Jun
16

The similarities of Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson

By

For some reason I’ve detected a bit of fan angst towards Curtis Granderson. It’s not widespread or particularly vicious, but I’m actually a bit stunned that it exists at all. It seems like at least once a game I mention to Mike, or he mentions to me, how awesome Granderson has been. Yet he still has detractors. They all seem to spout the same lines about him, too. He can’t hit lefties and is a platoon player. He has bad instincts in the outfield. He strikes out too much. It has seemed to me that these claims are quite overblown when contrasted with the things that Granderson does bring to the table.

The more I thought about it, the more my mind kept going to the parallels between Granderson and another outfield trade acquisition, Nick Swisher. They were acquired in different manners: Swisher a buy-low guy without a clear role, Granderson a costly acquisition who was immediately installed as the starting center fielder. After that, though, the storylines seem to line up pretty well. Considering the shifting fan perception towards Swisher, I think we’ll eventually see the same for Granderson. Unfortunately, we might be looking at a similar timeline, which is to say a little over a full season.

Photo credit: Gail Burton/AP

In 2007 it looked like Nick Swisher was just hitting his stride. He had posted his second straight solid season, in which he bumped up his OBP 10 points over the previous season. The A’s, however, stood little chance to contend in 2008 and decided to cash in their Swisher chip, sending him to the White Sox for Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Sweeney. Swisher responded to his new environment by posting what was by far the worst season of his career. It was enough for both manager Ozzie Guillen and general manager Ken Williams to sour on him. When they called around for trades that winter Brian Cashman pounced.

Swisher responded by posting the best year of his career. His 29 home runs didn’t match his 35 from 2006, but he compensated with a flurry of doubles, which resulted in the best power season of his career. Combined with a .371 OBP it made for a .375 wOBA, better than his previous high, .368. Still, fans didn’t love Swish. He made a few bonehead plays in the field and on the basepaths that stuck in everyone’s craw, and that led to negative evaluations despite wildly positive results. It took an incredibly hot start this season for him to disprove the naysayers. It makes sense. After all, a .300 batting average can win over plenty of old school critics.

In the same manner, the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson after a down year. It wasn’t quite his worst — his 2006 was a degree below his 2009. But it was certainly a letdown after his 2007 and 2008 seasons. Many fans looked at his 2009 season as representative of what he was as a player. He can’t hit lefties. He strikes out a ton. He hits for power, but that’s about it. An early season slump and a three-week DL stint didn’t help that impression.

Photo credit: Rob Carr/AP

Yet, as I mentioned in last night’s recap, Granderson has been quite excellent since coming off the DL. His early season slump set him back heavily — he was hitting .225/.311/.375 when he pulled up lame rounding second on May 1 — but as we’ve seen every single year of baseball’s existence, anything can happen in 91 PA. In fact, it happened to Swisher in 2009. In 92 PA from May 1 to May 27 he hit .127/.297/.225, quite a bit worse than Granderson’s initial cold streak. And, as mentioned above, Swisher recovered and ended with a career year.

Come to think of it, other than the platoon split the complaints about Granderson also pretty much mirror the complaints about Swisher. Both have a reputation for striking out, and while most objective measures both played good defense they had a reputation, at least in the eyes of Yankees fans, for playing sloppily in the field. All of this ignores the positives they bring to the game. I have had no problem with the defense from either, bonehead plays aside, and while strikeouts might be emotionally distressing and aesthetically ugly, they aren’t really that worse than other forms of outs. They’re just things that people tend to complain about.

Yet on the positive side, both possess power, and both are adept at getting on base. If a player can do both of those, he’ll have a spot on any team. And, as Swisher has shown, prime-aged hitters can indeed learn new tricks. Granderson has been just fine for the Yanks. If he transitions like Swisher he could get even better as the summer rolls along. And that’s not even getting into what next year could mean for him.

Categories : Players

107 Comments»

  1. bexarama says:

    There are so many fans that claim Swisher and Granderson are fourth outfielders. I’m just completely stunned at that.

  2. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    Maybe Granderson should go back to being a switch hitter.

    I had to do it.

  3. Rose says:

    They were acquired in different manners: Swisher a buy-low guy without a clear role, Granderson a costly acquisition who was immediately installed as the starting center fielder.

