What Went Right: Curtis Granderson

What Went Wrong: Curtis Granderson
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#cured (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

Joe looked at the first two-thirds of Curtis Granderson‘s season earlier today, when he hit just .240/.307/.417 (.308 wOBA) in 335 plate appearances. To call it a disappointment would be an understatement, as the Yanks thought they were getting a power hitting outfielder in the prime of his career. Instead all Grandy was giving them was a non-switch hitting version of Melky Cabrera, if that. With Austin Jackson and (to a lesser extent) Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke performing very well in Detroit and Arizona, Yankee fans were quick to slap the BUST moniker on this trade.

After finishing up an early-August six game homestand in which he went 3-for-19 with seven strikeouts against a pair of division rivals (Blue Jays and Red Sox), Granderson approached hitting coach Kevin Long and asked for help. The Yanks were in Texas to play the Rangers for two games on August 10th and 11th, but Grandy didn’t start either game so he and Long could go to the work. He did pinch hit in the first game then pinch ran in the second, but that was irrelevant. School was in session behind the scenes.

Both Granderson and Long downplayed the changes, repeatedly saying they were minor adjustments and not a complete overhaul. It wasn’t the first time they tinkered with the centerfielder’s set-up and swing this summer, and the differences were very subtle. They spoke about quickening Grandy’s hands to allow him to get to the inside pitch sooner, and even our untrained eyes were able to see that his follow through went from a one-handed helicopter to a more controlled two-hander.

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

The results were immediate. In his first at-bat after the changes were implemented, Granderson singled off back up the middle off lefty Bruce Chen in Kansas City, driving in a run. Next time up he yanked a Chen pitch into the rightfield corner for a double, and although his third trip to the plate resulted in a flyout, the ball was hit to the warning track off righty (and former Yankee farmhand) Kanekoa Texeira. Granderson’s first start with his new swing concluded with a four pitch walk off rookie righthander Greg Holland. He singled and hit two more balls to the warning track the next day, and then followed that up with a homer and two more deep fly balls a day later.

The adjustments weren’t easy to see by the results were. Granderson hit .261/.356/.564 (.400 wOBA) after the changes, hitting more homers (14) than everyone in baseball not named Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, and Jay Bruce. He drew almost as many unintentional walks (24) in 192 plate appearances after the changes as he did in 336 plate appearances before (26), and his strikeout rate remained almost identical, from one every 4.54 plate appearances to one every 4.24 plate appearances.

Just as important as the overall improvement is the progress he made against lefthanded pitchers. Grandy’s struggles against pitchers of the same hand was well documented coming into the season, and sure enough he hit just .206/.243/.275 with a total of four extra base hits (two doubles, ones triple, one homer) in 110 plate appearances against lefties during the season’s first four-plus months. Once K-Long did his magic, Grandy clubbed southpaws to the tune of .286/.375/.500 with six extra base hits (three doubles, three homers) in 64 plate appearances. A night and day difference.

Granderson’s improvements carried right into the postseason as well, when he was the team’s best hitter not named Robbie Cano. He clubbed a two run triple off not just any southpaw in Game One of the ALDS, it was Francisco Liriano, who held lefties to a .234 wOBA in 2010. Overall, Grandy hit .357/.514/.607 (.471 wOBA) with more walks (eight, zero intentional) than strikeouts (five) in 38 trips to the plate during the playoffs.

As much as the hits and homers stick out, the outs became noticeably loud as well. Granderson seemed to drive the ball deep to the outfield with much more regularity after the fixes, even if they sometimes ended up in the outfielder’s gloves. He also went to the opposite field far more often than he had been. Here’s Grandy’s spray chart from before the fix …

And here’s after …

Focus on left-centerfield, the area in front of the 399 sign. Granderson hit almost nothing that way during the first few months of the season, there were just four balls hit moderately deep in that direction. After the changes though, he become much more adept at driving the ball the other way. There’s six balls hit in front of the 399 sign in the second chart, which is basically one for every 21 times he put the ball in play. Before the changes to his swing, it was one every 58.5 balls in play. The results of going the other way aren’t there just yet, the process has improved.

Granderson’s late surge brought his season line up to a respectable .247/.324/.468 (.346 wOBA), which combined with very good centerfield defense resulted in a 3.6 fWAR season. Of course it’s important to remember that we’re dealing with a relatively small sample sizes here. Grandy came to the plate just 192 times after he and Long went to work, 230 if you count the playoffs. The results were very encouraging, as his production bounced back up to 2007-2008 levels. There’s still a long way to go however, now it’s up to Granderson (with Kevin Long’s help) to keep making progress.

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What Went Wrong: Curtis Granderson
Do the Yanks and A's match up for a trade?
  • Corporate Scum (formerly Joe West’s Music Career)

    Regarding K rate:

    Going from 1/4.54 to 1/4.24 is an increase in K rate, not a decrease. Did his K rate in fact tick up, or is it a typo?

    Thanks…

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      It did tick up, just a typo.

  • It’sATarp

    Looks like after the work with Long we turned Grandy into Cano lite. Grandy always had the physical tools to be really good, and the minor adjustment just seems to bring out his full potential.

    • Mike HC

      Sometimes an adjustment can just bring a short term gain though. The scouting report on Granderson has been out for years now, and pitchers knew how to pitch to him to get him out. Especially lefties obviously. An adjustment adds an unknown element now, with no scouting reports on how the adjustment change Granderson’s strengths.

      I’m not saying it can’t be permanent. But you better believe teams will scout the shit out of his slightly new swing, and adjust accordingly next year.

      • Mike HC

        Similar to Swisher’s first half vs his second half. It is a game of adjustments.

