Curtis Granderson’s Missing Steals

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Why can't Hughes put away batters after getting ahead?
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

When the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson from the Tigers two and a half years ago, they acquired one of only 18 players with at least 50 homers and 50 steals from 2007-2009. He was a true power-speed threat, and through his first two years in New York he lived up to the billing with 65 homers and 37 steals. Last year he became just the 11th player in history to hit 40 homers while stealing 25 bases in a single season. Granderson is still smacking dingers with the best of ‘em in 2012 — fourth in the game with 21 homers — but his speed game has taken a step back.

Through 68 games this season, Granderson has stolen just three bases in six attempts. Two of those steals came in back-to-back games in Detroit earlier this month and the other came against the Mariners in mid-May. This dates back to last year as well; Granderson stole 19 bases in the team’s first 100 games of 2011 but just six in the final 62 contests. In his last 128 games played, Curtis has stolen just nine bases in 13 attempts. The table below lists his success rates (SB%) and his attempt rate (SBO%) since becoming a full-time player in 2006…

Year Age Tm SBO SB CS SB% SBO%
2006 25 DET 298 8 5 62% 4%
2007 26 DET 292 26 1 96% 9%
2008 27 DET 278 12 4 75% 6%
2009 28 DET 241 20 6 77% 11%
2010 29 NYY 154 12 2 86% 9%
2011 30 NYY 232 25 10 71% 16%
2012 31 NYY 90 3 3 50% 7%
9 Yrs 1653 107 32 77% 8%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/21/2012.

Once he got his first full season under his belt, Granderson attempted a stolen base in at least 9% of his opportunities every season from 2007-2011 save for one. From 2009-2011, he ran in a whopping 12% of his his opportunities, but this year it’s down to just 7%. He isn’t running as much and his success rate has suffered, particularly in this year’s small sample.

So now the questions becomes: why isn’t Granderson running as often as he once did? We could come up with a million different reasons but we’ll never know which one(s) is correct. Maybe he just doesn’t want to wear himself out knowing he has to play center field everyday with Brett Gardner on the DL. Maybe he’s playing through a minor injury and doesn’t want to aggravate it. Maybe he just decided he’d rather focus on his power stroke and not worry about stealing bases as he gets into his early-30s. Like I said, a million possible explanations.

The good news is that Granderson is still taking the extra base — first to third on a single, etc. — in more than 50% of opportunities, which is well above the league average. It doesn’t appear to be an issue of declining speed, he just isn’t stealing many bases. It’s not a huge problem because base-running is one of the least impactful aspects of the game, but it is a big part of what Curtis Granderson has to offer. For the last 125 games or so, he just hasn’t been doing it.

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Why can't Hughes put away batters after getting ahead?
  • MannyGeee

    its A Rod’s fault…

    /Stuart A’d

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    I’m glad he isn’t running much this year. He increasingly bats 2nd in front of power bats. His injury risk could go up with more stealing and we can ill afford that with Gardy out forever. I prefer his speed in the of, taking the extra base, tagging up etc.

    If he stole second it would only make the risp failure more painful.

  • Brian

    He’s not stealing because the Yanks can’t hit with runners in scoring position. DUH!

  • Cris Pengiucci

    I would guess at least part of it has to do with Gardner being out and knowing he’s needed every day in CF, therfore not willing to risk an injury/wearing himself out. Makes for good narrative, anyway.

  • Ted Nelson

    His defense is grading out terribly this season as well. I certainly wouldn’t use that to conclude anything, but makes it marginally more likely he’s not running for speed/injury reasons to me.

    • Dan

      The defense argument can also be influenced by some of the other outfield injuries as well. With Gardner out more balls will fall in left center and Swisher was out for a short time as well, which gave the Yankees two pretty slow corner outfielders for the majority of their games. I guess it depends on the defensive metrics used. I haven’t checked his defensive stats, but I would think it would in part be influenced by missing Gardner.

    • Crime Dog

      UZR takes forever to normalize. 70 games isn’t even close to enough to judge a player on defensive metrics

  • Steve T

    The obvious answer is he hits 2nd now all the time. He ran when he hit 6th and 7th. But now in front of Cano, ARod, and Tex it’s not worth the risk. It’s time to flip him and ARod in the lineup. ARod is not the run producer is was. He’s more of a table setter. Bat Tex 4th and put Cano and Granderson 3rd and 5th (either order).

  • Jonathan

    I think it’s a combo of being exhausted and where he hits in the lineup. with power threats Tex/Cano and the shell of ARod’s power they haven’t sent him much and also don’t want to wear him down. It’s common in the latter half of the season to slow down in your SB attempts and success rate. Remember Podsendnik and what he used to do? So that would explain last year and this year. This is all the more reason he should be hitting lower in the lineup where his power can drive in more runners and without as many studs behind him he could steal his way into scoring position for the weaker bats.

  • yooboo

    Yanks typically let players play on their own when it comes to stealing bases. Lessen or young kids like Gardner and Nunez go wild. Arod went on his own and Jeter, one of best baserunners in MLB, seldom went.

    Injury concern does factor but Yanks are not a small baseball team. It sucks because I like everything in at once.

  • Voice of Reason

    I know they can come in bunches or not at all and have as much to do with chance and initiative, but he also has just one triple and those have always been his thing, his SPD score (obviously influenced by things other than speed, but it’s indicative nonetheless) is 3.7 down from 7.9 last year and 7.0 for his career and his UZR is shockingly, almost suspiciously, terrible. Between all these almost 4 things maybe he’s just lost a step all of a sudden?

  • mike

    keeps the hole open for Cano in certain instances…..and correlation or not i believe he has the most HR in baseball (or close too it) over those 120 games too :)

  • ChrisS

    Probably a combination of a few things. He’s 31. Speed is the first thing that goes (followed by power and then on-base skills, I think is the progression). He’s never been high total stolen base guy – good, but his career high is just 26. Injuries, maybe, but I doubt it contributes to his speed decline that much. Batting order/situation – could be as well, but probably similar to injuries. Nagging, long term injuries are part of growing old – so it could be a tweaked knee that doesn’t allow him to get the first quick step anymore.

    It’s not something in a vaccuum and something that should be considered before the Yankees give an expensive long-term deal to a guy who could end up a LFer who only provides home runs and strike outs before his power fades …

    • Jonathan

      I’m pretty sure Granderson would be a well above average left fielder and you just said it yourself…on base skills go last. So we’d have a left fielder that only provided defense, home runs, sees a lot of pitches with on base ability and yes the all mighty strike out.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/Paddock9652 Stratman9652

    Last time somebody on here wrote about his lack of stolen bases he went and stole 2 that night. Maybe all you need to do is post this every day. And if that works then I demand a “Why hasn’t CC thrown a perfect game yet?” post.