our bull pen.

December 23, 2012 - 10:11 PM EST
I think Choo and Swisher is pretty much even. Swisher has been better over the past 2 years, since Choo had the awful 2011, but I think a projection for 2013 would be pretty similar for both. Swisher + Bauer is more than Choo though.
December 23, 2012 - 8:27 PM EST
Dr. Dre,

If looked under the microscope of only 2013 than you make a point. But considering that Boras will shop Choo around for a deal similar to or higher than Swishers than you can compare the too strictly on numbers analysis. Add to that the fact that we were able to basically maintain the same salary slot Choo would have occupied had he for some reason chosen to stay AND add Bauer, Stubbs and the other and the total value of this deal becomes way more clearer.
December 23, 2012 - 7:48 PM EST
Say what you want, debate all the numbers all you want, and think what you want. But this whole deal is great. I think this deal makes the Indians competitive, and for now, that is a good thing. There are still assets that can be moved to bring in some pitching, and continue the improvement, and then, maybe make us competitive. A lot of things have to go right. Tony, as you know, I didn't think this signing would happen, but am glad it did. Front office needed some big moves to get the fans listening again, and they are headed in the right direction. It is a lot of money, but, hey, this is the Indians, and we will have to spend big to attract talent. Do you want to compete and contend ? I do !!! Been too long. And the farm system should start producing in the next year or two as well. While I want to temper my enthusiasm, I am excited. And all for a second round draft pick. I love it !!! GO TRIBE !!!! MERRRRRRRY CHRISTMAS !!!!!!
Dr. Dre
December 23, 2012 - 7:28 PM EST
Totally ignored the price of Choo and Swisher. Swisher is materially more expensive than Choo, even considering that the Indians are eating at least half of Choo's 2013 salary. Pretty big difference that needs to be addressed in any sort of analysis.
December 23, 2012 - 7:27 PM EST
By UZR Swisher has actually been above average for most of his career in RF, mostly due to having good range, meanwhile UZR really doesn't care that much for Choo's arm (his arm was highly rated back in 2010, but otherwise has been average or less) and those splits are important given how impotent the Indians were vs lefties over the past few years.

Also, I don't think that you can look at this from a Choo vs Swisher standpoint, by giving up Choo we got Stubbs, Bauer, Albers, and Shaw. So we (as fans) should be looking at this and think is Choo > Swisher, Stubbs, Bauer, Albers, and Shaw? The answer should be a resounding "no".
Joe Werner (
December 23, 2012 - 6:10 PM EST
Just a few notes, though I’m sure it comes across as trolling, which is not my intent:

Swisher’s strikeout rate – 21.3% in his career – is nearly identical to that of Choo’s (21.4%), both of which are only slightly above the league average (typically around 19%). So, I fail to understand how Swisher is “not good at making contact.”

And, again, both Choo and Swisher post quasi-similar OBPs (.381 and .361) and walk rates (11.4% and 13.3%) throughout their careers. The largest difference between the two is their batting average on balls in play, or BABIP. Choo’s is .353 vs. Swishers’s .292.

Swisher is much more likely to maintain his BABIP, which is almost league average, compared to that of Choo’s as they both continue to age.

Defensively, single year stats can be extremely misleading. It’s generally accepted to look at sample sizes of about three years. In doing so, we see Choo has totaled, according to UZR/150, -7.5 runs vs. Swisher’s 13.1. Or about two wins over the last three years. Or approximately .67 wins above replacement.

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