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Nick Swisher is struggling once again at the plate

I hate to be the bearer of depressing tidings....

Nick Swisher
Nick Swisher
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Going into last night's game, Nick Swisher was hitting .196/.284/.326, which translates into a 74 OPS+. If you combine  what he's done on offense with his base running and defense, Swisher has been a below-replacement player this season (-0.5 bWAR), meaning that the Indians probably could have gotten more production from bringing up a random AAA veteran. Not to mention getting that production at a much lower cost.

Terry Francona has tried a bunch of things to get Swisher back on track, from moving him to DH for a couple weeks, to sitting him for most of the Arizona series, to moving him around in the order. A manager generally isn't going to break down the technical aspects of a player's swing. Rather, he tries to mitigate any mental problems a slumping player runs into. Perhaps a player has "fixed" his swing early into a slump, but for whatever reason, it just hasn't translated into results because of a lack of confidence, or some other non-physical reason.

"You're always trying to think about your team and the players," Francona said. "I think what you try to do, ultimately, is put your team in the best position to succeed and make sure the players understand and know that you have their interest [in mind], but the team has to always come first."

The arcane practice of slump removals is something that all managers have to be good at....or convince themselves that they're good at it. In reality there's not a lot Francona can do but to try to convince Swisher that he still believes in him. A manager who is always brutally honest with the players under his care won't remain a manager for long.

This is Nick Swisher's second straight season in which he's played through some nagging injuries. He's no longer an everyday right fielder, having transitioned to first base, his best defensive position. First base is a position that can tolerate a bad defender, but cannot tolerate a bad hitter. In just about every meaningful offensive measure, Nick Swisher has been the worst-hitting first baseman in baseball to this point. He's struck out in 26% of his plate appearances, but only has a .128 Isolated Power to show for it. He's still walking, which mitigated things somewhat, but there's only so much that can do.

It very probable that Swisher's physical problems have had a lot to do with his poor hitting. And that's what's concerning. Players can go through slumps because their swing is off, but they're physically capable of correcting things. The injuries, along with swisher's age, brings up the possibility that he may not be physically capable of hitting like he did earlier in his career, when he was a remarkably consistent and productive offensive player. One of Swisher's strengths as a player was that he was always in the lineup, but since he's arrived in Cleveland, that hasn't been the case. Yes, Nick hasn't been on the Disabled List an immense amount of time, but he's hardly been completely healthy, either. He dealt with a sore shoulder almost the entire season, and this season has been dealing with a knee injury.

The Indians are obliged to pay Nick Swisher $15M this season, $15M in 2015, and $15M in 2016. And, if Swisher accumulates 550 Plate Appearances in 2016 (and passes a physical exam), the Indians will pay him $14M in 2017. Swisher's contract was the largest the Indians have ever given out, and to this point it hasn't come close to being worth it.

There are 10+ seasons' worth of proof that Swisher will eventually become at least a decent hitter again. Last year he posted a 116 OPS+, even while dealing with the sore shoulder.  In his four seasons in New York, Swisher's low point was a .260/.374/.449 line. He has a career .252/.355/.456 line, which includes this season. I know relying on the power of large samples isn't exactly a comforting thing, but for now, it's all we have.