Swisher and batting average

During the offseason, as anyone who has been reading this blog knows, my favorite acquisition was Nick Swisher.

Well, I would  be remiss if I didn’t gloat a little, as my predictions regarding his success as a Yankee have been pretty much spot-on.  He gets on base, he hits for power, and he is a fun guy to cheer for.  What more could you ask for?

Well, I attended Saturday’s Yankee game (oh, and thanks to AJ Burnett for moving his season mark to 0-2 in games I attend) and couldn’t help but listen as the people behind me went through every player in the Yankee lineup and explained why they were either great or stunk.

Swisher?  Big disappointment apparently, because he’s only batting in the .250s.  Yeah I know, naive fans only understand batting average, but what I found troubling is these guys were otherwise pretty knowledgeable.  They knew the team well and clearly follow them closely.

So the question I came away asking: how long before the average fan who follows the team – essentially a fan who, if you ask them, knows how the Yankees did last night – understands how to actually value a baseball player?  It simply amazes me that, after all these years, most people can’t tell if a player is good or not with any sort of accuracy.  I’m sure the scoreboard itself doesn’t help – it only shows a batting average after each player’s name.  Shouldn’t the Yankees switch to showing on-base percentage, considering the way their team is constructed?

The same fans also decided that A-Rod is having a bad year because “he’s not being paid $30 million to hit .286.”  Of course, he’s being paid $30 million for his .411 OBP and his .520 slugging (though that is a little low for typical A-Rod standards).

That A-Rod and Swisher both, despite their unimpressive batting averages, are key cogs in the best offense in baseball, should be proof enough that there is more to evaluating a player than batting average.


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