Curtis Granderson and left-handed pitchers

And boom goes the Grandymite.

One of the biggest stories of the Yankees’ first half has been Curtis Granderson‘s emergence as not just an import piece of the offense, but as a legitimate MVP candidate. He’s currently at 4.7 fWAR and 3.6 bWAR, the sixth and 12th best in baseball, respectively. An important part of his success has been the complete 180 he’s done against lefties, tagging them for a .394 wOBA this season after producing just a .264 wOBA against southpaws from 2007-2010. Grandy’s nine homers are the most by a left-handed batter off left-handed pitchers in baseball, three ahead of Jay Bruce and at least four more than everyone else.

As weird as this sounds, it’s been a while since Curtis took a lefty deep. This shot off Brett Anderson on May 31st was his last homerun off a southpaw, a span of 35 team games. Through May 31st, Granderson was hitting .323/.373/.823 off lefties, but since then just .162/.256/.216. His strikeout rate against southpaws went from 25.8% to 43.2%. Now before you freak out, remember we’re talking about an extremely small sample here. Curtis has just 112 plate appearances against lefties this year, and just 37 have come since that homer off Anderson. That’s nothing. I’m not concerned that Grandy has reverted back to his pre-August 2010 form against lefties, but I do want to see if same-side hurlers have been pitching him differently of late.

The table on the right shows the pitch selection left-handers had been using against Granderson before that homer off Anderson and what they’ve been throwing him since. He’s still seeing the same number off fastballs, though the distribution of offspeed pitches is a little different. Curtis is seeing way more sliders and curveballs than before, but also way fewer changeups. Because of the small sample, this could mean anything. It could mean that lefties have stopped throwing him changeups, or it could just mean they haven’t faced many left-handed changeup pitchers. The important thing is that the ratio of fastballs-to-offspeed pitches is the basically the same. If they’d stopped throwing him hard stuff all together, well that would be a problem.

With some help from Texas Leaguers, let’s look at where pitchers had been attacking Granderson from the start of the season through that May 31st game we keep referencing …

That’s from the catcher’s view, so there’s a huge gaping hole down and in. Just about everything is down and away, which is not uncommon in left-on-left matchups. Granderson took just four pitches total down and in (and in the strike zone) during the first two months of the season, and there’s a pretty good chance they weren’t even supposed to be thrown there in the first place. Now let’s look at the strike zone plot since June 1st…

There’s still a bit of a hole down and in, but it’s not nearly as big. Granderson does hang out over the plate a little bit, so it could be that lefties are trying to get in on him to keep him from extended his hands. This is the called strike zone, so it could also be that Curtis is simply taking more of those down and in pitches from lefties. The swing plots do back that up a bit, though there just isn’t enough data to say anything definitive right now.

Granderson has struggled against left-handers of late, the first time he’s done so since the fix The Fix™ last August. The Yankees are going to see a bunch of lefties in the coming weeks, with series against the Blue Jays (Ricky Romero, Jo-Jo Reyes), Rays (David Price), Athletics (Gio Gonzalez, Josh Outman), and Mariners (Jason Vargas, possibly Erik Bedard) coming up. That’ll give us a chance to see Curtis take some more hacks against same-side pitchers, which will hopefully give us a better idea of whether this latest slump is just a fluke, or if the early season success was the outlier.

With CBS radio deal up, broadcast changes loom

The reported coverage for each station in the Yankees Radio Network based on the MC Conductivity Map. (Via Bostonography)

On Friday, New York City’s terrestrial radio dial will lose its modern rock station. Ennis Communications is selling WRXP 101.9 to Merlin Media, and tomorrow, Merlin will take over programming. Eventually, the station will move to a news/talk format, but the sale requires federal approval which won’t arrive until the fall.

Now, why, you must be wondering, am I writing about an FM radio station format flip and sale on a Yankees site? Well, with the end of WCBS-AM’s five-year, $65-million contract looming at the end of the season, the Yankees and their radio broadcasts will be one of the most lucrative baseball free agents this winter, and Merlin, by many accounts, will attempt to play a role in the bidding.

