The under-the-radar Curtis Granderson

Pineda resumes throwing on flat ground
Game 133: Win It For Robbie
(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)
(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Homeruns are fun, and no one is having more fun right now than Alfonso Soriano. In 30 games since returning to the Yankees, Soriano has hit eleven homers, including several dramatic late-inning game-winners. The Bombers may not make the postseason this year, but it won’t be because he didn’t deliver after coming over from the Cubs. Soriano has been excellent and a major shot in the arm for the offense (and, somewhat surprisingly, the defense as well).

From 2011-2012, no one had more fun that Curtis Granderson. He led all of baseball with 84 homers during those two seasons, ten more than tied-for-second Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun. The self-proclaimed “not a power hitter” was baseball’s premier power hitter until a pair of fluke hit-by-pitch injuries sabotaged his 2013 season. Oddly enough, homeruns are the reason Granderson is being overlooked right now. Soriano is stealing the show.

In 24 games since coming off the DL, Curtis is hitting .291/.412/.456 (140 wRC+) with three homers, six steals (in seven attempts), 17 walks (17.5%), and 25 strikeouts (25.8%). The power production isn’t the same as it has been in recent years, but hopefully that will come around as he gets further away from the forearm and hand fractures. Granderson does have a .196 ISO in his last 15 games after putting up a .107 ISO in his first nine games back, so that’s encouraging. (Also: Hooray arbitration endpoints.)

Instead, Granderson’s recent production has come in the form of on-base ability. He reached base three times (two singles and a walk) in last night’s blowout win over the Blue Jays and has reached base at least once in 20 of his 22 starts since rejoining the team. Curtis went 0-for-4 in his first game off the DL and 0-for-4 in Friday’s series opener against the Rays. That’s it. Heck, he’s reached base at least twice in 12 of those 22 starts. That ridiculous 17.5% walk rate isn’t being padded by intentional walks (just one) or hit-by-pitches (zero) either.

Because he is a high-strikeout hitter, Granderson was stereotyped as someone who rarely walked in recent years. I have no idea why people think someone who strikes out a lot doesn’t walk much, usually the exact opposite is true, but that line of thinking does exists. Granderson doesn’t fit the bill at all though, his career walk rate (10.3%) is well-above-average and he’s been even better as a Yankee (11.4%). He has also consistently ranked among baseball’s leaders in pitches per plate appearances throughout his career. Walks require working deep counts and strikeouts are a byproduct. They come with the territory.

Obviously a 17.5% walk rate is probably not something Granderson will be able to maintain long-term. Only two guys — Jose Bautista (20.2% in 2011) and Adrian Gonzalez (17.5% in 2009) — have managed a walk rate that high over a full season in the last five years. You would expect that number to come down and his power production to go up in the coming weeks, but the season is almost over. There’s no guarantee Granderson’s walk and power rates will regress to his career norms — or, really, to his current talent level — before the end of the season. Instead of being a power hitter, he might be more of an on-base guy for the Yankees this year.

Either way, Granderson has been very productive for New York since coming off the DL. The shape of that production has been a little different than what we’ve come to expect — instead of a power-heavy 140 wRC+ it’s been an on-base heavy 140 wRC+. That’s perfectly fine. Production is production, and frankly the Yankees probably need the on-base skills more than the power right now given the rest of the roster. The rank 17th out of the 30 clubs with a 7.7% walk rate, their lowest as a team since 1991. Soriano’s homers are stealing the show, but Granderson has been outstanding as well these last few weeks.

Pineda resumes throwing on flat ground
Game 133: Win It For Robbie
  • trr

    Many players who K a lot also walk a lot simply becuase they take more pitches.

    The real question is going forward – what do the Yanks do about him next year?

    • Vincent Vega

      They absolutely sign him to a deal.

      • John C

        they at least extend him a qualifying offer

      • JLC 776

        They should have a few extra dollars sitting around assuming the A-Rod stuff goes down as expected.

      • FIPster Doofus

        They absolutely should. Will they? I’m not too optimistic.

    • Laz

      I’d try to resign him. I certainly have a limit on what i’d offer him, but I’d be thrilled if he came back next year.

