Nov
07

What Went Wrong: Curtis Granderson

By

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Power is becoming harder to come by these days, and hitting coach Kevin Long turned Curtis Granderson into one of the game’s elite power hitters with some mechanical adjustments back in August 2010. He hit a career-high 43 homers in 2012, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Jason Giambi as the only players to hit 40+ homers in back-to-back seasons for the Yankees. Since the start of 2010, no player has hit more homers than the Yankees’ center fielder.

That said, it wasn’t all good for Granderson in 2012. Expecting him to repeat his MVP-caliber effort from 2011 was a little unrealistic, but seeing nearly every non-power aspect of his game take a step back this year was unexpected. He became a very one-dimensional power hitter in a lineup that featured a few too many of those guys to start with. Maybe having to play the field nearly every day due to Brett Gardner‘s injury — Curtis started the team’s first 71 (and 89 of the first 90 games) in center — wore him down a bit, but that’s not really an excuse. The decline in overall production took a bite out New York’s attack.

Batting Average
I don’t think anyone is realistically expecting Curtis to his .300+ every year, but I also don’t think anyone expected him to hit .232 either. In fact, after topping out at .284 in the team’s 28th game of the season, Granderson hit just .220 in his final 556 plate appearances. He came into the year as a .267 career hitter and a .255 hitter as a Yankee, so he failed to meet even his modest standards. The 30-point drop in batting average from 2011 to 2012 coincides with a 35-point drop in BABIP, which doesn’t really jibe with the minimal change his batted ball profile. I’m not giving Granderson a pass for his inability to pick up simple base hits, but it is fair to say he got a little unlucky with his balls-in-play this summer.

Strikeouts
This is partially tied to the whole batting average thing but the correlation is often overstated. That said, Granderson’s strikeout issues — franchise record 195 strikeouts in 2012 thanks to a career-high 28.5 K% — are a career-long issue that have gotten worse in each of his three seasons in New York…

Starting with the four-game series in Detroit in early-August, Granderson struck out 65 times in his final 210 plate appearances (31.0%). He also whiffed an astronomical 16 times in 33 postseason plate appearances. Curtis draws a lot of walks (11.0 BB%) and works deep counts (4.27 pitches per plate appearance, the fifth highest in baseball), which contributes to the strikeout issues, but also he’s just the kind of hitter who will swing-and-miss a bunch. It’s just who he is. When he’s hitting .260-something with 80+ walks and 40+ homers, you live with it. When he’s hitting .220 with a sub-.320 OBP, like he did in 2012, they’re a problem.

On The Bases
In the three seasons prior to coming to New York, Granderson stole 58 bases in 69 attempts (84.1%). This year he stole just ten bases in 13 attempts, both the lowest full season totals of his career. Heck, he only had three steals through the team’s first 69 games. Curtis doesn’t get enough credit for being a superb base-runner overall — he’s taken the extra base a well-above-average 48% of the time as a Yankees — but for whatever reason he just didn’t steal or even attempt to steal many bases in 2012. I wouldn’t call it a problem per se, but it’s a skill he was supposed to bring to the table that just isn’t there anymore.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Defense
The various metrics absolutely buried Granderson’s defense this year, as he ranked dead last among all qualified outfielders in UZR (-17.8) and bottom ten in both DRS (-10) and Total Zone (-12). I don’t believe he’s among the game’s worst defensively outfielders as the one-year of defensive data suggests, but he’s certainly a below-average defender in center. He was worse in 2012 than he was in 2011, when he was worse than he was in 2010. The Yankees aren’t oblivious to Granderson’s defensive shortcomings either, which is why they’re considering putting Gardner in center next year. Frankly, it’s a move that has to be made at this point.

* * *

The prevailing thought out there seems to be that Granderson was a flat out bad player in 2012, but that’s ridiculous. It’s almost impossible for a player to hit 40+ homers in this run-starved environment and be bad. He certainly took a step back in all of the above areas and had a miserable playoff showing like most of his teammates, but his overall production was still much better than average and valuable for New York. Curtis just wasn’t nearly as good this year as he was a year ago, and the Yankees missed the lost production.

Categories : Players

21 Comments»

  1. Murderers' Row Boat says:

    He’s a product of the short porch, and is much better suited as the left fielder.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      He’s only hit ten more homers at home than on the road these last two years. Last season is was one more homer at home than on the road.

      • Murderers' Row Boat says:

        He just seems to be lot more pull happy than he was last year. I haven’t seen a spray chart, but the lack of left field hits were noticeable.

      • Samuel says:

        I don’t have the HR tracking in front of me, but it appeared Granderson hit many of his HRs at Yankee Stadium into the second deck down the RF line. These shots would have been HRs in any other park.

        Granderson gets much of his power from his tremendous hip rotation, a huge trait of a Kevin Long style hitter.

        Long also helped create Robinson Cano’s power stroke, who didn’t hit for much power until he began working with Long in AAA Columbus.

