The ever-changing Curtis Granderson

Phil Hughes and the developing curveball
Report: Pettitte off to KC after sim game

When word got out the other day that Curtis Granderson and hitting coach Kevin Long were working on a “total reformation” of the centerfielder’s swing, most of us thought “it’s about time!” It’s no secret that Granderson has been a disappointment in his first season in pinstripes, with a .240/.307/.417 batting line before this current road trip. He probably bought himself some time with a few timely homeruns, namely against the Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Indians.

After two days out of the starting lineup in Texas to work with Long, Granderson was set to unveil his new swing and setup last night, except something happened. He didn’t look any different, at least to this untrained eye. Don’t believe me? Let’s hit the video. The screen cap on the left is his first at-bat against Jon Lester on Monday, the one of the left is his first at-bat against Bruce Chen last night.

The only real difference (and it’s basically impossible to see in the still pics) is his his front foot, which doesn’t have that same exaggerated toe tap. He still does it, but it’s not as extreme. His hands though, they’re basically in the same position with no discernible difference. I’m out of luck once he starts his swing, I have no authority to break down swing mechanics and talk about it intelligently. Perhaps there’s a significant change in there that I (we) simply can’t see. But just looking at his setup, hey look, the toe tap’s gone.

Granderson downplayed the changes yesterday, which comes as no surprise. “I wouldn’t necessarily call it big changes,” he said. “It’s just trying to simplify things. Everything I’ve done up to this point is just trying to get to the point I want, and there’s always some moving parts before it. We’re just trying to eliminate some of those moving parts.” Well, getting rid of toe tap would qualify as eliminating some moving parts, for sure. It’s not as sexy as the changes I think we were hoping for, but it’s a very real difference nonetheless.

As I was digging through video last night to see if there were any other obvious changes made throughout the season, it’s turns out that yeah, there definitely have been. Let’s start right from the get go, and compare one Granderson’s first at-bats of the season to his first at-bat last night.

Now there’s a difference. His hands went from way up high to in front of his chest, but what you can’t see in the still screen shots is all the fidgeting and extraneous movement. Here’s the video of his very first at-bat of the season, and here’s the video from his single last night. Granderson’s hands were waving all over the place back in April, but now they’re much calmer. Yeah, there’s still some movement now, probably his timing mechanism or whatever, but it’s definitely not as exaggerated.

Obviously, something has changed during the course of the season, and based on Granderson’s comments yesterday, it was probably a series of changes. “I’ve made changes throughout my whole career,” said the Grandyman. “I’ve been an unorthodox hitter. I’ve never been a very routine and picture-perfect hitter as far as what everyone else is doing. And everything in between. Whenever someone says to make a change, I’ve always been a very adaptive player.”

Curious about when this change actually happened, I dug through the MLB.tv archives and managed to find it. I actually feel kinda special for doing this, because I didn’t think there would be an exact moment where we could pinpoint exactly when he dropped his hands, but sure enough there is.

Anyway, this is Granderson on June 17th, the game Kyle Kendrick frustratingly shut the Yanks down.

Looks pretty similar to the shot of his April at-bat above, no? His hands are high and even though you can’t see it in the pic, trust me he was still waving the bat around like he was earlier in the season.

With lefthander Hisanori Takahashi on the mound for the Mets the next day (the 18th), Granderson started the game on the bench while Chad Huffman took his spot in the starting lineup. However, Grandy pinch hit for Huffman in the 7th inning with the righty Elmer Dessens on the mound (Jerry Manuel countered by bringing Pedro Feliciano out of the pen once Granderson was announced). Here’s a shot of him during that at-bat.

Look at that, change! If you’re having trouble seeing it, here’s a side-by-side shot that will hopefully make it easier. Use his head as a reference, on the 17th his hands are basically even with the interlocking NY on his helmet, but the next day his hands are level with his shoulders/neck. He didn’t start on the 18th, so it’s easy to think he and K-Long had a little mid-afternoon pow-wow that resulted in Granderson lower his hands, but we don’t know that for sure. For all we know Grandy made the adjustment himself.

Now, did it work? Eh, kinda. From the start of the season through June 17th, he hit .234/.317/.428, and in his first 35 games after the change (completely arbitrary sample size) he hit .276/.328/.457 before falling into another slump that presumably brought about this latest session with Long. His spray charts don’t look too different either (pre-June 18th, since then). If anything, Granderson hasn’t hit as many balls deep to the outfield the other way, which could means he’s cut down on the lazy flies, but we have no way of being sure.

Curtis Granderson may never be anything more than a league average hitter again, we don’t know. The guy that hit .302/.361/.552 with 26 steals  in 2007 might never come back, but it won’t be for lack of effort. He’s not naive about his struggles and is clearly making an effort to fix things by tinkering with his swing. All this talk about making adjustments isn’t just talk, there’s tangible evidence of him putting these changes into practice. Hopefully one of these adjustments unlocks the talent that made Granderson one of the best outfielders in baseball just two or three seasons ago.