    That’ll do it right there. Not saying I agree with it…but it’s hard for players to live up to the pedestal they are put on sometimes. When they sneak through the back door and perform the same way…it’s looked at entirely different.

    Not to mention, Nick Swisher came in and not only performed…but immediately helped the Yankees win a Championship. Meanwhile, Granderson came in and got injured and sidelined for quite a while and perhaps people forgot about him…or are still waiting for him to do something.

    I think he’s a great player…but it’s obvious that Nick Swisher has had a few more fortunate circumstances surrounding his play thus far (or unfortunate circumstances – however you want to look at his previous horrible season in Chicago).

  4. Curtis Granderson: the second most interesting man in the world.

  5. Rose says:

    I don’t know about you…but Pee Wee is making his return – performing on Broadway in October. That’s where we’ll see Curtis Granderson show his stuff.

  6. Sweet Dick Willie says:

    Also, since Granderson essentially replaced Damon, he has all that misguided Damon love to overcome, which is no small feat.

  7. Jake H says:

    The Swish deal was amazing by Cash. While they had to give up a pretty good prospect in Jackson I think Granderson will be better in the short term. Long haul it’s up in the air. I don’t remember anyone complaining about Granderson when he hit that HR in Boston during the first series of the season.

  8. A.D. says:

    For some reason I’ve detected a bit of fan angst towards Curtis Granderson. It’s not widespread or particularly vicious, but I’m actually a bit stunned that it exists at all.

    I feel like it has some to do what you said, and more so the success of IPK, AJAX, and Coke…namely AJAX

  9. For shame, Joseph. You broke the first rule of sports journalism: never make cross-racial comparisons.

    Granderson’s not like Nick Swisher, he’s like, um… Marquis Grissom. Or possibly Hal McRae.

  10. CountryClub says:

    And Granderson has been good in the field. I guess I shouldnt say that, because I dont know what the metrics say. But he appears to be doing well with the naked eye. We had heard a lot about him misjudging balls last yr.

  11. Jamal G. says:

    If you include Baseball Prospectus‘ EqBRR data into fWAR (don’t forget to subtract EqSBR if you want to factor in EqBRR into fWAR), Curtis Granderson was right there with Grady Sizemore as the top CF in MLB from 2007 to 2009. In this period, Sizemore accumulated 15.8 fWAR and Granderson amassed a flat 15 of his own. Considering that 8 fRAR over a three-year period (0.267 fWAR per season) amounts to a virtual wash, the two AL Central center fielders were “1A” and “1B” for the crown.

    The sad thing about the defense is that his reputation was hurt because of a couple misplays down the stretch in 2009. He let a couple balls go over his head in Comerica and during the one-game playoff at the Metrodome, and that led people to question his defense.

  12. Captain Jack says:

    For some reason I’ve detected a bit of fan angst towards Curtis Granderson. It’s not widespread or particularly vicious, but I’m actually a bit stunned that it exists at all.

    Ian Kennedy has a 3.5something ERA, Boone Logan is worse than Phil Coke, and Austin Jackson had a good month. The Swisher trade set a new standard for trades that Brian Cashman makes. Whereas Granderson’s had some tough luck on hard hit balls and got injured, and the Yankees were in second place for a while. It’s the way shit goes, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez were huge parts in winning a championship so you can’t get mad at them…so Granderson’s the new goat now that Vazquez has had a few good starts.

  13. Mike HC says:

    Nice article. I definitely think you are on to something here.

    Both players are very good, but not great, jump off the screen type of players. So it can take a little while, seeing a player everyday, before you really appreciate that they bring to the table.

    The WS didn’t hurt Swisher’s cause either.

    • bexarama says:

      But but but remember the time he made an out in the playoffs?????

    • Steve H says:

      The WS didn’t hurt Swisher’s cause either.

      That’s the funny thing. Because Swisher shows up and they win a WS he’s viewed in a better light, but Swisher was absolutely terrible in the playoffs. .128/.255/.234 and was so bad he was benched for Game 2 in lieu of Jerry Hairston.

      But hey, he’s a gritty winner.