      • It’sATarp

        yea off course, i’m not expecting him to continue to hit lefties at this pace. But he always has been a good hitter so, it wasn’t a big stretch to see him just flat out rake near the end.

        • Mike HC

          Very true. Not surprising that such a good hitter like Granderson can get hot. And hot at the right time. I’m just expecting numbers closer to his career averages than any true monster year. But you never know. I’ll be hoping for the monster year of course.

  • larryf

    With good health and continued improvement at the plate, Grandy has tremendous upside coming into next year. He’s a guy who could lead the team in HR’s and steal 30 bases.

    Curtis Gran? Solid Man.

    • Mike HC

      Fool me once …

      He was expected to do that this year. There is a chance he explodes next year, but it is not likely. Lets have some perspective. A hot second half after he made a small adjustment does not mean he will keep that up a full year. I think expectations may be a bit high for Granderson next year.

      • larryf

        Well-24 HR’s with a long stint on the DL. Room for improvement for sure…

      • MikeD

        Yet he was also having his worst year ever prior to K-Long session. If we’re going to discount the positive finish to the seaosn, why should we believe the first part of the season was also the real Granderson?

        If gives us .260/30HRs in 2011, along with his solid defense, I’m fine. I see nothing in his 2010 numbers that says he won’t do that as long as he avoids the DL.

    • kosmo

      The fact is Grandy has never stolen more than 26 bases in a season but hey why not 30 in 2011 ? I doubt he´ll ever lead the team in homeruns.
      Grandy is what he is a very streaky .265ish hitter .He´s the type of player who goes 3-4 one game and then he´s not heard from for 2-3 weeks.He´ll post alot of 1-4 games so his average sits around .250 like it has the last 2 seasons.
      He´s also pretty dreadful with risp.

      • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

        He´s also pretty dreadful with risp.

        Via B-R:

        W/RISP: .341 OBP/.447 SLG.

        Just dreadful.

        • It’sATarp

          Facts..they elude him

      • MikeD

        Kosmo, understand what you’re writing before writing.

  • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

    My man, C-Grand. This man will have a monster 2011 season, book it.

    • Betty Lizard

      Thank you and I will. I just love Granderson and watching him play–and improve–was one of the joys of this season. He’s a big reason why I’m looking forward to next year.

      I saw the game in Kansas City where Granderson–post Long adjustments–hit a home run, and I was just as excited by that as I was about Alex Rodriguez’ three homers that same night.

      I love watching people who are good at something do it well. And I also love watching people who are good at something and who are struggling actually get feedback and make changes. It shows a lot of wisdom and a lot of guts to do that during a major league season.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    “You sneaky bastard”

    – Bullet Tooth Tony

  • http://twitter.com/SteeeeveO Steve O.

    Wait, there’s a ‘What Went Wrong’ and a ‘What Went Right’ article on Curtis Granderson?
    .:Head Explodes:.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    Instead all Grandy was giving them was a non-switch hitting version of Melky Cabrera.

    BS. The internet lies. He’s a swich hitter. Just look at his splits.

    /meme’d

    • Thomas

      It isn’t his fault he only faced righties, meaning he could only show off batting from left and not his full switch hitting prowess.

  • kosmo

    Some people seem to suggest Granderson had a strong 2nd half in 2010 .That´s really not the case .If I remember correctly he batted .225 in the month of August and .263 in Sept.So one good stretch of say 2-3weeks does not make a half a season.In keeping with Granderson´s career to date he´s shown that he´s no better than a .265 hitter at best.It still remains to be seen if Long gets any credit for helping to turn Granderson´s offensive approach around for good.
    Where does Long come off getting any real credit? Swisher ? His batting average went up while his walks went down otherwise he posted very similar numbers in 2009 as he did in 2010.

    • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

      Granderson´s career to date he´s shown that he´s no better than a .265 hitter at best.

      Granderson’s value doesn’t come from batting average; it comes from average to a bit above average walk rates and good power.

      • kosmo

        I dunno about that .His OBP the last 2 seasons is around .325.That´s terrible and I´m guessing that´s below league average.

        • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

          In both years, his BB% was at/around 10%, which is just above league average. His low-BABIP “aided” BAs of the last two seasons brought his BA down, which brings his OBP down. Curtis takes his walks.

          the other part of his value: his position and defense.

          • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

            Well above average defense at a premium position carries a ton of value

        • Sayid J.

          Right, we know .325 OBP is bad, that’s why the article is about how the second half adjustments he made were a difference maker for this season, and hopefully for next year as well. His OBP was .356 after the adjustments, along with a very high slugging percentage. Very valuable if he keeps it up, especially out of CF with some steals and above average D.

      • http://twitter.com/AndrewLeighNYC Andrew

        I would say his slugging for a CF is his biggest asset. He’s usually up towards the top of the league in that category when filtered by CFers only, and a career clip over .480 is pretty solid.

        • Chris

          His .400 wOBA after the change would have ranked 3rd among CF in baseball – behind Josh Hamilton and Carlos Gonzalez.

          • http://twitter.com/AndrewLeighNYC Andrew

            That, and even without the KLong changes, over his career he’s always ranked pretty well within the position in terms of providing power. It’s a big asset for a team that has Gardner penciled in as an every-day OFer. Added to the high-level defense Grandy provides and that’s enough to make him a worthy asset right there.

  • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S

    How could you possibly root against Granderson?

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      You regularly post at NYYFans?

    • Carlosologist

      You’re my friend who hates Granderson because he replaced Melky, his favorite player?

  • Betty Lizard

    Curtis Granderson on Martha Stewart tomorrow. He’ll be making macaroni and cheese and sweet cornbread.