Aug
10

The time for learning is over: platoon Granderson

By

Photo credit: Rob Carr/AP

From time to time we find it appropriate to comes to the windows of our ivory towers and proclaim to the people what should be done. This doesn’t happen often, at least in this space. We might complain about this trend or that, but rarely do we recommend a wholesale roster or lineup change. Without all the relevant information we often folly when suggesting these changes. We also fall victim to recent trends, which can lead us to specious conclusions. I covered this on FanGraphs yesterday as it related to Raul Ibanez. Even among the Yankees we had voices clamoring for Derek Jeter‘s removal from the leadoff spot. I assure you, though, that this proclamation is neither premature nor does it lack relevant data.

Joe Girardi must start platooning Curtis Granderson.

When the Yankees traded for Curtis Granderson in December there were plenty of concerned voices. He had just come off a season in which he managed a .249 BA and .327 OBP, marks that fell below even his mediocre 2006 campaign. Those problems, in large part, came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit .183/.245/.239, a .223 wOBA. Why, asked the myriad voices, would the Yankees trade a rising center field prospect in Austin Jackson for a player whose skills appear in decline? The answer from the patient counterparty: he just had a bad year. Kevin Long can surely work with him.

At the beginning of the season it was easier to deal with Granderson’s struggles. The pithing staff, along with a number of non-stars, carried the team through April. Granderson struggled after a promising start, ending the month with a mere .314 wOBA. He had hit a few homers, including one in his first at-bat and then another off Jonathan Papelbon to give the Yanks a victory, so it was a bit easier to gloss over his lack of production. Yet Granderson still appeared uncomfortable at the plate. He’d get a chance to reflect on his rough first month in the Bronx, as he left a game in early May with a groin injury, not to return for a little over three weeks.

In June and July Granderson again struggled, though he produced a bit better than he had in April. His OBP for those two months sat around .305, a downright horrible mark for a starter, though he did hit for some power, with an ISO of around .195. Still, that amounted to a wOBA below .330, hardly the stuff the Yankees had hoped to receive from Detroit. August has gone even worse to this point, with Granderson striking out in 40.9 percent of his at-bats. His .220 wOBA has nowhere to go but up, though there can’t be much confidence that it will.

Most of this poor production has come against lefties. His .233 wOBA means he’s not helping the team at all offensively. He hardly walks against lefties, and he strikes out quite a bit more. His BABIP, .274, isn’t an abomination, but it’s more reflective of his low contact rate than any streak of poor luck. There’s a chance he might be underperforming a bit, as his career wOBA against lefties is .265. But even that is a poor mark that will be of little help to the Yankees as they battle with the Rays down the stretch.

The time for learning is over. The Yankees and Granderson had the opportunity earlier in the year to see if he could make adjustments to better approach lefties, but it hasn’t worked out. That’s fine. Granderson is still under contract for a couple of years, and as we saw with Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher, adjustments at the plate can take a few years. Granderson, along with Kevin Long, will get another chance this winter and next spring to help increase his production against lefties. But as far as 2010 is concerned, it’s time to shoot for the best results rather than a pipe dream of improvement.

A platoon not only helps in that it gets Granderson’s bat out of the lineup against lefties, but it also allows him to focus on a relative strength. Against righties this season he’s actually been pretty good. He has walked in 10.7 percent of his PA and has struck out in 23.2 percent of AB. His line, .258/.338/.490, amounts to a .353 wOBA, which is very good for a center fielder. Perhaps he’ll even increase that production if he’s able to face righties almost exclusively. Meanwhile, the Yankees can get Austin Kearns more appearances against lefties, against whom he has a .353 career wOBA.

I’m sure there are plenty of fans who will say duh, they should have done this months ago. With this I disagree. With the way the team has been playing they can afford to let a player work through his struggles, especially if it comes against pitchers whom he faces in about a third of his overall plate appearances. But now, in August, with no sign of improvement and a tight pennant race on the horizon, the Yankees need to abandon the sliver of hope that Granderson can produce against lefties and go with what most directly benefits the team. They can restart the Granderson experiment next year.