Tied in with the fate of the Yankee radio rights are the futures of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Bob Raissman had more on this story recently:

If WCBS radio re-ups with the Yankees, Sterling and Waldman will be retained. Despite all the blunderful calls and uncomfortable moments, the suits there have never complained about Ma and Pa’s performance.

The voices would likely be on the ropes if ESPN-1050 gets the rights. Considering the station’s weak signal (two Dixie cups attached by a string) that’s a longshot. Still, money changes everything. If ESPN brass is willing to pay silly dough for the Yankees it could land them, thus greatly improving its chances of finally toppling The Sports Pope Radio Network. If ESPN does acquire the rights, it would select its own voices. Yet one well-embedded 1050 mole said ESPN would consider keeping Pa but probably dump Ma.

The other possible player could be WRXP-FM. Merlin Media recently purchased a majority stake in the station from Emmis Communications. Already, there is speculation that WRXP, 101.9 FM (rock and alternative) will change its format to a conglomeration of news, talk and sports. What better way to get instant recognition than to have the Yankees, a mega-marquee property, as WRXP’s anchor tenant. The familiar sound of Sterling and Waldman would be a plus in a new format launch.

There’s always the possibility – and it’s a strong one – that in any new deal Yankees suits will demand the right to select the radio broadcasters or, at least, the right to approve the voices. This would be a positive development for Sterling and Waldman.

Raissman, decidedly not a fan of the duo he has termed Ma and Pa Pinstripe, has been speculating on their ousters for a while, but it seems as though the team is married to the pair. Waldman has blazed a trail as the first female in the radio broadcast booth, and jettisoning her could be a costly move. Sterling and his histrionics are popular (although CBS-AM’s ratings are dropping despite the popularity of the Yanks). I do like Raissman’s suggestion that the Yanks add some younger blood to the broadcast booth to spell John and Suzyn, but the two seem to miss games only for religious holidays and rarely anything else.

The bigger issue, as I mentioned in February, will concern the strength of the Yanks’ radio broadcast signal no matter where it moves. ESPN 1050 has a very weak signal compared to WCBS’ powerful booster, and sticking the Yanks on FM would lead to clear sound but a significantly smaller broadcast radio. In the car, for instance, I can tune into 101.9 only as far north as Miller Hill Road in Hopewell Junction on the Taconic but can get 880 AM loud and clear in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts.

To visualize the potential signal change, take a look at this post on Bostonography. The typographically-oriented site recently compared the Yanks’ and Red Sox’s relative broadcast coverage, and it’s clear just how strong the Yanks’ AM radio affiliates are as compared with their FM counterparts. A frequency switch could spell bad news indeed for fans accustomed to WCBS AM’s signal. MLB.com’s radio package might just look more appealing come 2012.

Williams’ big night helps Staten Island to a win

It’s been a long day, so I’m cutting some corners tonight…

  • Triple-A Scranton is off until tomorrow for the All-Star Game. Adam Warren allowed a hit and struck out one in two scoreless innings. No other Yankees farmhand played in the game, which is still ongoing.
  • Double-A Trenton is off until tomorrow for the All-Star Game. Corban Joseph singled twice in three at-bats while Austin Romine had one hit in two trips to the plate. Both came off the bench as reserves.Manny Banuelos struck out the side in his inning of work (13 pitches), and Dellin Betances threw just seven pitches in his scoreless inning (no baserunners, one whiff).
  • High-A Tampa (win). J.R. Murphy and Rob Segedin each singled once, Zoilo Almonte twice, and Neil Medchill homered. Kramer Sneed gave up three runs in four innings in what was an otherwise uninteresting game.
  • Low-A Charleston (loss). Eduardo Sosa had four singles, and both Ramon Flores and Kelvin DeLeon went deep. Scottie Allen’s disaster season continued with seven runs in four innings, and Tommy Kahnle also got rocked(three hits, three walks, four runs, one out).
  • Short Season Staten Island (win). Mason Williams went 4-for-5 with a triple. Cito Culver singled once, Angelo Gumbs did twice. Zach Wilson homered. Absolutely nothing interesting happened on the mound.
  • Rookie GCL Yankees (win). Claudio Custodio and Dante Bichette Jr. each had two hits while Tyler Austin had three. All three doubled. Mark Prior (!!!) made a rehab start, allowing one unearned run in two innings. Taylor Morton followed him up with five innings of one run ball.

