Let me preface this post by presenting one reason the Yankees get so much press: they have so many good players and have more high-profile decisions to make. When you're the biggest player on the free agent market, your team is involved in the discussion for any free agent. When you have a team full of superstars, your team is involved any time one of them is in the news. And when you have competition for an outfield spot between two players that many other teams would easily slide into their starting lineup, well, it's interesting. I get as sick of talking about the Yankees as anybody, but stating that the media has a Yankee bias is missing part of the point.
That being said, Joe Girardi -- and perhaps brian Cashman -- has a decision to make about the Yankees starting right fielder for 2009. Both options are solid, but let's take a look at what the data has to say about Xavier Nady vs. Nick Swisher.
Nady obviously had the better 2008 season, especially looking at the traditional stats, and 2008 is all we tend to remember. He hit .305 with 27 homeruns and 97 RBI compared to a .219 average for Swisher with 24 homeruns and only 64 RBI. Nady also holds the edge in the OBP/SLG department, .357/.510 vs .332/.410. Swisher was still nearly a league-average hitter, however, even with his awful average, at just two runs below average. Nady was quite good, at +23 runs.
Looking purely at 2008 data to projected 2009 performance is short-sighted, though. A good projection takes into account at least three years of past data, weighting recent performance more heavily. CHONE's a good system and sees 2008 going like this:
Swisher: .247/.360/.454, +13 runs per 150
Nady: .273/.327/.456, +3 runs per 150
2008 was the outlier for both players, which is a better talking point for Swisher (+21, +18, -2 wRAA from 2006 to 2008) than Nady (+2, +6, +23). CHONE gives Swisher a one win edge on offense, which is significant. Let's move on to...
Swisher's the only guy with a defensive reputation, and it's not a good one. Heck, just ask White Sox fans how they felt about his range in center field last year. But the good news is that right field is a lot easier to play than center field, and UZR actually doesn't think his 2008 performance was completely incompetent, pegging his play at -11 runs per 150 games, about the same rating he earned the year before with Oakland. Giving him the ten run bump for switching to a corner spot would make him an average right fielder. From his time spent in corner spots throughout his career, he rates as +8 runs there. What might be do for a projection? Something in the +5 run range seems ok, maybe a bit lower
As for Nady, he's spent the large majority of his time in the outfield in right field, posting a career -1 runs per 150 UZR. His 100 innings in left put him at +2 runs per 150 and his time in center field, well, has been awful. A projection? Average seems pretty obvious. Again, Swisher holds, an edge, but it's probably no more than half a win.
Let's see, Swisher projects to be ten runs better with the bat and half that in the field. That's approximately a win and a half the Yankees could gain in the standings by starting Swisher over Nady. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Of course, Nady seems to have the inside track on the job.