      • Jerry-NJ

        ugh, everyone’s an owner now…

    • Mac

      Depends on the deal. I’d love to have him on the team the next couple of years, but he’s also not getting any younger. A long-term deal could be more downside than production. Maybe the market is cold after his injuries, but they were flukes and he’s hitting now so I’m not so sure.

    • RetroRob

      Extend him a QO and see how his market unfolds. They should take him back on a four-year deal. Anything beyond that they should think hard, unless the dollar value is low enough.

  • MannyGeee

    Should he be batting 3rd? In front of the thumpers?

    • MannyGeee

      Serious question, by the way. Are the run starved Yankees leaving money on the table by hoping Loverbay or Nunez will drive in a guy who is getting on base at that clip? Its worth considering. Grandy 3rd, Soriano 4th, Cano 5th, A-Rod 6th? Sure, you are now cutting your nose off to spite your face by batting Cano 5th, but its a thought.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

        Best hitter batting 5th is way too low.
        They should consider Grandy batting 2nd vs. RHP, but they’ll never drop Jeter.
        I suppose they could have Jeter leadoff and drop Gardner.
        Something like:

        Or maybe Grandy, Jeter, Cano, Soriano to start instead.

      • Mac

        Don’t know that you want Cano hitting that low going forward. I wouldn’t bet on Granderson being better than Cano on any given day.

        Also, the Yankees don’t seem particularly “run starved” anymore. 5.2 Rs their last 20 games and 4.5 their last 10.

  • emcee

    Mostly off topic: I loved Grandy beating the shift with a bunt last night.

    • mitch

      me too. I hope he tries it again tonight. If he can get it down consistently it will disappear pretty quickly

    • trr

      me too!

    • RetroRob

      Unlike some other hitters, Granderson does have the ability to bunt. He should do it more. Of course, the mass media, and certain fans will complain that a power hitter is giving up the chance to hit a HR, while also getting angry that he hits into the shift.

  • Vincent Vega

    Let Cano walk, Sign Grandy, McCann, and Utley. Sign Kuroda if he wants to comeback.

    • Captain Turbo

      Whether or not it makes sense to let Cano walk, I don’t see them doing that. Would love to see Grandy and Kuroda come back though.

      • Vincent Vega

        I agree, it just pains me to know the contract will likely not end well. That and they could get Grandy and Utley for cheaper than Cano and for many less years.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Then root for some championships before that happens.

        • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

          I agree with you. Sign Grandy and Utley, and let somebody else deal with another huge contract given to an aging superstar. Because those have always worked out so well. Just ask A-Rod, Hamilton, and Pujols.

          I doubt we’d let him leave, but on the other hand I’m not really sure what to think.

    • steve (different one)

      Wasn’t Utley already extended in Philly?

    • Get Phelps Up

      Utley was extended

  • JobaWockeeZ

    No one talks about Granderson’s “inability” to walk it’s an inability to get on base at an above average clip. Shockingly walking isn’t all that’s composed in OBP. And since we all talk about the importance of OBP and how it’s always better than SLG then you can see why Granderson gets that stigma.

    • mitch

      his OBP since he’s been on the Yanks is .340 which is considerably above average

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

      League average OBP this year is .321.
      Granderson: career .342
      He’s ranged from very slightly below average to well above average through his career.

      • JobaWockeeZ

        Why are we using Granderson’s career OBP in comparison to one year? First of all league average OBP is .318. That is the lowest league average OBP in the past decade so obviously if you cherry pick that with Granderson’s career obviously it looks better.

        League average OBP was close to .340 for Granderson’s first 5 years in the league. I mean congratulations, Granderson was better than average for like .005 points but people act like he’s a Nick Swisher.

