Yankee right-fielder Nick Swisher, he of the exuberant personality, powerful bat and patient approach at the plate, has carved out a niche as a fan favorite in the Bronx.
His playful demeanor and high-octane energy level has endeared him to fans who appreciate his unwavering commitment and the obvious joy he derives from playing the game.
Beyond his character and infectious personality, Swisher has produced impressively for the Yankees over his three years with the team.
Playing exactly 150 games in each of those three seasons, Swisher has hit .267 as a Yankee with an OPS of .854, and an OPS+ of 123. He has averaged 27 home runs and 85 RBI a season, proving to be a productive, versatile Yankee.
At almost 31, Swisher is in the midst of his prime, and figures to have at least least a few more years of peak production to offer. However, at this juncture, he finds himself without a guaranteed contract, with only a $10.25 million team option currently on the table for 2012.
Considering his consistent production in right field, the Yankees will very likely exercise his option, keeping him in the Bronx through at least next season. If they for some reason opted to not bring him back, the Yankees would owe him a $1 million contract buyout.
With few quality options looming on the free agent market, and no top outfield prospects within their system, the likelihood is that Swisher will be starting in right field for the Yankees in 2012 and even potentially for a few years beyond that.
Swisher's production in the Bronx cannot be denied, and the intangible qualities that he contributes beyond just his on-field play have been invaluable to the Yankees during his tenure with the team.
However, there is one facet of his game that might give the Yankees pause when potentially considering his long-term future with the team.
During his three year Yankee career, Swisher has been nearly invisible in postseason play. Of course, the obligatory warning about reading too much into small sample sizes applies here. His Yankee playoff career represents only 23 games and 94 plate appearances, both small blips in the greater picture when compared against the vast number of games and at-bats that regular Major Leaguers are involved in.
Despite the limited nature of his playoff experience with the team, you can bet that Brian Cashman and co. have noticed his struggles in the postseason, and will include those facts in their decision over whether to retain him beyond this year or next.
In those 94 plate appearances, Swwisher has managed to hit only .148, with an on-base percentage of only .258. Though he has slugged .486 during the regular season as a Yankee, his postseason mark stands at only .321, and his playoff OPS with New York is a meager .579. With only three home runs and four RBI, he has been relatively uninvolved in most of the Yankees' offensive production in the five playoff series he has played in.
Like I stated though, it's clearly a small sample size, and every player in the history of the game has had 23 games stretches where his production has evaporated, so the evidence is not nearly as damning as it may appear on the surface. We've seen plenty of players develop a reputation for postseason struggle, only to completely remake their image with a few big postseason hits.
The same scenario is entirely possible for Nick Swisher. With the 2011 MLB postseason just underway, he has a fantastic opportunity to resuscitate his thus far unimpressive playoff career with just a few weeks of hot hitting. Swisher is certainly capable of doing just that.
If he wants to remain in the Bronx beyond this year or next, which it seems obvious that he does, Swisher would do well for himself to reverse those playoff fortunes beginning today in Game 1 of the ALDS against Detroit.
Already a fan favorite for his enthusiasm and relentlessly upbeat attitude, a scorching October could create an enduring "Cult of Swisher" that would make him a legend in the Bronx even long after his playing days have passed.