Categories : Offense

140 Comments»

  1. Jersey Johnny says:

    Don’t you think that by platooning this bum, the front office and Joe Girardi is somehow admitting that trading for him was a mistake? How long did it take before the front office banished Kei Igawa to AAA?

  2. Jose the Satirist says:

    Remember how early in the year Granderson would get a hit against lefties people would jokingly post “But Granderson can’t hit lefties”? Those have disappeared now, and I miss those days. Now platoon hitting doesn’t seem far-fetched.

  3. Pete says:

    vs. righties:

    Jeter SS
    Swisher RF
    Teix 1B
    A-Rod 3B
    Cano 2B
    Posada C
    Granderson CF
    Berkman DH
    Gardner LF

    vs. lefties:

    Jeter SS
    Swisher RF
    Teix 1B
    A-Rod 3B
    Cano 2B
    Posada C
    Thames DH
    Kearns LF
    Gardner CF

    ?

  4. Hughesus Christo says:

    Granderson is actually having one of his best seasons vs. lefties in a long time (2nd best out of 5?)

    Think about that.

    • Chris says:

      If true, that’s frightening, especially considering some of his at bats against lefties have been god awful this season. He looks like me trying to hit lefty in the 75 mph batting cage.

  5. Kyle says:

    Joe needs to do something to shake up this lineup. It’s a shame Gardner’s productivity has drastically dipped. Had it not, I think he would be our everyday CF.

    I also disagree with the Granderson AJAX trade comment above. I don’t think Cashman ever envisioned him as the future CF and was merely parading him around to raise his trade value.

    • Kyle says:

      To caveat, the Sox FO clearly saw something in Granderson that we missed.

    • ZZ says:

      I don’t think Cashman ever envisioned him as the future CF and was merely parading him around to raise his trade value.

      This could certainly be the case. If anything, with Gardner’s emergence this year, you almost have to assume either Jackson or Gardner would have been traded, because 2/3 of the Yankee OF would not consist of players with such little power.

      Along this line of thought, comparing Jackson to Granderson really is the lazy way to evaluate this trade.

      What people should really be concerned with is who else you could have trade Jackson+ for as opposed to Granderson. That player/s is who Granderson should be compared to.

      • “What people should really be concerned with is who else you could have trade Jackson+ for as opposed to Granderson. That player/s is who Granderson should be compared to.”

        An excellent and often overlooked point.

      • What people should really be concerned with is who else you could have trade Jackson+ for as opposed to Granderson. That player/s is who Granderson should be compared to.

        And you need to also remember that Granderson’s price was deflated not only because he’d been coming off a down year and had some nasty platoon splits, but that the Tigers were also having a mini-fire sale and needed to move the Granderson and Jackson contracts badly to have the payroll flexibility to extend Verlander and sign Valverde.

        I doubt you’ll find a better centerfielder than Granderson available for a package of three good-but-non-elite prospects like AJax/IPK/Coke.

        • ZZ says:

          You don’t have to trade for a CF.

          • I think we did, though.

            As you pointed out, it seems clear that the org didn’t want to roll with Gardner and AJax in the same outfield because we weren’t bullish on their chances to be real legit fulltime MLB regulars. I bet Cashman prioritized getting a CF, though, so Gardner could be pushed to a corner and replaced more easily if he didn’t pan out.

            If we had traded AJax for a marginal defender who could only play RF/LF, it basically ties us into playing Brett Gardner all year long, even if he slumps/sucks/regresses. We’ve been down that road for the past few years with Melky.

            I don’t think we wanted to do that again. Trading AJax for a guy who can play CF and give us a big Brett Gardner insurance policy was tantamount to the offseason strategy.

            • ZZ says:

              Of course.

              I am not questioning the logic behind trading for Granderson. I understand it very well and supported it at the time.

              That doesn’t change the point though that you could have traded that package for something else or held onto to it for now and traded it in the future.

              Obviously it hasn’t worked out with Mike Cameron this year but you could have signed him if you wanted a CF.

              You could have signed Marlon Byrd.