        • mitch

          League OBP during the 4 years Grandy has been on the Yanks: .326, .321, .320, .319

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

          AL average is .321.
          I thought that was more relevant, since pitchers weigh fairly heavily in the NL.
          I compared his career avg to this year , because I didn’t think his current .391 OBP is sustainable, and I expect he’ll likely regress to something closer to his career norms.
          I never said he was great in terms of OBP. I correctly pointed out that he ranged from slightly below average to well above average in his career (full seasons). That is comparing him to league average in each individual year.
          2012: AL – .320, Granderson – .319 (basically average)
          2011: AL – .323, Granderson – .364 (well above average)
          2010: AL – .327, Granderson – .324 (basically average)
          2009: AL – .336 ,Granderson – .327 (slightly below avg)
          2008: AL – .336, Granderson – .365 (well above average)
          2007: AL – .338, Granderson – .361 (well above average)
          2006: AL – .339, Granderson – .335 (slightly below avg)

        • RetroRob

          Joba, what is the point you’re trying to make?

          Sure, let’s throw out his early career if you want since the league OBP was higher. As a Yankee his OBP is .340, which is quite a bit higher than the league average. As a Yankee, he’s a .250/.340/.500 hitter, who can draw a walk and drive up pitch counts, while also hitting for quite a bit of power. I would have thought after most of this season fans might suddenly appreciate those skills.

          He’s not a high average hitter, yet his BABIP last year was only .260, the lowest of his career, 30 points lower than his prior year, and more than 40 points lower than his career average. Now he’s not the same type of hitter he was when he was younger, but we don’t need that data. When know exactly who he is as a Yankee. Draws walks, drives up pitch counts, hits for power and had an unlucky year in 2012. The betting money was/is on a higher BA and of course OBP in 2013.

    • Mac


    • Jerry-NJ

      don’t let the facts get in the way of your nonsense argument…

  • FLYER7

    Definitely a QO for Grandy…Gardy, Grandy, Sori and one of Ichiro or Wells next year with a fifth OF to be named…not bad for starters for revamping the team with a look toward 2015

    • mitch

      Would he even except a QO? It’s not like there are going to be lingering injury questions and i don’t think he can regain that much value playing on a 1 year deal.

      I’d definitely try to resign him, but I think it requires a 3+ year deal.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I think he actually could regain value on a one-year deal. He’s barely played this year. Some good recent numbers are going to lead to extra money, no matter how good he’s looked in limited time.

        Am I opposed to a bigger deal? Not at all, but I certainly have my limits here. I love Curtis. I don’t know if I love him for more than three years.

        • mitch

          It’s possible, but does it outweigh the risk of getting injured again or having a down year? He’ll be 33 next year. Even if he hits 35+ HRs what kind of contract would he get as a 34 year old FA?

          I think something like 3/45 would be a good deal for both sides.

          (Obviously if he’d take the QO i’d prefer that)

          • Mac

            It’ll be interesting to see what the market brings and what he wants to do. If he keeps raking this season he might want to sign as big a deal as possible before getting too old.

            I don’t think 3/45 would be a good deal for Granderson or that he’d take it. He’d be signing for QO $ through what could easily still be prime years and dumping himself back on the market going on 36. I think he’d be better off getting a higher AAV on a 1-2 year deal and/or getting a longer-term deal. Take a one year deal to rebuild value before taking a 3 year deal at QO $. Everyone in MLB has money. Can’t see him getting basically 3/4 what Swisher got.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      News for ya bub: All but Grandy are signed or under team control for next season. Barring the inevitable injury, those are your 5 outfielders if they bring Grandy back>

    • Reggie C.

      Can the Yankees even make a QO to Soriano?

      • mitch

        he’s already under contract for next year for much less than the QO

  • Eddard

    Granderson should be playing everyday in RF. I’d rotate Alex, Jeter and Reynolds at DH. Ichiro should be a PR only. There isn’t a day that should go by where Ichiro is playing and Granderson, Soriano or Gardner are on the bench.

    • JGYank

      Agree. Ichiro is a bench player. Would be a good pinch runner/defensive replacement. Grandy needs to be in the lineup and is a starter.

    • Mac

      NO REST EVER!!!! The Yankees sweat shop!!!

  • JLC 776

    And just like that, Grandy is batting 3rd tonight.

    • Captain Turbo

      Behold the power of RAB.

  • Mandy Stankiewicz

    Timely article, especially after that beauty of a bunt last night. Gotta love this dude.

  • OldYanksFan

    Mark Reynolds is the Yankees starting second baseman tonight.