365 days of #cured

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(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Exactly one year ago today, Curtis Granderson was a platoon player. He was a centerfielder that couldn’t hit lefties on a team that played in a division with several high-end southpaws. His season batting line sat at .239/.306/.415 in 336 plate appearances on the morning of August 11th, 2010, broken down into .256/.336/.467 in 225 PA against righties and .206/.243/.275 in 111 PA against lefties. With Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Ian Kennedy excelling for the Tigers and Diamondbacks, respectively, the three-team trade that brought Granderson to New York was looking like a bust for the Yankees. Little did we know what was going on behind the scenes.

The Yankees had just finished up a four-game series at home against the Red Sox, and had moved on to Texas for the two-gamer against the Rangers. Granderson was not in the lineup on August 10th, the series opener, but it wasn’t all that unusual with lefty C.J. Wilson on the bump. Curtis pinch-ran for Austin Kearns in the eighth inning of the eventual loss, a forgettable moment in a forgettable game. The next day we heard that hitting coach Kevin Long was working on a “total reformation of the swing” with Granderson, a process that started when the student sought out the teacher. That was one year ago today.

Granderson did not start that night, but again nothing seemed out of the ordinary because Cliff Lee was on the mound for Texas. He pinch-ran for Lance Berkman in the ninth inning, but again, a forgettable moment in a forgettable game. Curtis returned to the starting lineup the next night, after the Yankees had split their two-game series with Texas and moved on the Kansas City. The Royals started lefty Bruce Chen that night, but Granderson singled off him in his first at-bat to drive in the game’s first run. Two innings later he doubled to right, and two innings after that he hit a fly ball to the warning track in right. The next day he singled and hit two more deep fly balls. The day after that he hit his first homerun in close to the three weeks, and in the series finale he hit one more deep fly ball.

(Photo via Amanda Rykoff)

The changes were subtle. Curtis had brought his hands down and eliminated some pre-swing bat movement, and also shifted from a one-handed follow through to a two-handed follow through. Granderson finished the season like a madman, hitting .261/.356/.561 with 14 homers in the team’s final 48 games, not to mention a .357/.514/.607 batting line in nine postseason games. Since that “total reformation of the swing” in Texas, exactly 365 days ago, Curtis has been one of the very best players in all of baseball.

In 161 games over the last calendar year, Granderson has hit .271/.362/.575 with 24 doubles, ten triples, and 45 homeruns in 693 plate appearances. He’s drawn 83 walks and scored 131 runs as well, though the 164 strikeouts are a bit of an eyesore. No one’s perfect though, a few strikeouts never killed anyone. In that time, only Jose Bautista (52) has hit more homers. Only six players have hit more triples. No one has scored more runs, and only Albert Pujols (116) is with 15 runs scored of the Grandyman. He leads all center fielders is basically every significant offensive category other than batting average over the last calender year, and is near the top in those same categories among all players, regardless of position.

Those struggles against left-handed pitchers? Forget about ‘em. Grandy has hit .278/.357/.567 with 14 homers in 215 PA against southpaws since the fix, which is nearly identical to his batting line against righties: .268/.374/.578. Before the fix, he had just 17 career homeruns against lefties in 795 PA. He went from one homer every 46.8 PA against southpaws to one every 15.4. That’s a factor of three, he tripled his homerun rate against same-side pitchers with a few mechanical adjustments.

We can’t downplay the significance of what happened one year ago today, it completely changed Curtis’ career. If you ask either Long or Granderson about the changes they made, the hands and the follow through, they’ll downplay the significance of the adjustments and say they were just minor tweaks. That may very well be the case, but the results are anything but minor. Granderson transformed from a platoon outfielder into an MVP caliber player overnight (almost literally), and the Twitterwaves are abuzz with the #cured hashtag anytime Curtis does something amazing. These days, that’s basically every game.

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  • jsbrendog

    favorite yankee. has been since the trade.

    • Nuke Ladoosh

      He’s my first “favorite Yankee” since Paul O’Neil retired.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ngoral Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

    This is the Curtis Granderson that we all envisioned when the Yankees traded for him.

    • Pants Lendelton

      Not this XBH though. I thought the tools would hold up well till the end of his current contract though.

    • Bum Rushed

      Except his CF play is erratic. He should be in LF.

      • Crime Dog

        I think the difference between Gardner/Granderson is negligible enough where an argument can be made for either alignment.

    • MannyGeee

      this is the Austin Jackson we were all hoping for!

      • jsbrendog

        c g-rand >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> austin jackson

  • Chelo

    #Cured

  • AWESOM-O

    With 47 games left in the regular season, Granderson has already eclipsed Bernie Williams’ season-high HR total (30).

    Rock on, Curtis.

  • Bum Rushed

    What about his “slump” this year against LHP?

    Heh.