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Phil Hughes and the developing curveball
Report: Pettitte off to KC after sim game
  • Chris

    There’s only one way to get back the 2007 Granderson. BABiP (And a lil more ISO).

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs.....ons-babip/

    • Chris

      The only concern is that he’s had a lower BABIP for almost 2 full years. It could be bad luck, or it could be a problem with his swing, eye sight, etc. Since a batter has significant control over his BABIP, you can’t immediately write off a drop in BABUP to bad luck.

      /not blazini’d

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    I didn’t notice any changes of not to Granderson’s stance, but he seemed to have less excess motion in his upper half last night. In the past, Curtis rocked his hands up and down pre-pitch and seemed to tighten/loosen his grip on the bat, even to the point where his whole torso moved. He was much more still and motionless last night, IMO.

    Looking back at Long’s overhauls of ARod, Tex, and Swish’s swings, they all addressed different things but it seems the common theme was a concept of “quieting” each man’s approach at the plate. Don’t move a lot and accidentally take your hands out of position, just try to have an even stance, wait and focus, stay in a spot to be able to reach every area in the strike zone, and just react.

    That seems to be what he’s doing with Grandy now. His stance looked the same, but his pre-swing movement is much quieter.

    JMHO.

    • Buck Nasty

      I agree. That seems to be Long’s hitting philosophy. Always be in the best position to drive the ball.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Sorry:

      I didn’t notice any changes of not to Granderson’s stance, but he seemed to have less excess motion in his upper half last night.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        Granderson’s big change was his attitude. KLong wants him to be tougher and meaner. When he came to the plate the first time, he only said, “Hello, Jason”. He never asked about Kendall’s wife or kids.

        Straight dick mode, yo.

        • Guest

          I laughed.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Hey, Jason, how’s your wife and my kids?

        • Thomas

          Hey Kendall, I here you hit more homers at the ballpark than in the bedroom.

          • UncleArgyle

            Your wife must be one hell of a dancer. But what was that guy doing with her panties around his head?

  • The209

    Did he take time to work on his stance…or swing? Because if it was his swing, it’d be nice to see some pics/analysis of that, too

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      I’m out of luck once he starts his swing, I have no authority to break down swing mechanics and talk about it intelligently. Perhaps there’s a significant change in there that I (we) simply can’t see.

      reading comprehension ftw

      • The209

        Yes, I read that, too. Thanks, though.

        • Rob H.

          Then why are you asking for analysis that Mike has already said he can’t give? lol

    • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      I also don’t like when the free, unrequested content provided concerns a topic that’s not exactly the topic I wish were addressed. Someone should fix that.

      • The209

        If a website has a “donate” option, it’s not necessarily free.

        Second, where did I say “I don’t like” anything about the article…?

        • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          “If a website has a “donate” option, it’s not necessarily free.”

          Yes, it is.

          “Second, where did I say “I don’t like” anything about the article…?”

          I didn’t say you said you don’t like the post, I said you wish it were written about a different topic. Reading comp, yadda yadda.

  • Buck Nasty

    Great stuff. I really hope this gets him back on track a bit. I’m not expecting him to be amazing, just back to being a productive hitter.

    When Curtis is on, he’s one of the most exciting players to watch. He can beat you with his speed, his power, or his good defense. I really think he’ll eventually figure it out. I just refuse to believe that a guy with this much talent and the track record he has could just turn into a below-average player.

  • longHR

    I noticed the stance and felt that the swing was somewhat shorter. Does this translate to fewer home runs? Bet he clears the short porche even with that.

    If I remeber correctly the red sox home runs he hit were both long swings.

    • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

      I believe they said they were working on shortening his swing. So yeah.

    • Shaun

      Shortening a swing doesn’t make fewer homeruns. Long shortened the swings to Cano, and Swisher and you see how many both have. A shorter swing is a faster swing which means Grandy won’t be late on pitches which means fewer outs, and strikeouts (hopefully)

  • http://www.yankeegm.blogspot.com YankeeGM

    I agree with the majority…Long absolutely coaches to a quiet set-up and stance. The thing that has always bugged me about Grandy’s swing is the HUGE hitch he has as the pitcher is releasing the ball. Should the timing of that hitch, or its directional movement be off a bit he would have a tough time repeating a solid swing. I hope Long’s goal is to 1. quiet his body pre-swing, then 2. get rid of that hitch.

    I still have faith that CG will be a productive player for us. Once KLong gets him figured out and his “Yankee Discount” year is over I think we see a player closer to 2007.