Soriano faces hitters in Tampa; Feliciano and Marte continue throwing

Via the AP, Rafael Soriano threw 25 pitches to hitters in live batting practice today, his second live BP session. I can’t imagine a minor league rehab stint will be far behind, and that’s good news. Pedro Feliciano, meanwhile, resumed a throwing program after being shutdown for a week with soreness in his injured left shoulder. Damaso Marte continues to throw bullpen sessions as well. Good news all around, though the last two are still long shots to contribute this year.

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you

Which Yankee would do the best on Jeopardy? Who on the Bombers is the snazziest dresser? Loudest on the plane? Biggest card shark? Behold these answers and more in Dan Barbarisi excellent glimpse at the life of the Yankees. The Wall Street Journal scribe surveyed 18 Yankees on a variety of topics, and for once, we learn a little bit more about our favorite players. Of course, Nick Swisher and Joba Chamberlain are the most boisterous on team flights, and of course, Francisco Cervelli takes the longest to get cleaned up after games. But Mark Teixeira, brainiac? That surprised me.

The funniest part involved Jorge Posada. Named the slowest Yankee by his teammates, the DH did not take too kindly to it. “I’m not the slowest runner here. I’m just telling you right now,” he growled at Barbarisi. Plus, if you read it, you’ll find out why the Yankees reacquired Sergio Mitre and which outfielder could be a future politician. While we wait for baseball games to return, it’s a fun read.

Open Thread: 2011 Triple-A All-Star Game

Last night it was the big leaguers, now it’s the guys one notch below them. The Triple-A All-Star Game is being played in Salt Lake City tonight, and former Yankees farmhand Zach McAllister is making the start for the International League. Z-Mac made his big league debut last week in case you missed it, allowing three runs in four innings against the Blue Jays. He’s the eighth player from the Yankees’ 2006 draft class to reach the show, joining Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Colin Curtis, Mark Melancon, Dan McCutchen, David Robertson, and Kevin Russo. Dellin Betances and George Kontos have a chance to make it ten, which would be pretty amazing.

Anyway, here are the lineups for the International League and the Pacific Coast League. Yes, we have a Cody Ransom sighting. The only Yankee there is Adam Warren, and I imagine he’ll get an inning in at some point. Jesus Montero, Jorge Vazquez, and Kevin Whelan all withdrew due to injury. The game starts at 9pm ET and can be seen on the MLB Network, so use this thread to talk about that or whatever else your heart desires. You all know what to do by now, so go nuts.

Modell’s, Steiner, Miller help Lopez with taxes, loans

When Christian Lopez decided to give Derek Jeter the ball from the Yanks’ short stop’s 3000th hit in exchange for Yankee schwag,, Lopez, as we discussed yesterday, may have inadvertently incurred a decent amount of tax liability on top the $100,000 in outstanding student loans he owes. Today, we learn that this story has a happy ending. As ESPN New York reported, Modell’s and Miller High Life have both offered to help out. The beer company said they would cover Lopez’s tax liability while Modell’s said a portion of sales of Yankee merchandise would help offset Lopez’s loans as well. Furthermore, as NBC’s Bruce Beck noted, Brandon Steiner and Mitchell Modell both guaranteed $25,000 for Lopez’s loan repayments as well. Good deeds sometimes do get rewarded.