              You could have just gone with Gardner in CF.

              You could have held onto Melky and had him fight it out with Gardner in CF like the year before.

              I don’t know, you could have signed Coco Crisp or Scott Podsednik and have them fight it out with Gardner.

              You could have explored the trade market more for more of a stop gap CF.

              There were many other options beyond trading for Granderson.

              Obviously all these scenarios are not ideal and problematic.

              However, Granderson is certainly not ideal and definitely problematic as well.

          • Mike Axisa says:

            What were they going to do with the outfield then? Start Jackson, Gardner, Swisher? Yikes.

      • kosmo says:

        Is that true ? NY has tremendous power from their infield and RF positions so they can afford to carry Gardner and someone else with little power.

  6. Will says:

    Platoon with whom?

  7. Jersey Johnny says:

    How long do you guys think it will take for Heathcott to be ML-ready?

  8. At the beginning of the season it was easier to deal with Granderson’s struggles. The pitching staff, along with a number of non-stars, carried the team through April.

    Yankees April record: 15-7 (.682)
    Yankees July/August record: 22-12 (.647)

    I’m just saying.

  9. Kevin in Delectable Princeton says:

    I agree completely, Granderson will have plenty of time to work on this in the off-season with Kevin “Miracle Worker” Long and he’s not getting any better against lefties right now. Meanwhile we have Kearns who is great against lefties and a better defensive CF in Gardner. I just don’t think Joe would do this, we know he likes to stick with struggling guys (Tex earlier in the year, Jeter still leading off), and although this is a different animal altogether, I think Granderson will still start plenty against lefties.

    • I bet Granderson gets most of the rest of the regular season to try and make progress, and if he still sucks against lefties, you’ll see the Granderson/Kearns platoon at the end of September and through the playoffs.

      We’re still in first, we’re still winning games, we can afford to carry Granderson’s non-existent bat in the 30-40% of the games where we face a lefty.

      JoePow is correct in saying that Granderson will probably need to get platooned this year, but we don’t need to make the move yet. Give him one more month to see if he can turn it around.

    • Mike HC says:

      There is a ton of ground to cover as a leftfielder in Yankee stadium, so replacing Gardner with Kearns will be a definite defensive downgrade.

      There is will be a definite offensive uptick, but our defense will be worse. And with lefties like Price and Lester, you may want to try to prevent as many runs as possible.

      • I’ll agree that a Gardner/Granderson/Swisher defensive outfield is better than a Kearns/Gardner/Swisher one, but the latter arrangement is still damn good.

        Kearns is a good defensive outfielder.

        • Mike HC says:

          Kearns is not exactly that great against lefties either. He may not produce much better than Granderson, and the defensive downgrade is guaranteed.

          Kearns triple slash against lefties

          2008: .153/.273/.224

          2009: .122/.348/.204

          2010: .248/.336/.381

          • Mike HC says:

            You can throw baserunning in there as well. Granderson is perfect on the year in steals and excellent throughout his career, and is fast on the basebaths. Kearns is the opposite.

            So if/when Granderson does get on, he there is a better chance of him scoring.

            • Mike HC says:

              I will add yet another point that this move puts added pressure on Gardner, at a time when he is clearly wearing down and slumping.

              Instead of giving him greater responsibility, now is the time to let up a little bit maybe.

  10. vin says:

    Great post. Seems to me there were 2 reasons why Girardi didn’t/shouldn’t have platooned Curtis in the first half:

    1) It’s best for all parties to give him a chance to prove he CAN adequately hit lefties.

    2) Sitting Curtis means Winn has to bat, or Thames has to play the field, or a rookie has to face the David Price and Jon Lesters of the world.

    Now Girardi has both enough of a sample size to realize that Curtis shouldn’t be starting against lefties, as well as a viable bench option in Kearns.

    The time for proving he can hit lefties is effectively over for this season. Girardi has less than two months to get this team into the playoffs, and preferably with the best record possible.

    Play Kearns, and book KLong’s trip to visit Granderson in the offseason.

