Jul
21

Straightening out Curtis Granderson

By

Photo credit: Rob Carr/AP

Despite crushing a ball in his final at-bat, Curtis Granderson finished the night 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. That happens to the best of ‘em, but for Granderson it has become an all too common occurrence. In 19 of his 68 games played he has failed to reach base, and in 31 he has failed to pick up a base hit. This has left him with a lowly .309 wOBA.

Last month I noted the similarities between Granderson and Nick Swisher. Both came to the Yankees in trades and both had their sets of troubles with their new teams. Swisher, however, ended up with quite the year, probably the best of his career to that point. For Granderson, such a recovery doesn’t appear imminent. He’s hitting worse than ever right now.

Now that his batting line is down to .233/.302/.394, Granderson has started to remind me of yet another struggling Yankee from years past. In 2008 Robinson Cano got off to one of the worst starts of any Yankees starter in recent memory. Through 269 PA he was hitting .217/.260/.316, which is far worse than Granderson’s production through 266 PA this year. Cano, of course, didn’t miss almost all of May that year, but even so he was hitting .250/.286/.363 through team game 92.

There are plenty of differences between Cano and Granderson, most notably their strikeout rates. Even when Cano was going bad at the beginning of 2008 he struck out in just 7.8 percent of his PA through the team’s first 92 games. Granderson has struck out in 21.4 percent of his. Granderson, on the other hand, will actually take a base on balls. He has walked in 8.6 percent of his PA this year, while Cano’s walk rate was less than half that during his woeful period.

The one major similarity I’ve noticed between Granderson and Cano is how they stand at the plate. In the past Cano featured an open stance and kept his bat moving as he waited for the pitcher to deliver. We can see much of the same when Granderson is at the plate. In the past two years Cano has cut out much of that movement and has closed his stance to a degree. I wonder if such a transformation will be necessary in order for Granderson to again become a productive hitter.

There is some good news here. From Game 93 through the end of the 2008 season Cano hit .299/.330/.471. That’s not a stellar line by any means, but if Granderson could pull off something like that I’m sure that no one would complain. Of course, his AVG would probably be a bit lower and his OBP would probably be a bit higher, but even if Granderson hit, say, .280/.345/.471 from now through October, I’d say it was a season salvaged.

Even as he struggles, I have a hard time not liking Granderson. I always liked him as a Tiger, and was hopeful that he’s put his ugly 2009 behind him after becoming a Yankee. As I said in a previous article, I’ve given up on that hope. Even if he does hit that hypothetical .280/.345/.471 the rest of the way he’d finish the season at .258/.321/.433, hardly impressive and still worse than his 2009 season. Hopefully, like Cano, he can recover for next year. But for now it looks like the Yanks will have to live with his quality defense, bloops in front of him notwithstanding, and sub-par bat.

Categories : Offense

95 Comments»

  1. Ross in Jersey says:

    BUT TEH KENNEDY AND TEH COKE AND TEH AJAX

    If anything, I don’t miss the guys that we gave up. I’ll defend Granderson and the trade that brought him here until I die, but damn is he making it hard lately. It would be nice if the guy put together a 4/4 day so I can stop pulling my hair out reading anti-Grandy threads on certain forums…

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Meh, one 4-for-4 won’t change that.

      • Ross in Jersey says:

        Well I agree with Joe, the season is a lost cause from the perspective of hoping he puts up a decent triple slash. All we can hope for is that he gets hot at some point. You’re probably right though, one good day isn’t going to silence the haters longing for Ajax and his still-inflated BABIP.

        • Mike Axisa says:

          His BABIP is still at .421. Among players with at least 300 PA, that’s the highest BABIP by 25 (!!!) points.

          • Bret says:

            As I’ve said before there are other things to this besides who is the better player in 2010 which is clearly Ajax, high BABIP, luck, sign of the apocalypse or however else you want to spin it.

            1. Ajax is under team control for 6 years.
            2. Ajax makes 22 million less approximate over the next 3 years compared to Granderson.
            3. Ajax is entering his prime, Granderson is leaving it.
            4. The Yankees clogged up center field for 3 years leaving them out of the C Crawford derby (both because of lack of position and expense).
            5. Phil Coke – you guys love to rip him but with Marte gone the Yankees have no reliable lefty out of the pen.

            Again, I think the Yankees payroll and ultimate results due to that payroll cause people to overlook Cashman’s many missteps and transgressions. This trade is one of the most egregious.

