Sep
06

Right now, the Grandyman can’t

By

Help me Kevin Long, you’re our only hope. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Yankees’ offensive outage over the last few weeks has been perplexing and frustrating, given the number of talented hitters on the team.  As discussed in my most recent post, injuries can explain a large portion of the Yankees’ struggles.  Missed time by Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, and Mark Teixeira, among others, has led to extra playing time by bench and platoon players such as Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, Ichiro Suzuki, Eric Chavez, and Jayson Nix.  Not surprising, they have largely failed to replace the lost production due to the injured Yankee stars.

However, injuries don’t tell the whole story.  As discussed in Tuesday’s post, the Yankees have also had to endure simultaneous underachieving of several important regulars.  The most perplexing struggles have been those of Curtis Granderson, who has been having a disappointing 2012 anyway, but has been absolutely horrendous of late.  His wRC+ has dropped 34 points between 2011 and 2012 (though to be fair, 2011 was a career year for Granderson), and recently, he has been even worse.  Since August 1, Curtis is batting a measly .179/.256/.387.  This is not a small sample size fluke, but over a month of absolutely awful performance.

I was curious to see what factors might be responsible for Granderson’s decreased production compared to 2011, and while I found no definitive solution, there are a few possibilities.  Compared to 2011, Granderson has been much less effective against fastballs.  While he is still above league average against the heater, according to Fangraphs, he is not crushing the pitch to the same extent that he was in 2011.  Additionally, Granderon’s performance against the curveball has suffered, going from about league average in 2011 to below average in 2012.  He is also swinging at slightly more pitches in 2012 (41.7% compared to 40.6% in 2011), but making less contact (72.3% of swings in 2012 compared to 78.2% in 2011).  He is swinging more both at pitches in the zone (not necessarily a bad thing) and out of the zone (almost definitely a bad thing).  However, the decrease in contact is not explained by fishing out of the zone, he is actually making less contact in the zone as well.  The contact rate is also significantly lower than he has posted in previous years, indicating that this is not just regression to the mean after a career-best 2011.

What could all this signify?  The fairly significant drop in contact is a red flag to me, possibly indicative of poor pitch recognition, bad swing mechanics, or decreasing bat speed.  It is hard to pinpoint which of these three (or any other factors) may be the most likely culprit here.  At 31, Granderson is not exactly over the hill, though his 2012 regression could be an indication that Granderson’s prime may be behind him.  He is still hitting for power, as demonstrated by his 34 home runs this year, but his batting average, OBP, and slugging have all decreased dramatically.

The question is whether Granderson’s statistical decline from 2011 is a product of a season-long decline, or more the result of his recent slump.  Looking at his monthly wOBA, there is a definite trend: .395 in March/April, .362 in May, .344 in June, .342 in July, .292 in August, and .072 in September. While August and September look like extreme outliers that may skew his overall line somewhat, the decreased production each month is a major cause for concern.

Ultimately, there is not much the Yankees can do about Granderson this year.  He is their only everyday center fielder with Brett Gardner out, and one of the biggest sources of home-run power in the lineup.  He will probably be hitting in the top half of the Yankee lineup for the rest of the season, so he will have ample opportunities to drive baserunners in and help create offense.  They have to hope that he can turn things around (or at least get back to the solid, but not spectacular level of production seen in June and July), perhaps with some #curing help from Kevin Long.

Granderson’s decline probably puts his future with the Yankees in jeopardy, though it is hard to imagine them not picking up his option for 2013.  That said, Granderson needs to pull his weight in the Yankee lineup for the rest of the season if the Yankees are going to hold on to their division lead, and prove that he is worthy of another big deal in New York.  He will need to do more than that for the Yankees to make a deep playoff run.  The talent is still there, but he needs to get things sorted out quickly, as his teammates have been pulling his dead weight for far too long.

Categories : Players

52 Comments»

  1. Syrio Forel says:

    I don’t think he’ll be around beyond next season. He strikes out too much. He doesn’t play a good centerfield. With the austerity budget they will have to choose between Swisher and Granderson. Gardner is a much cheaper option for CF, they’ll keep Nick and then figure out what to do in LF.

  2. Derek says:

    It’s really frustrating to watch him to continuously whiff and whiff and whiff. I feel like he can’t do anything with the outside pitch, and that’s how he’s being attacked right now.

    I really thought the move down in the order would set him off the way the change got Swisher going, but I guess not.

    • Derek says:

      That being said, I think his option will be picked up. They may entertain trades, but his value won’t be at a level that Cashman will be satisfied with any offers. The problem is, he may have to trade him if he doesn’t want to re-sign him long term.

      • Slugger27 says:

        The problem is, he may have to trade him if he doesn’t want to re-sign him long term

        why?

        • Derek says:

          Get value for him rather than letting him walk. Although there’s the qualifying offer that would net draft pick too

          • Slugger27 says:

            or they could get value from him by playing him as their everyday CF. i like the idea of him on a 1 year commitment.

            • Laz says:

              right, if they trade him now they then have to figure out finding another outfielder. Unless you can swing a reasonable trade without emptying the farm system for upton they should just keep him. They don’t have anyone ready to take over, let alone 2 spots if swisher leaves too.

  3. Drew says:

    IMO Granderson should be batting lower in the lineup once Teix gets back. His OBP has been dropping, though as stated in the article he still has a lot power. Batting him 5th or 6th with Swisher hitting 2 should get the most out of him for the remainder of the season, and hopefully Long can fix him again during the offseason and he can start ST batting 2 again and go from there.

  4. Vinny S. says:

    Looking at his page on Fangraphs, he has as many years with wOBA’s in the .330-.350 range as he does in the .370+ range. Is this simply one of his down years?