      • Mike HC says:

        For me, emotions is part of being a fan. Not everything comes down to cold hard numbers. So, yea, for many fans, including myself, the sole act of winning a WS as a member of the team can make you a fan favorite for life.

        • Steve H says:

          I agree that Swisher is remembered better for being part of a World Series team, but doesn’t necessarily make him better than someone else who hasn’t. (Though because he’s Nick Swisher, he is better than everyone else)

          The extreme case of this being Scott Brosius vs. A-Rod before last year. We all have fond memories of Brosius because he was part of a few title winning teams, but even if A-Rod played here for 15 years and never won a title, he’s still that much better than Scotty Bro.

          • Mike HC says:

            I didn’t mention anything about one person being better than another. Just talking about fan reaction to a player pre WS ring vs fan reaction post WS ring, while making no other changes.

            • Steve H says:

              Sorry, I wasn’t trying to say that’s what you were saying, but I can see how it looks like that. I totally agree that once you have a ring, fans will like you better. (I don’t know about Javy, can’t wait to find out).

              • Mike HC says:

                hahah. That will be interesting. That has been one of the more interesting soap operaish side plots of the season. The fans reaction to Javy on an inning to inning basis.

          • Mike HC says:

            And I am more of a fan of Scott Brosius than A-Rod for many different reasons. I understand that A-Rod is the far better player, but that does not change the fact I have more fond memories of Brosius than A-Rod for whatever reasons.

            • Templeton "Brendog" Peck says:

              arods 15 inning walkoff homer against the red sox, his hoer off papelbon, his hr in hsi first at bat of the seasno last year already give me mroe fond memories of arod than brosius.

              and this is coming from someone who loved scotty bro and hated arod. arod’s steroid admission really made me rethink my position.

              • Mike HC says:

                fair enough. I like A-Rod too and have many fond memories. I remember one year, early in the year, he hit a laughable amount of game winning or tying homers for like two straight months. I have never seen anything like that, and doubt I ever will.

                Maybe it just has to do with my progression as a fan. That 1996-2003 lets say dynasty was during my sports fan prime that set the mold for me. The members of that team will always be my favorites, even Leyritz.

            • And I am more of a fan of Scott Brosius than A-Rod for many different reasons.

              … There’s lots of different ways I can respond to this, but all I’m going to say is:

              YOU’RE MY BOY, SCOTTY BRO!!!!!!!!

              • Mike HC says:

                I don’t know what that means.

                And just to avoid any possible confusion with you, it is not because he is white. I like Straw, Sojo, Bernie, Posada, Justice and many others from that team more than A-Rod too.

                • It’s just my silly little way of poking fun at the excessive Scott Brosius love. I like the guy too for the same reason you do (He’s a Yankee who was part of great teams and had big moments).

                  Some people take it overboard, though, doing exactly what you say you don’t do: think he was better than ARod for stupid “intangibles” reasons.

  14. Kevin says:

    All I have to say:

    Austin Jackson: .308 BA, 4.5 UZR

    Ian Kennedy: 88.1 IP, 3.57 ERA, 1.200 WHIP

    Phil Coke: 31 G, 3.18 ERA

  15. nathan says:

    I dont think the Yanks gave up too much quality in the Granderson trade. I did feel though IPK had no chance to pitch for us, he was wasted in this trade as a lesser prospect than IPK may have gotten us Granderson.

    Now, the Javy trade — still cant get over Vizcaino being thrown in that one.

  16. Poopy Pants says:

    Maybe b/c Grandy is being outperformed by Gardner and Cervelli so far?

  17. Dan says:

    And where would Kennedy have thrown those innings here? Where would AJax and his rapidly descending .308/.352/.412 play?

    AJax and Coke are 1.7 WAR combined, Granderson, despite missing 3 weeks is already at 1.6, which is more than IPK has in his entire MLB career.

    • Mike HC says:

      very true as well. The Yanks had two good players who didn’t really have a spot on this team, and could thrive elsewhere. He traded those assets for our starting centerfielder for the foreseeable future with power and speed. All teams involved helped their team.

      • bexarama says:

        Yep. Again, I don’t understand the mentality that the trades have to be ABSOLUTE HIGHWAY ROBBERY to benefit the Yankees. There can be a situation where every team benefits and I think that’s a good thing.