  11. 007 says:

    let me say if any Yankees prospect or Brett Gardner played like Granderson you would never see him again.. even if he was a top prospect. Granderson will continue to play because they will not want to admit a mistake and look what the Yankees gave up for him. Well i guess everyone will have to wait a few years to see this mistake continue because it does not look like it will get any better.

  12. j_Yankees says:

    Folks are aware that Austin Kearns has reverse RH/LH splits and has for years now, correct?

    • vin says:

      Yeah, but he’s still much more capable against lefties than Curtis right now.

      • j_Yankees says:

        of course…its just if you’re platooning him with Keanrs just keep in mind that it may not be a HUGE upgrade as Kearns has had his struggles vs Lefties as well.

        plus…my great grandma is probably more capable vs LHP then curtis is and she’s pushing 95.

  13. Simon B. says:

    I also wish they would move Gardner back to CF.

    I could understand it at the time. That is to say: Gardner wasn’t looked at as the “centerfielder of the future”. He might’ve floundered around as a AAAA player like Melky, so you might as well let the proven star Granderson get comfortable since he’s more likely to be with the Yankees for longer, even though Gardner might have better defense.

    Now that it has probably come to be the opposite, it would be nice to have Gardner’s defense back in center.

    I supported the Granderson trade at the time, because Jackson seemed (and still seems) like a somewhat incomplete player with a lot of strikeouts and little power. However, it was always silly to be so gung-ho about this trade as many were. It was never a steal. It was a chance to be taken that Granderson would bounce back, and take advantage of the short porch in left. He may yet do that to some extent, though it doesn’t look like he will completely turn his fortune around on lefties any time soon.

    Don’t forget about Kennedy either. I still think Ian Kennedy can be a pretty good pitcher, even if he’s been somewhat mediocre in the NL West this year.

    • All Star Carl says:

      Kennedy would never have a spot in this rotation.

      • vin says:

        Exactly. The perennial scrap heap that yields the likes of Dustin Moseley, Sergio Mitre, and Jason Hirsch made IPK expendable to the Yanks. He doesn’t have the kind of arm or stuff the Yanks are ideally after for a spot in the rotation. He represents greater value to a young, rebuilding, NL team who plays a lot of (road) games in pitchers’ parks like the DBacks.

        Maybe they could’ve gotten more for Kennedy, but I tend to doubt it.

        • Simon B. says:

          IPK is better than all those guys.

          That’s kind of the point. We’ve been lucky that we haven’t needed them as much, but we’re still forced to give a decent number of starts to the likes of all those guys. I believe IPK could’ve been a valuable pitcher this season, and a decent starter in the future.

          • vin says:

            “IPK is better than all those guys.”

            He is, but to the Yankees, IPK would serve the same, fairly limited, role as those guys. Including IPK in the deal for a relatively young centerfielder makes more sense than hanging on to him as a 6th starter. Especially when other teams view him as a #3 or #4 startre.

    • j_Yankees says:

      i think next season (assuming both Gardner and Granderson have the same roles as they do this year on this team, which i personally don’t) you can look at moving Gardner to CF and Granderson to LF.

      but it seems unnecessary to make Granderson switch positions with 2 months to go when he hasn’t been bad in CFer. He’s been a plus CFer

      • kosmo says:

        My gut feeling is Granderson will be traded this offseason when NY signs Crawford.

        • All Star Carl says:

          Lee will be a Yankee. Crawford will not.

        • My gut feeling is, we never get outbid for players we really want… but we don’t really want Carl Crawford, so we’ll let the Pacific Time Zone Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California on the West Coast of the United States of America outbid us for Carl Crawford, and we’ll get Cliff Lee instead.

        • Zack says:

          Why would your gut feeling tell you to trade a guy when his value is at an all time low?

        • Jon G says:

          That’s what I’d like to see happen (trade Granderson, sign Crawford, move Gardner to Center), but not what my gut feeling tells me will happen, unfortunately.