            • 1.) No argument there. You’re right.
              2.) Sure. You’re leaving out Coke and IPK, however; their salaries also factor in, as well as the salary benefit of not resigning Matsui (which was enabled by adding Granderson’s ML-ready bat). But whatevs, small potatoes. You’re correct that swapping AJax/IPK/Coke for Granderson is an increase in salary, but it’s not as big of an increase as you think it is.
              3.) Curtis Granderson is 29 years old. He won’t be “leaving his prime” until his contract is over. Gross mischaracterisation.
              4.) Carl Crawford is a leftfielder, not a centerfielder. If we want him, having Granderson (a centerfielder) under contract isn’t going to stop us from adding him. Unrelated.
              5.) Phil Coke is not a reliable lefty. His ERA is a full two runs lower than his xFIP, thanks to a lucky strand rate and HR/FB. He’s like AJax, he’s playing way over his head and it’s foolish to assume he’d have a sub 3.00 ERA if he was still here in pinstripes. Nobody cares about not having him around, he’s a non-special fringy LOOGY who we’d be trying to upgrade on anyway.

              • Bret says:

                2. If Matsui left because of Granderson is Nick Johnson getting paid by someone other than the Yankees while I was sleeping? Those two moves have nothing to do with each other and both were horrible decisions by Cashman. I believe Coke and IK make the major league minimum, I was estimating arbs – it may be a little lower but not much.

                3. Most baseball primes are 27-28, then a gradual decrease.

                4. But Gardner is a center fielder.

                5. I’m not saying he is Sandy Koufax but a 4.5 ERA in a hitter’s park last year was extremely valuable, especially his durability last year. 72 games. I think the Yanks would much prefer him to Boone Logan at the moment.

                • Matsui left because of Granderson. DAMON left because of Johnson. Matsui and Granderson are directly related.

                  And Gardner is a centerfielder or a leftfielder or a bench player, depending on however we want to use him.. Frankly, though, if acquiring Curtis Granderson means we’re out of the Carl Crawford sweepstakes, that’s probably a good thing. Crawford may be outproducing Granderson at the moment, but he’s also going to make like double or triple (or even quadruple) what Granderson’s going to make in salary.

                  I’d rather have Granderson’s team-friendly contract and significant bounceback potential than sign Carl Crawford (who’s exactly as old as Granderson, btw) to a 5 year deal of upwards of 16M per. For a guy so concerned with age-related decline and leaving a player’s peak phase, the idea that you’d rather sign Crawford to a fat free agent deal than have Granderson locked into reasonable salaries is a bit odd.

            • nick says:

              crawford played left not center besides they could always slide swisher into the dh if they sigh him back and move gardner to right

    • bexarama says:

      I can stop pulling my hair out reading anti-Grandy threads on certain forums…

      You couldn’t possibly be talking about the downright frightening Grandy thread on NYYFans, would you?

    • JD in NYC says:

      Sorry, Granderson will not be straightened out by any hitting coach. He strikes out at a ridiculous pace; about equal to his hit total. He would be tolerable offensively if he and Nick Johnson were not the centerpieces of a horrible offseason performance by Cashman. As for blocking getting someone like Carl Crawford, Granderson can–and should be moved.

  2. Mike Axisa says:

    Dooooooooooooooomed.

  3. bonestock94 says:

    Kevin Long to the rescue

  4. Tom Zig says:

    Sounds like someone is going to have a winter long date at the The Kevin Long School for Kids Who Can’t Hit Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too

  5. Evan in NYC says:

    What’s even more disappointing is his power numbers are not there. .392 slugging, 88 OPS+. Both career lows by a good amount. It’s just been disappointing to watch him play after the high expectations we all had.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Don’t look at SLG, look at ISO (SLG-AVG). It takes the singles out. That said, his .158 ISO this year is down about 50 points from the past few years, but is ISO at home is lower than his ISO on the road. Maybe he’s got a case of Nick Swisher syndrome from last year.

      • Evan in NYC says:

        Hopefully this is a transition year for him. I would love to see him pick up the pace as would everyone. I just don’t see anything turning around like we did with Tex this year. You could tell that he was putting it together in late May. I don’t feel that confidence in Granderson at this point.

  6. Reggie C. says:

    I’m glad you stated your disappointment Mike. Granderson has been flat-out outplayed by Ajax. Its fair to cede this 1st round to Ajax & the Tigers hitting coach, but really Grandy has no where to go but up.

    • Ross in Jersey says:

      Hitting coaches can teach a .421 BABIP?

      • Reggie C. says:

        I think keeping Ajax consistent in his approach can be attributed to Leyland and the hitting coach. Sure Ajax cant control the success rate of balls he puts in play, but whatever plate adjustments Ajax has made it hasnt caused the babip to drop off too much.

        • Ross in Jersey says:

          I’m sorry, you can’t make “plate adjustments” to keep your BABIP high. It’s almost entirely luck based. Austin’s BABIP is .421, you realize that’s only 2 points lower than the highest BABIP ever recorded in a full season? Unless you think he’s the next 1923 Babe Ruth, you can forget the whole “consistent approach” stuff. He’s going to continue falling back to Earth.

