2010 Season Preview: Banking on another rebound candidate

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In 2008 the Yankees posted their worst offensive season in recent memory. The unit finished seventh in the AL in runs scored, after finishing in the top five, and usually in the top three, since their playoff ran began. Injuries played a large role in the decline. Hideki Matsui missed the entire second half, as did Jorge Posada. Even Alex Rodriguez spent three weeks on the DL, and many think that Derek Jeter played through a wrist injury. The team also saw diminished production from a couple of its younger players, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera. In order to succeed in 2009, the Yankees needed bounce back seasons from more than one of those players.

When Brian Cashman traded for Nick Swisher that November, he placed an even deeper reliance on the team returning to form. Not only did he need rebounds from his own players, but now needed one from an incoming player. He didn’t place a huge bet on Swisher — he cost the team only spare parts, players who wouldn’t have had a role on any future Yankees team. But at the time he was slated to start at first base, leaving the lineup with not only five players who needed to rebound, but also one, Xavier Nady, who almost certainly wouldn’t repeat his 2008 success. It was a pretty big gamble, though mitigated when the Yanks acquired Mark Teixeira later that winter.

Somehow, the plan worked out on all fronts. While Rodriguez missed the first month of the season, Posada missed a couple of weeks, and Matsui couldn’t play the field, the Yankees saw each of their rebound candidates take that step forward. This off-season Cashman cashed in a few of those chips, letting Hideki Matsui leave as a free agent and trading Melky Cabrera in the Javy Vazquez trade. Yet he apparently enjoys picking up players coming off down years, as his first major move this winter was to acquire Curtis Granderson from the Tigers. The case is a bit different than Swisher’s, mainly because the Yankees paid a lot more for Granderson, but the rebound necessity remains.

Granderson’s 2009 offensive season looks more like a follow-up to his 2006 campaign rather than his 2008. In 2006 he put his potential on display as a 25-year-old, hitting .260/.335/.438, good for a .333 wOBA while playing a mean center field. In 2009 he hit .249/.327/.453 while playing a just above average center field. He slightly improve his walk rate from 2006, to 10.1 percent from 9.7, and also increased his ISO from .178 to .204. If he had posted his 2009 line in 2007 we would have thought it completely normal. His defense regressed, but he made improvements in other areas. Even his batting average can be explained by a poor BABIP, .275, down from .333 in 2006.

Of course, 2009 did not come directly after 2006. Instead, Granderson posted an elite season in 2007, hitting .302/.361/.552, a .395 wOBA. He also continued to track down more fly balls than his fellow center fielders. His WAR that season, 7.3, was more than a win better than the next highest center fielder, Aaron Rowand at 6.1. He followed that with a quality 2008 campaign in which he hit .280/.365/.494, a .374 wOBA, though his defense dipped a bit. That dropped him in the WAR rankings, though his offensive component still ranked fifth among his peers. It was good enough, in other words, that his performance in 2009 came as a surprise.

The good news for the Yankees is that even if he repeats his 2009 he’ll still post a more valuable season than Melky Cabrera did. Of course, the Yankees are looking for a bit more than that, since Granderson, along with Nick Johnson, is charged with replacing two of the heavier bats from the 2009 Yankees. A return to his 2008 form seems a feasible expectation, though his 2007 appears to be an outlier in almost every sense. Still, a.374 wOBA, at .280/.365/.494, would essentially replace Damon’s 2009 production.

How do the projection systems see it?


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Unsurprisingly, this checks in right around Granderson’s career line of .272/.344/.484. It would represent a modest improvement over his 2009, but when the Yankees traded their No. 2 prospect for him in December they likely expected more. I’m confident Granderson can deliver, too. He clearly has the tools, and now he’s surrounded by much better hitters than in the Detroit lineup. He’ll also face a lot less pressure as he moves from the leadoff spot to the bottom of the order (though I think there are worse ideas than trying him in the five hole).

The gamble on Granderson is clear. Cash in two winning chips, Matsui and Cabrera, and put another one down on the table. Again, because of what theYankees surrendered its a bit bigger gamble than they placed last year, but I think still a winnable one. If it does pay off, the Yankees will reap the benefits not only in 2010, but also over the next few years of Granderson’s contract.

Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar/AP

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  • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

    granderson/winn/johnson will out homer and out WAR melky/damon/matsui this year.

    • mike c

      shouldn’t this be gardner/granderson/johnson?

      • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        no cause gardner was on the team last yr. im taking the guys who were signed to “replace” the guys who left to make a point to those who say OH WINN REPLACNG DAMON!?!?!?! etc.

        i honestly believe that winn/grandy/johnson will out war and out hr matsui/damon/melky

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

          In terms of direct replacement to direct replacement:

          Granderson replaced Matsui
          Johnson replaced Damon
          Gardner replaced Melky
          Winn replaced Gardner

          I’d say all four of those probable upgrades, break-evens at worst.

          • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

            right but i’m saying regardless of that the 3 guys that came in will all out do the 3 guys that left.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

              Oh, no doubt. Just providing helpful clarification.

              • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

                thankee kindly sir

            • mike c

              I have a hard time seeing Winn replacing Melky’s production if he’s the 4th OF

              • http://www.hyperfunkalicious.net/ Templeton “Brendog” Peck

                i’m not talking individually. combined. the three of granderson/winn/johnson will out hr and out war matsui/damon/melky. COMBINED. this isn’t head to head or anything.

                basically i am so confident that johnson/grandy will outperform damon/matsui that I am even willing to go so far as throw winn and melky in even though melky himself will obv outperform winn.

              • radnom

                If Heyward gets comes up this year I could see Melky/Winn getting similar playing time (I think Winn will get more at bats than many people realize)

          • Dalelama

            You can argue Johnson replaced Matsui, Granderson replaced Melky/Gardner, and Gardner/Winn replaced Damon…How it turns out I think will come down to health issues in my opinion.

        • Bo

          Granderson and Johnson. Sure.

          LF?

          Not a chance.

          • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

            and you prove my example. thank you mr i cant believe granderson and winn replaced damon. haha. wow.

            regardlessof your inane batshit insane inability to realize that is not how it works the trio of granderson/winn/johnson WILL outhomer and out war damon/matsui/melky.

            QUOTE ME (typos and all)

          • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

            im taking the guys who were signed to “replace” the guys who left to make a point to those who say OH WINN REPLACNG DAMON!?!?!?! etc.

            more predictable than the plots of law and order.

            • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

              Who is our Vincent D’Onofrio?

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

                Mondesi.

                (He’s plump.)

                • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  Am I the smartest guy in the room (L&O/CI)?

                  Check.

                  Do small children sometimes mistake me for Thor, God of Thunder?

                  Check.

                  Agreed. I seem to be our Vincent D’Onofrio.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

                  Were you a disgusting fatbody who was breifly born again hard, but ultimately ended up a pathetic self-loathing basketcase in a world of shit?

                  Check.

                • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  The only basketcase of the bunch who was able to act on his impulses and fight back against an overbearing tormentor…

                  Which, in real world terms, means watch out TSJC, because I might fling a chicken wing at you.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

                  Whatever you say, buddy.

                  (grabs mop and bucket and prepares to scrub Mondesi’s brains off the linoleum and tile)

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

            Hey, you know who is still available who could play LF for us?

            Derek Bell, that’s who.

            • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

              i bet you he is worse off than mondesi now in the whole waistline department

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

                Nah. Have you ever seen a fat pirate? An all fish and mangoes diet is quite slimming. And running from the taxman on the high seas is an excellent workout regimen.

                I bet he’s still in fighting shape.

                • http://www.hyperfunkalicious.net/ Templeton “Brendog” Peck

                  true. and a crack habit would suppress his appetite

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.....d_drug_use

                • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

                  It’s also good for scurvy and syphilis.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

    http://katron.org/projects/baseball/hit-location says that My Man 100 Grand would have had about 10 doubles, triples, or long fly-outs that would have been homers if he played his home games at YS3 rather than Comerica.

    Tommie: very aroused.

    • YankeesJunkie

      Curtis Granderson at YS3 could be very deadly for opposing pitchers. As long as he gets his OBP and SLG back up to his career averages he will be an above average hitter that will fit well in the back of the lineup.