    Personally, I think he needed a few more days off or DH days than he’s received over the year. He’s played pretty close to every inning of every game for the past two seasons, and I think it’s starting to catch up with him.

    • Eric Schultz says:

      That’s a valid point, I suppose wearing down could be a major factor here. Particularly with Gardner out all year, he probably hasn’t had as many days off/DH days as he normally would.

      • Vinny S. says:

        It could also help to explain why he isn’t stealing as much, compounded with the fact that he was batting 2nd for most of the year in front of the other big bats.

  5. Brian S. says:

    Decline the club option and offer sheet him.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

      Why?
      Who do you replace him with?

      Seems like they may as well get one more season out of him and offer sheet him after that. If the Yankees are serious about the austerity plan for 2014-2015, next year might be the best chance at a WS for a while.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      They’d be better off picking it up and trading him. The value of a draft pick is tiny.

      • bg90027 says:

        He’s been terrible since the allstar break. .200 average. below .700 OPS, more than 1 k for 3 AB’s. I don’t think how he is playing now is a true reflection of his talent but it’s starting to become a meaningful sample size. I really hope he turns it around soon but if he doesn’t, what do you think his trade value is in the offseason given that he will make $15 million in 2013?

    • DT says:

      You get more value by keeping him and hoping he rebounds.

  6. Robert says:

    He is either hurt or the pressure of a new contract has gotten to him.

  7. DT says:

    He also has had some bad luck if you look at his lower BABIP. his 24% line drive rate is well above his career 20% Line drive rate. There is not much change in his GB% and a lower FB% means his BABIP this year should be higher than it was before. Yet his .265 BABIP would be the lowest of his career. This isn’t to say there is nothing wrong with him because his increased strike out rates shows that something is off, but a it might also be that a lower BABIP despite an increase in line drives combined with his K% is making his hitting look worse than it is.

  8. RetroRob says:

    Seems to be a little bit of both. He was showing decline from last year, his career season, but he was quite productive up until August.

    I think most of us would be happy if the Grandy of April through July showed up again.

  9. Kramerica Industries says:

    Help me Kevin Long, you’re our only hope.

    Not to be a total horse’s ass…

    That’s the second time in three days you’ve used that reference.

  10. Rich in NJ says:

    I hope he has a strong finish to the season (and postseason), then the Yankees can exploit the value he has left on the trade market. I would have no interest in re-signing him.

  11. It’s playoff time now–tough games with pressure and we’re seeing what that does to Nick Swisher–so laughable when people defend that stiff. Guy is SMALL when it matters and has a pretty big record to go off regarding postseason and big moments to base that off. That being said–I don’t want Swisher back–let him go and I’d trade Granderson in offseason. If the idea is to build for future with a budget–why invest in people who can’t play at a level needed when games get tougher and frankly aren’t that good? Granderson/Swisher seem like great people but are not the caliber of player that you invest with at this stage of their careers and with Yankee gameplan for future budgetary goals.

    • River Ave Bipolar Disorder says:

      And who, pray tell, are the caliber of player in whom you would invest? Feel free to name any impending free agents or realistic trade targets that meet your criteria for age, skill, and cost and have wOBAs over .340-.350 like Granderson and Swisher.

      I see a lot of rhetoric and GM-for-the-day off-with-their-heads bravado, but when you peel away the BS and look at real-world options, you offer absolutely nothing.

      • JohnC says:

        BJ Upton

      • Rich in NJ says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be spewing operating from the assumption that the Yankees need to enter the offseason with a one year plan.

        If, however, the Yankees are serious about staying under $189m for more than one season beginning in 2014, the team might have more upside over the next few years if it takes a step back in 2013, and starts accumulating payroll space for use in subsequent seasons.

        Now, that may not be a realistic option given the Yankees stated (sometimes counterproductive) desire to win the WS ever single year, but it may make far more baseball sense, if winning the most WS possbiel over a five or ten year time horizon was the goal, as I think it should be.

        • RBC says:

          FYI – I was responding to Robinson’s Cano Sunflower Seeds post

        • Laz says:

          The yankees never take a year off. Also They still have big contracts in Arod, Teix, may be last year of Cano/Grandy, CC still here. If anything they go all in in 2013 and take 2014 off.

      • Andruw's Smile says:

        This. People want to dump Grandy and Swisher, and have no alternative. How does an Outfield of Gardner, Almonte and Melky Mesa sound next year? If you listen to RAB, that’s the plan.

    • RBC says:

      ^^THIS!!!

      But I do agree with an earlier comment that Grandy hasn’t been rested very much in the past two years. He’s literally played EVERY DAY.

  12. Jose M. Vazquez says:

    Batting second he had Cano as protection. Batting fifth who dsoes he have? I had said a while ago that he needed rest. Now may be too late in the season. He is still one of our best threats to hit the long ball. Put him second and he will get better pitches to hit. I happen to like the Grandyman an hope that they keep him.

  13. this space for rent says:

    Forget Kevin Long, how about a good optometrist?

  14. JohnC says:

    Problem is he has fallen in love with the home run. He used to hit the ball to all fields, and with authority. Now he tries to pull everything, and has lost his patience at the plate as well. Has become very very vulnerable to the curveball and changeup out of the zone. Really hope he and Long can figure things out soon.

  15. Andruw's Smile says:

    All I know is, if Grandy can somehow forget the last two months-plus happened and go on a bit of a tear from here on out, I’m cool with it.

    Yeah his slash lines are kinda ugly right now, and his WAR is not even breaking 2, but he can still finish with 40 HRs. What a freakin weird year.

  16. Big Members Only (formerly RI$P FTW) says:

    Is it true that Austin Jackson’s WAR is 4.9? He’s making $500,000 this year?

  17. Erika says:

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