          • Chris says:

            I’m sorry, you can’t make “plate adjustments” to keep your BABIP high. It’s almost entirely luck based.

            That’s incorrect. From a pitcher’s standpoint, BABIP is largely determined by luck. Hitters, on the other hand, have significant control on their BABIP. Changing your approach can lead to more line drives, better control of where the ball is hit, how hard the ball is hit, etc. All of those could feed into better BABIP.

            • Correct, with a caveat.

              In the abstract, I’d expect Austin Jackson to have a true talent level BABIP that’s slightly higher than league average, just like Brett Gardner, because they’re both fast enough to pick up some cheap infield singles with their speed; some batted ball types that would be outs for Nick Swisher or Johnny Damon will be hits for AJax or Gardner.

              The problem isn’t that AJax’s BABIP is higher than league average, it’s that it’s both significantly higher than league average (i.e., more than one standard deviation) as well as significantly higher than his own personal professional baseline.

              AJax’s minor league highwater mark was the .391 BABIP he posted in Hi-A in 2007. He also had a .384 BABIP last year in Scranton. Other than those two years, his BABIPs have generally been in the .330-.345 range (which is, as I said, slightly but not unfathomably higher than league average).

              Austin Jackson is hitting about 120 points above what’s generally considered the major league average BABIP. No matter how talented of a hitter you are, that’s just unsustainable. Shit, Albert Pujols is the best hitter on the planet, and he’s never EVER had a full-season BABIP higher than .350. If Albert Pujols ever had a BABIP of .421 in a given year, we’d cut his butt off to search the tissue for steroids.

              Some of that 120 points of extra AJax BABIP (probably 10-15%) is his own true talent level, but the overwhelming majority of it is most assuredly just dumb luck.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      I didn’t write the post. Why does everyone do this?

    • Tom Zig says:

      They are about the same on defense, but AJax has been better with the bat. Only problem with AJax is that his ISO is 50 points below Curtis’s and Curtis has been the suck this year.

    • What’s funny is that everyone in Detroit hates their hitting coach.

    • nick says:

      there still more to the season he could get hot and have agreat end of the season

  7. Tom Zig says:

    Curtis is below average on every pitch except the change-up this season. For some reason he is 5.2 runs above average vs the change this year while his previous career high was 2.8.

    Most telling is his value vs fastballs.

    2006: 14.3
    2007: 31.7
    2008: 14.9
    2009: -1.3
    2010: -1.7

    He also has had a pretty big drop off from his career numbers vs cutter:

    2006: 3.8
    2007: 3.4
    2008: 1.8
    2009: 5.8
    2010: -1.6

    I don’t know what to make of his numbers vs the slider. 2 years slightly below average, 2 years very below average, 2 years hovering around average and now this year he is -4.4.

    What to make of this? I don’t know, I just found it strange that he is all of a sudden below average on every pitch except the changeup which he somehow managed to double his value (right terminology?) against it.

  8. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    I would be a lot easier rooting for the guy if he wasn’t such an egotistical doucheba…..wait, what?

  9. Evan in NYC says:

    He seems like a perfect candidate for the Swisher-Movement. Long worked with Swish all winter and he is much more “quiet” at the plate this year and the results show. It seems that Granderson has a ton of movement with his hands and legs before he swings. Maybe Long can work with him on becoming more balanced at the plate.

    • Kevin Long Plan To Fix Curtis Granderson Step 1:

      Give up switch hitting

      • gc says:

        Coach Buttermaker: Ahmad, even Hank Aaron peels the old eyelids before he takes a swing.

        Ahmad: Maybe I should try left-handed.

        Buttermaker: No. Not just yet.

      • CS Yankee says:

        Before the “Kevin Long’s 10 steps to become a feared hitter” (again) occurs, I wonder if his eyes are off…his K-rate is way up and he hasn’t hit with the sweet spot when he connects.

    • Ross in Jersey says:

      The only problem I have with the Swisher-Long example is that people act like he made Swisher “better”. It’s more like, he helped him back where he was in 2006 and 2007. In fact if you look at his 2009 line, it matches up almost perfectly with his 2006 season. Not that I wouldn’t mind Granderson having another 2007 season, but if we expect Long to “fix” his issues at the plate I’m not sure that’s going to happen if they’ve been there all along.

      • ZZ says:

        People are crediting Long with Swisher’s success mostly from this year.

        He started to change his stance towards the end of the playoffs last year and they worked on it during the offseason.

        There is a drastic difference between Swisher V.2010 and Swisher any other year.

      • forensicnucchem says:

        My problem with the Swisher-Long example is that Swisher wasn’t a near black hole against one type of pitcher like Granderson is against lefties. There’s only so much you can change a batter at this point in their career.

  10. Klemy says:

    I think the main problem with Granderson, right now, is that…wait, I can’t think while I’m staring at Montero Watch.