          I was annoyed at the time of the trade, mainly because I liked AJAX and had a “gut feeling” he’d have the kind of year he’s having. I know, I know — but I was right (granted, he only has 1 hr and many k’s/few bb’s, but hitting >300 as a rookie with stellar D and good speed is a damn good start at the MLB level)

          I dealt with the loss of AJAX given Granderson’s history of success (though at .249 last year I was worried). But watching his mess of a swing this year, I’m sticking with my bet with Ben that this one ain’t gonna pan out quite like pickin’ up Swish did…

          Cash wins some and loses some, and I hope I’m wrong, but I think I’m winning my bet with you over the Granderson/AJAX issue, Ben, and in the end, you’ll be buying me the shots of Patron… ;-)

  14. Mr. Jones says:

    I just don’t understand Granderson’s approach at the plate. He usually takes 2 pitches over the plate so he can go 0-2. He then swings at strikes and fouls off a couple and then he will inevitably swing at the ankle level breaking pitch that is 2 feet inside for strike 3. I could be mistaken obviously he just doesn’t seem smart enough to make adjustments. He still makes the same mistakes and this has been an issue since last year.

  15. CG says:

    HAHAHAHA wow, it took me a minute to figure out what you were talking about. My initials are CG, but unfortunately I am not Curtis

  16. How could Brian Cashman trade your top prospect for a platoon player?

  17. Curtis Granderson says:

    Oh c’mon guys, I’ll pull out of this rut. I gosh darn guarantee it. In case you’re not convinced, just stare into my boyish good looks.

  18. Yankeescribe says:

    I still think we gave up too much depth(Jackson/Kennedy/Coke) for Granderson…

    • Yankeescribe says:

      If we had traded Jackson for Grandy straight up the trade would have made sense but 3 ML-ready starters for a guy who is declining defensively and can’t hit lefties seemed like a bad idea back then and still does.

      Still, the Yanks have the depth and money to recover from bad trades like this one…

  19. larryf says:

    So does Grandy sit tonight and tomorrow? At least if we get Lee, that will be one less lefty for CG to deal with next year. I am still bummed that when you come up with the bases loaded no outs against Lester and you need one to tie and you struggle in these situations-why not a squeeze??? Lester is always around the plate….

  20. MikeD says:

    When they traded for Granderson I thought it was a good deal because Jackson’s upside was Granderson’s established level. That means there’s a good change Jackson will never achieve that. Even with his 2010 season, he still has shown no HR power (1 HR), he strikes out a ton, and his BABIP suggested that his BA was going down, as it has been. No way the Yankees would have opened 2010 with the unproven, slap-hitting Gardner, and the less proven, no-power Granderson comprising two-thirds of their OF.

    I was concerned about Granderson’s platoon splits, but even if he didn’t improve, the Yankees could move him to LF and platoon him with a strong right-handed bat in 2011. Granderson would provide strong defense in left, he’d still play two-thirds of the games, and by bringing in a strong platoon partner, the Yankees would also have a stronger bench.

    Jackson’s a good player, but we could certainly spare him. If he’d struck out against Lester, a segment of fans would be demanding the Yankees bring in a more experience OFer with power who could make contact!

    • MikeD says:

      That line should read: “No way the Yankees would have opened 2010 with the unproven, slap-hitting Gardner, and the less proven, no-power Jackson comprising two-thirds of their OF.”

      Too many typos today!

      • back to back says:

        Jackson is 23 yrs old so whether he hits 1 hr this year or 1 hr for the rest of his career his other offensive numbers through the minors were always better than Granderson’s. Jackson will most likely not hit .250 this year and has been a .300 + hitter at every level of his pro career. If you don’t have power you should get on base and hit for a good avg which Jackson has done and he is currently hitting lead off where you don’t need a lot of RBI’s or power from that spot. His CF defense is quite underrated but the reliance on power throughout baseball is quite overrated. If I have a lead off hitter who plays good to great D up the middle and can get on base at a .350 + clip then you one 1 piece already set moving forward.

        Granderson at 29 yrs of age is declining and it is getting to a point where it is safe to assume he will never be the player he was in 2007 and baseball people need to realize that. Jackson at 23 will more than likely improve where as how can you logically conclude that Granderson will improve after 5 big league seasons?

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