    • JGS

      so he could hit 40 home runs even without significant improvement against lefties?

      wow

      • http://www.hyperfunkalicious.net/ Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        this is crazy. so, seriously, it can’t be possible, but following the line of reasoning here could he hit maybe 45-50 homeruns if he figures out lefties AND plays 81 games at YS3 and probably another what 9-12 at Fenway? Hypothetically?

        wow.

  • Bo

    It would help his stats if he could actually hit lefty’s this yr

    • JGS

      sure would. They’ll probably be pretty solid regardless though

    • Tom Zig

      If there are no clouds in the sky then the sky is clear.

  • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    His WAR that season, 7.3, was more than a win better than the next highest center fielder, Aaron Rowand at 6.1.

    I laughed.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Half of that WAR was pure grit.

      • JGS

        no way. WAR can’t possibly measure grit, otherwise David Eckstein would have much higher than 0.7 and 0.1 in the last two years

  • Adam

    I think granderson will abuse yankee stadium more so than damon did.

    • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

      granderson is gonna abuse YS3 like tiger woods abused the sanctity of marriage. go ahead. think about that…i’ll wait.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        Yankee Stadium is a perfect fit for Curtis Granderson in the way that skanky Perkins waitresses are a perfect fit for Tiger Woods.

        • http://www.hyperfunkalicious.net/ Templeton “Brendog” Peck

          you betcha

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

            /Palin’d

            • JGS

              /Marge Gunderson’d

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

                Well played.

              • http://www.hyperfunkalicious.net/ Templeton “Brendog” Peck

                nicely done. had to look that one up.

      • Adam

        still frame high five!…

        Going from comerica to yankee stadium will be ridonculous, he will hit 40 homers this year.

        • http://www.hyperfunkalicious.net/ Templeton “Brendog” Peck

          this lineup frightens me, and I’m rooting for them.

  • CS Yankee

    It’s all good, no matter how you look at it. My views are as follows;
    (DH) Johnson = Matsui
    (OF) Granderson >>> Damon
    (OF) Gardner/Winn/whoever >>> Melky/Ajax/whoever
    (P) Vasquez >>>>>>>>>> IPK, #3 rated prospect, Coke, etc
    (P) Joba/Hughes/etc battling out for #5 >>> Joba & Hughes as #4&5
    WS #28 > WS #27

    It should be a very exciting 2010!

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Agreed on all counts, but
      (P) Vasquez >>>>>>>>>> IPK, #3 rated prospect, Coke, etc
      seems to not quite follow the pattern of the other items listed, because Jazzy isn’t really “replacing” those guys from the 2009 staff. It’s more:

      (P) Vasquez >>>>>>>>>> Wang/Hughes the 2009 starter/Mitre/Gaudin

      • CS Yankee

        Thanks, I stand corrected…but am excited that “Jazzy” could be the biggest thing in improving the 2009 harvest.

        Plus, too much BS on losing Damon this offseason…he’s a whore, the only question was the coin (weeps no tears)

        • Tom Zig

          I can’t wait to see Damon chase down balls in the cavernous Comerica park

          • rbizzler

            And by ‘chase’ you mean shag after they split the left-center gap and clear the bases.

            It is going to get fuggly out there is Comerica this year.

  • Chip

    This is why Cashmoney is the man, he’s going for market inefficiencies. Guys who obviously have huge talent but had a terrible one-season slump that’s backed up by crazy low BABIP numbers yet are in or just entering their primes.

  • mryankee

    Projections are low for home run totals for Granderson. I thought maybe 35-40 with him playing Yankees Stadium.

    • Tom Zig

      It’s only a projection. If he projects to hit 30 HRs be ecstatic.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        Also, 60-65 XBH is never anything to sneeze at.

        • Tom Zig

          We’re going to convert mryankee into an optimist.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

            Or a Unitarian. Either way.

          • mryankee

            I am optimistic and I a defender of may of the Yankees, Zmac and Montero and Brackman. I think Granderson should hit 40 hrs anyway. I just do not like the negative projections about the Yankees organization I see.

            • mryankee

              I am a defender of many of the yankees

  • AlvaroEspinoza

    Granderson hit more HR than any other CF last year. I think we’re being a little to hard on a great, all-around player.