  11. theyankeewarrior says:

    It would be nice if C-Grand made up for his horrendous regular season performance in October.

    Like we’ve said about Jeter, Tex, and even Alex, as long as they are winning, they have time to figure themselves out.

    I just don’t understand why he can’t even be a league average player right now.

  12. Jorge says:

    It’d be nice if we somewhat stepped off the ledge with Granderson and allowed a player to have a crappy season without writing them off completely.

    This is about the fifth time I’ve used “step off the ledge” in a sentence today, not that you all needed to know that.

  13. It’s frustrating to see Granderson struggle mightily at the plate – especially given, A-Jax’s early success. What comforts me (to an extent), is that A-Jax is performing above expectation. There is a very real chance that pitchers will figure him out and by next season he degresses into a player very similar to that of Granderson.

    What bothers me the most is that Granderson’s defense hasn’t been all that spectacular. Last night he took a very strange route to a routine fly ball. If he is going to suck offensively, he needs to at least be a stabalizing force defensively. The kicker is we have Gardiner to the left of him who would have made that catch.

    Okay…done venting.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      He has been very good on defense, actually. Yeah, the ball dropped in front of him last night (it was in his glove until the ground caused the fumble), but it’s better that something going over his head for a double or triple.

      Comparing him to Gardner isn’t fair. Gardner’s one of the best defensive outfielders on the planet, he makes everyone look bad. Compared to the league average, Granderson is definitely a very good defender.

    • Thomas says:

      Granderson’s UZR is 4.9 (17.0 UZR/150). He has been really good outside of that bad route yesterday, which he still almost got since he makes up so much ground. His fielding is the only thing that has made him a valuable player.

  14. Granderson, Vazquez, Burnett, Joba, Park, Gaudin, Moseley, and Cervelli to the Astros for Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Matt Lindstrom, and Carlos Lee.

    Then promote Montero and David Phelps, because they’re ready.

    (Did I leave anything out? I tried to include all the Yankees we hate right now. Perhaps I shoulda made it a three-way where we get back Oswalt and Corey Hart from the Brewers, right? I’ll keep working on it.)

  15. Cam says:

    Been thinking about this, what are the chances that the Yanks try and trade Granderson this offseason and sign Crawford to replace? Considering how well Gardener has performed, I think it’s put much less importance on the Yanks signing someone like Crawford. But if they don’t think they can straighten out Granderson, trade him and put Gardener in center and Crawford in left? I like Grandy, but just a thought.

  16. Dela G says:

    i think he’ll turn it around at some point, because his BABIP is so ridiculously high

    However, he has kind of been a disappointment in my opinion this season. I would still make the ajax trade, but i expected a lot more from C-Grand this season average-wise, regardless of the injury

  17. Rose says:

    I never really found Granderson to be that much of a problem. Perhaps it’s because he’s surrounded by other guys doing their job. Perhaps it’s because he’s surrounded by other guys who aren’t or haven’t, that I felt were more important to talk about. Perhaps it’s because the Yankees have the best record in baseball regardless. And perhaps it’s because I never really held Granderson on an unrealstic pedestal when he first arrived.

    Am I disappointed in his production? Sure. But am I impressed with Swishers? Absolutely. The pendulum is powerful and sometimes things just even out and you take it for what it is.

  18. Chris0313 says:

    Granderson takes terrible routes to baseballs and he misreads a lot of them. His speed helps him a ton though.

    I guess UZR doesn’t lie, but watching him on TV is tough sometimes. He makes great plays but he makes the easy ones look difficult too. I think he should be in LF and Gardy should be in CF (Gardy takes terrible routes and makes terrible reads too, but he’s a bit faster and recovers better).

    • Out of genuine curiosity, what percentage of major league outfielders take “good” routes to the baseball, in your opinion? Like, 10%? Less?

      Seems like pretty much every single outfielder in the bigs gets taken to task for taking bad routes to the baseball. Perhaps it’s more commonplace than we claim, and thus, not really a valid gripe. Seems like a bit of confirmation bias masquerading as eyewitness testimony.

      Just my two cents.

      • Tom Zig says:

        is there like a graphical representation/spray chart of zones showing how many runs below or above avg curtis is in each zone? like he seems to be quite good at getting to flyballs that are hit a mile but maybe he isn’t good at getting to things in front of him

  19. nathan says:

    When the trade went down my only complaint was we were giving up too much, I agree that Ajax’s ceiling is Grandy if that. Coke is not get but a lefty that did help us. My issue was throwing in IPK too, i know he had no shot at our rotation, maybe he would have been included in the doomed C Lee trade. I donno, for Grandy we gave up too much quantity. Quality is a wash.

  20. Wil Nieves #1 Fan says:

    The only way to straighten this guy out would be to murder him.

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