  • Crime Dog

    He’s been such a monster. Amazing. The outfield this year has been insane with Swisher’s post May numbers and Gardy’s great year as well.

  • Bum Rushed
  • IRF

    Mike didn’t even mention the fact that hes posting a career high walk rate, or that he’s second in the league based on Fangraphs baserunning stat. Hes a completely different player.

  • Icebird753

    I don’t think Long deserves much credit; for some reason in this sport coaches get praised or bashed for players’ performances, but I just think play is determined by the players themselves. If Long is such an expert on hitting, why didn’t he put up Hall of Fame numbers in his career?

    • Will (the other one)

      I’m going to guess it’s for the same reason many (most?) great coaches were never great players–because all of the insight and teaching acumen in the world means nothing without the physical ability you also need to be a great big-leaguer.

      • http://twitter.com/AnaMariana42 Ana

        +1

        Baseball is largely about knowing how to play the game, but you also need an extraordinary amount of physical skill to be a great Major Leaguer. Basically, what Will said.

      • Rick Bergstrom

        Also, if you’re not a great player, you’re more likely to be on the bench during games talking about baseball and watching baseball, so there is more opportunity to learn.

    • I Voted 4 Kodos

      Knowing the mechanics of a good swing and possessing the ridiculous hand-eye coordination and reflexes to hit Major League pitching are two very different things.

      A lot of great coaches were shitty players and a lot of great players were shitty coaches.

      • 28 this year

        Thats also cause a lot of the best had weird ways of going about things and their athleticism allowed them to do weird things. Like take Jeter, absolutely great hitter but his mechanics are not something you go around teaching. The reason some shitty players make good coaches is that they needed every advantage in order to even get close to competing, i.e. great swing mechanics. They couldn’t afford holes and other things in their swing because they weren’t good enough to compensate.

  • Frank

    Great job with Grandy. I’d like Long’s next project to be Nunez, who I believe can be a very good hitter if he learns to be more patient and not drop his back shoulder and upper cut the ball so much.

    • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Matt Imbrogno

      He’d have to spend all winter w/Nunez; that swing is a mess.

      • MannyGeee

        well, Cano spent last winter working with him. Got us this far.

      • IRF

        I could see Long working some magic with it thow. Nunez seems to have strong hands and quick wrists, just like Granderson.

    • JT

      Don’t forget the 2-handed follow through

  • CBean

    I’m so fond of Granderson. Just seems like an awesome guy and honestly, the fact that he’s not a kid, and yet worked so hard with K-Long to change his hitting habits to improve, I think just shows how dedicated he is. It’s been so much fun watching him hit this year.

    • TMiller30

      Jeter worked with Long for a week too, so he’s also a pretty good guy.

      Kidding, but seriously, I hope Jeter really goes at it this winter in trying to fix his swing instead of throwing it away a weeek into spring training.

      • CP

        Somewhere they talked about KLong and Jeter working on the mechanics. Basically, Long said that Jeter was odd because the more you talked about mechanics and worked on changing his swing the worse he got. He couldn’t make changes to something and keep his swing together.

        • CBean

          I think that was what i was trying to get at up there– it’s actually pretty amazing that Grandy was able to make so many changes because he wasn’t a rookie relearning stuff and it’s hard to make changes to ingrained habits. It’s also not a measure of character in anyway, because I’m sure it’s not that Jeter doesn’t want to do better, every one of these guys are super competitive and want to have edge they could, but it’s not all that cut and dry. For Jeter it might be that trying to change his swing mechanics and being so focused on them gets him out of the rhythm of the game and he does better when he’s relaxed and loose and just doing his thing.

  • Neil

    Just a thought_Did K Long ever work with Jorge?

  • Bronx Byte

    Granderson has not strayed into bad habits since he and Kevin Long made adjustments with his being quiet in the batter’s box with unnecessary moving parts.
    If Teixeira would do the same the results would show.

  • UncleArgyle

    Great article. Granderson has been awesome since the found his new swing. If he played in Boston he’d be the front runner for AL MVP.

    • YankeesJunkie

      If Granderson was in Boston he would have won the MVP two months ago.

    • Owen Two

      If Granderson played in Boston, he wouldn’t be my favorite player.

      Although, he’d probably be grittier.

  • Brian in NH

    I love it. Yeah we all worried this would be a bust for a while, but Granderson has been flat out amazing since the fix.

    And it couldnt’ happen to a better guy. A-rod is an amazing talent, but he doesn’t necessarily endear himself to fans or media that well, and people seem to resent him for his on-field success and harp on his off-field missteps. Grandy is a grade-A class act, and by most accounts a really good person. His very involved in philanthropic activities and is one of baseball’s great ambassadors of the game around the world.

    I always liked him. Mo has been my favorite player for years now, but Granderson is up in that second level for me of guys who i really like, and really enjoy watching along with Swisher and Cano.