  • Scout

    Impossible to change a swing quickly when a player has been using it for thousands of at-bats going back years. The “muscle memory” is far to strong to change in just a couple of sessions. This will have to be an ongoing project, much as with Swisher, and the results will not be complete this season.

    • Buck Nasty

      Agreed. But I’m glad he wanted to start making changes now instead of waiting until the offseason.

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Worst. Scout. Ever.

      • Thomas

        Somewhere Scout X sheds a single tear.

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

    Really nice post, Mike. It’s great to see someone actually look through the archives to see what, if anything, players are doing differently.

  • Mister Delaware

    I’d love to know if Long even tried closing him up to start (rather than closing during the windup) or if that would just be way too radical mid-season (or mid-career). Just seems like his head moves too much to be able to effectively track anything other than middle-inside and moving in.

  • CB

    Still shots don’t get across the nature of the changes Granderson made because of the excess motion he had. How Granderson’s set up looks in a still will depend on which slice of time you’ve caught him in.

    To me there looked to be two changes Long made with Granderson. The first was in the positioning of his hands. They were drawn closer to his body, lower and set back more. His hands were in a more loaded position at the time of his set up. Granderson was starting his hands much closer to what Charlie Lau described as a hitter’s ideal “launch position.” You could see it more clearly in the side way shots YES showed yesterday.

    While Curtis did/does have a lot of movement in his mechanics his hands didn’t move much before, or didn’t move in the way most hitters do. He didn’t really load his hands. Very strange swing. But he had the bat speed to pull it off in the past. He kept his hands extended and out away from his body. This gave him a relatively long radius, or torque arm, around which he’d pivot his swing. The length of that radius was significantly reduced last night. He was much more direct and fast to the ball. The double he hit was a good example of this – very direct to he ball with his hands.

    The other thing Curtis did was to close his stance and make it more square. He reduced his lower body motion closer to a smaller, more discreet single toe tap/ step.

    One of Granderson’s major problems this season has been that he wasn’t tracking the ball well. He didn’t seem to be picking it up out of the pitcher’s hand or following it quickly. This may have been because his head kept bobbing his head around due to the movement in his stance. It was only 4 PA’s but he seemed to be moving his head less and tracking better. You could see this some in that walk he drew. He tracked those pitches very well.

    Granderson has great hand speed. But he often looked late on certain pitches. In turn he would have to commit very early on whether or not to swing. That has been part of his problem with off speed stuff. The lateness in his swing may have to do with the relatively long swing radius he swung around and the movement in his head making it hard to track the ball.

    It was only 4 plate appearances and it was Bruce Chen but given how bad he’s looked recently it was good to see and this swing looked much better. Perhaps it’s just random fluctuation and won’t have anything to do with underlying changes in mechanics that are sustainable but at this point it’s certainly worth a shot.

    • Buck Nasty

      Please post here more. Really, really informative.

      • Betty Lizard

        I, too, hope CB posts here more. I really appreciate his thoughtful analysis.

    • Cam

      Yeah, very imformative! It is tough to see for the most part, but you can see that he’s closed his stance a bit. There’s less daylight between his legs, and you can see more of the #4 from his number on his back. All season he seems to have been out in front of breaking and off speed pitches, so hopefully by closing his stance this will allow him to hang in the more against the offspeed stuff on the outside corner.

    • CS Yankee

      Great comment about his hands that they didn’t move (load) the way most hitters do much before. I noticed that the amount of load they had equated to the amount that the torso moved whereas he didn’t just push them staight back causing the front shoulder (with the torso movement) to close more and creating that much longer of a swing.

      He keeps that front shoulder fairly closed and therefore his head has a harder time staying square to the pitch. The “pre-load” that he has with that torso move makes him react too early or risk being late.

      Even if his predominate eye is his right, having both eyes square will mean better contact and having him square the front shoulder/eyes will give him more time to react and keep the weak opposite field balls from happening as often.

      In correcting hitting, you can’t change but one or two things at a time and I believe Long’s first step was get the hands “in” to keep the power of having a shorter “load”.

    • Shaun

      The excess movement was obviously the main problem. What’s so amazing is that I found video of his 2007 season and he did not move at all but in subsequent seasons he developed that jittery stance.

  • J.D.

    Was his swing in 2007 way different than it was at the beginning of this season?

    • Shaun

      yes, I found video on youtube (not sure if its still their anymore) a few weeks ago, it was completely different, little to no excess movement.

  • UncleArgyle

    His swing has been fouled up since he got caughting cheating on his wife with all those porn stars…oh wait, thats Tiger Woods, my dip.

  • larryf

    Loading of the hands and pre-loading flaws/mechanics is a very interesting topic. It is incredible how many major leaguers are successful in ways you would never teach to developing players.

    Kevin Youkilis

  • don draper

    He sucks.

    • lee d

      no, you suck.