    • RetroRob says:

      Granderson is a lefty power hitter, so he’s certainly helped HR wise by his park, but his power is not a product of his home park. He’d be a legit 35+ HR hitter on most teams.

      Now if you’re implying he might be more pull happy as a Yankee, which has altered his swing, then I’d be more likely to agree with that. His power, though, at this point hin his career is quite legit.

  2. I am not the droids you're looking for...(I believe that children are our future) says:

    OT: let’s sign Bay to a minor league deal worth $1 mil if he makes the roster.

  3. Eddard says:

    Klong has turned him into a boom or bust hitter, HR or K. Curtis really represents what is wrong with that whole philosophy. He doesn’t have the steals because he doesn’t get on base. He’s not a center fielder. The Yankees need to do some soul searching this offseason and probably revamp their whole offensive philosophy if they want to win another WS in the next decade. If they don’t then it’s quite possible we’re being sentenced to a thousand years of darkness.

  4. forensic says:

    I’m impressed that you found a picture of him that didn’t involve putting the bat under his arm and walking back to the dugout after whiffing at a predictable pitch in the dirt.

  5. Andy Pettitte's Fibula says:

    I’d try and trade him this offseason while they can still get something for him other than a draft pick. Maybe some team still thinks he can play CF.

    • jjyank says:

      I’d be okay with that given the right return. But there is a good possibility that Granderson provides more value for the 2013 Yankees than what he is traded for would provide.

      For the right deal though, sure.

  6. Get Phelps Up says:

    I wonder what people would think of his season if he did nothing else but turn half of his strikeouts into ground balls to second.

  7. Barbara Booey says:

    “The prevailing thought out there seems to be that Granderson was a flat out bad player in 2012, but that’s ridiculous. It’s almost impossible for a player to hit 40+ homers in this run-starved environment and be bad.”

    Nonsense, Axisa. Sheer nonsense. We can debate about how difficult or close to impossible it can be to be “bad” and hit 40+ homers. Regardless of what the threshold is, Granderson managed to achieve it. Honestly, why don’t we just get Adam Dunn to play CF? What would be the difference? His baserunning is deplorable. Now Axisa’s analysis would say that he isn’t in a position to steal a base because he is never actually on base, which is partially true. To watch this guy flail his arms about like an autistic 3 year-old as he rounds the bases is to watch the most inefficient and lousy sort of baserunning that there is in the game today. Manute Bol would lope around the bases more efficiently than this overpaid fool.

    But perhaps the most painful part of having to watch him play are his vacuous post-game interviews. Does YES provide him with some sort of teleprompter, or has he simply rehearsed the same canned nonsense every single time a reporter shoves a mic in front of his mouth that it’s now second nature to him? Can you imagine if he were on the team in 1998 in the Orioles brawl? While Straw was throwing haymakers in the Oriole dugout and Graeme Lloyd was using his big giraffe legs to apply roundhouse kicks to the opposition, Grandy would be in the clubhouse getting makeup applied and programming his teleprompter for the post-game interview. “Well, there was definitely a lot of passion out there on both sides, you never want to see people get hurt, but we’re going to go out there tomorrow and continue to battle, blah blah blah”.

    I can’t wait til this guy is traded this offseason. Folks, don’t forget who butters RAB’s bread. It’s the YES Network. Pig Vomit Levine / Cashman are dictating to Axisa to provide some sort of small defense of Granderson, to help ease the uphill battle they have to unload this loser.

    • jjyank says:

      “But perhaps the most painful part of having to watch him play are his vacuous post-game interviews. Does YES provide him with some sort of teleprompter, or has he simply rehearsed the same canned nonsense every single time a reporter shoves a mic in front of his mouth that it’s now second nature to him?”

      Do you have the same problem with Jeter?

      And can you go one post without positing that RAB is merely a propaganda tool of Levine?

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:

      Folks, don’t forget who butters RAB’s bread. It’s the YES Network.

      Watching people talk through their ass never gets old.

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula says:

      I love the “pig vomit” reference though I think you’re pretty far off base saying RAB is Yankee propaganda. They lean towards the Yankee apologist side a bit but Cashman”s mouthpiece, hardly.

  8. Peter Lacock says:

    Stealing bases is very hard on the body.
    Granderson has great instincts, is very fast and could steal 50 bases if he tried but the Yankees don’t allow it.
    The Yankees want him to stay healthy, play everyday and hopefully hit many HR’s. 2012 was a good year for him but more is expected, more like 2011 is expected in 2013.
    Granderson is a great athlete with many good years ahead of him and the Yankees will try to keep him.

  9. SRB says:

    Would “an appropriate trade” be Granderson for Ian Kennedy and AJax (we wouldn’t demand Phil Coke)?

  10. Hoss says:

    If Grandy isn’t the worst OF in the game based on “defensive data” why is Jeter the worst SS? Sabermetrics are especially useful when you get to ignore them when you don’t think they’re accurate.

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