Who is the Real Curtis Granderson?

Let me preface this post by exclaiming my admiration for Curtis Granderson.  He has long been one of my favorites in the game through his years in Detroit.  You can imagine my excitement then when the Yankees announced that a trade had been worked out to bring the young centerfielder to New York an offseason ago.

Due to an admittedly irrational fondness of Granderson, I was quite bullish on what he would provide as a Yankee in 2010.  I remember “projecting” him to a .280/.350/.490 line, a significant 58 OPS points higher than his actual performance.

So, looking at Granderson objectively, what should we expect?

That .280/.350/.490 line was not without any basis; he has had some outstanding offensive seasons in the past.  His greatest came in 2007, when he hit .302/.361/.552 with 23 home runs and 23 triples, in the pitcher-friendly confines of Comerica Park no less.  And he was no slouch in 2008 either, as he hit .280/.365/.494.

But the wheels came off after 2008 for Granderson.  This is not to say he has not been good the last two years, but in no way does his most recent performance compare to his ridiculous 2007 campaign or even his very good 2008 campaign.  In 2009, Granderson’s average dropped all the way to .249, and his on base percentage to .327.  He did maintain his power though as 30 home runs gave him a strong .458 slugging %.

A lot went wrong that year.  His fly ball rate went up and his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) dropped from .316 to .275, perhaps indicating some bad luck, but also possibly as a result of his increased fly ball rate.  A lot would be determined by his play in 2011.  Was his 2009 a one year abberation?  Or was it more towards his norm?

2010 proved to be a tale of two seasons for the newly acquired Yankee.  A rough first half, combatted by a strong final two months, with a trip to the Disabled List mixed in for good measure led to a .247/.324/.468 line, or a 109 OPS+, decent stats for a good fielding centerfielder, but still nowhere near his 2007-2008 level of production.  It would seem then that this is what we should expect going forward right?

Again, it is not that simple.   Granderson was really good in the final two months.  You may remember that in the second week of August, Curtis took a few games off to work with hitting coach Kevin Long to correct some things that had gone out of wack with his swing.  From that point on, Granderson hit .268/.356/.564 which adds up to a premier .920 OPS.  This upswing in production, whether truly a result of his work in the cage or a strange coincidence, while obviously not guaranteeing a stronger 2011, is enough to lend hope that Granderson can recapture at least some of that pre-2009 magic.

Further suggesting that Granderson could do better is his .277 BABIP last season, which was just two points higher than his 2009 mark.  You may remember that when Brian Cashman traded for Swisher after his miserable 2008, he was banking that his .249 BABIP that year was a fluke.  Lo and behold, Swisher has been fantastic.  Normally, it will rebound to a player’s career average, which for Granderson is .314.

In the end, I would expect that his final line in 2011 will be better than his 2010 line due to what appears to be some bad luck and mechanical mishaps.  However, after two years of subpar hitting, it is unreasonable to expect Granderson to be the superstar he once was.   Worsts case scenario, he is the same player as he was in 2010, which would still make him a well above average centerfielder, providing great value to the Yankees.

For what it’s worth, here is a wOBA graph courtesy Fangraphs comparing Granderson to his two most similar batters by age according to Baseball-Reference.

This entry was posted in Editorial and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Who is the Real Curtis Granderson?

  1. Mike S. says:

    One friend I have subscribes to the theory that it takes players a while (sometimes a whole year) in the Bronx to adjust & that season #2 is when it all clicks in. If he's right, Curtis will have a good year.

  2. Bronx Knight says:

    This is a nice report, and very encouraging.

    Makes me feel BULLish on Granderson, maybe I’ll go out and buy some of his stock ;-)

  3. Franco Kotos says:

    Granderson is all about potential. He could become a very powerful hitter but I'm waiting for him to have that breakout year. If he raises his obp, drives in a few more runs and maintains his speed, i'll be happy but the potential is there for more.

    • Alex Taffet says:

      Agreed. As he showed in 2007 when he was worth more than 7 fWAR, he can be an absolute superstar. But yes, his most recent performance is more than acceptable.

  4. GC says:

    i love your writing. i wish i could write like you