        • Pete says:

          definitely – in fact, I think it’s the tougher trades that better show a GM’s abilities – obviously, the ability to swindle a deal like the Swisher trade is a good ability in a GM, but anybody would have chosen to make that deal, whether or not he/she managed to pull it off.

          It’s much more indicative of a GM’s ability to assess value when the two sides are closer and/or there’s no real winner/loser. Most trade’s are not of the “highway robbery” variety – they’re of the “hey let’s see if we can’t help one another out” variety. I think it took a fair amount of cognitive prescience on the part of Cashman to see Granderson’s value to the Yankees as being higher than Kennedy’s and AJax’s, and using that understanding to get a deal done.

        • Mike HC says:

          Yea. It also opens the door for future trading possibilities. Billy Beane ripped off other GM’s (and snickered behind their backs about it) so often, that GM’s got scared to even deal with him at all. Happy customers are repeat customers.

    • AJax and Coke are 1.7 WAR combined, Granderson, despite missing 3 weeks is already at 1.6, which is more than IPK has in his entire MLB career.

      TRUTHBOMB’D

  18. Pete says:

    To be universally loved by Yankees fans, you have to be either Derek Jeter, Whitey Ford, or Lou Gehrig. I’d be willing to bet that you could find a decent number of fans who had complaints about every single other yankee, ever.

  19. forensicnucchem says:

    Ok, it’s late, but I’ll admit I’m one who has some ‘angst’ toward Granderson still. For me, it has nothing to do with what was traded for him (at least 2 of the 3 were addition by subtraction in my mind) or who he replaced, it’s a combo of the two things you note (not the defense); the K’s and the split’s.

    It’s not so much the total number of K’s, but the manner in which he gets them, where he looks so completely overmatched many times (all players do sometimes, he just seems to have more stick out in my mind like that). And though his K% is near Swisher’s, Swish has the much higher walk rate which can negate some of the bad memories of the K’s.

    But, the main thing for me is the split’s. Being almost a total zero against lefties is a huge black mark against him as an overall player and an impact player in my mind. Like we did with Howard in the WS, he can be compromised in almost every late game AB by the other manager bringing in a lefty. That has a huge effect on the team’s lineup construction and his usefulness in close games. It also obviously affects even more when the opposing starter is a lefty. It’s just extremely frustrating (and in the long haul damaging to a team) to have an ‘up-the-middle’ starter who really should be platooned in about a third of the AB’s over the course of a season. Sure, there will be times where he gets a big hit off a lefty, but as we’ve seen, there will be many more times where he looks almost like a little leaguer out there flailing against a lefty.

    Maybe in time the good will outweigh the bad in my eyes and memory (I will admit his terrible first month (outside of the first series of the year) amplified my thoughts and feelings) and the issues above won’t seem as bad. I just think it’s something that takes some getting used to.

    Sorry for the book…

    • Mike HC says:

      Every player has their weaknesses, but look what he can do to a guy like Halladay. As bad as he is against lefties, he more than makes up for it against righties. And the potential for him to improve against lefties, while staying the same against righties, provides an even larger potential for value.

      • forensicnucchem says:

        Of course every player has their weaknesses, but one that accounts for about 1/3 of their season is an enormous one.

        I also don’t think he ‘more than makes up for it’ against righties. He hits righties well, but it doesn’t erase his numbers against lefties.

        Also, it’s been 7 seasons. At some point the ‘potential’ to improve against lefties is a myth and he just is what he is.

  20. Brian in NH says:

    I loved Swisher since the moment he set foot on the mount last year.

  21. Tom says:

    there really should be no shock involved when seeing fans are growing frustrated by granderson. he doesnt make consistent enough contact, he is awful versus lefties, plays a solid CF and is fast. Fact is, granderson is a piece, not a centerpiece, similar to Melky who had already won a championship and similar to AJax who is 6 years younger. The trade was pointless, there was no glaring need in CF since we had just one the WS with CF’s who were younger and going to improve. Swisher brings more versatility to a lineup because he is a switch hitter and can play 1st base as well. People have got to stop bringing in made up statistics, like BABIP. And granderson did not replace matsui in the lineup, that would be Robbie Cano.

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