Yankees fans are starting to turn on Curtis Granderson and it’s not exactly hard to see why. His numbers are down from a year ago, his defense has taken a big hit, and Alex Rodriguez is on the DL (that last one is supposed to be a joke).
Granderson played one of the better seasons a Yankee has played in recent years last year when he hit .262/.364/.552. He also stole a few bases and more or less played solid defense. This year his numbers are down. He’s hitting .240/.335/.487 and his UZR has dropped along with it from negative-5.1 last season to negative-15.9 so far this year.
To make things worse, Granderson has actually struggled more as the season has progressed, hitting .220/.314/.422 since June 2.
One thing that has affected Granderson this year is that teams have begun shifting on him more often. We saw it right away this year when the Rays began using extreme shifts against him right away. It’s probably a big reason his batting average on balls in play of .279 is below his career norm of .308.
But Granderson’s biggest problem is not the shift or his BABIP. His problem is that he hasn’t been putting the ball in play nearly enough. His strikeout rate is going through the roof.
During his career, Grandy has struck out in 22.6 percent of his plate appearances. Not an impressive number, but it certainly wouldn’t be the worst in the league. In his first year with the Yankees he struck out 22 percent of the time. Then 24.5 percent last season and now it’s up to 27.9 percent this season.
Going back to June 2nd (when his numbers really dropped this season), he has struck out in a whopping 30.2 percent of his at bats. If it weren’t for a hot start, that number would be good enough for the 3rd worst in all of MLB.
Granderson’s problem is that he’s chasing more pitches that he has in the past and is making less contact on pitches in the zone. This season he has swung at 27.8 percent of pitches outside the strike zone which is more than he’s ever swung at as a Yankee. Meanwhile, he’s making contact on just 83 percent of pitches he swings at compared to 89.9 in 2010 and his career mark of 86.5.
It’s impossible for me to say what’s causing this. Perhaps now that he’s being counted on, along with Robinson Cano, to be this team’s offensive leader he is putting too much pressure on himself. Or maybe teams have begun focusing on him more now that he’s one of the Yankees two biggest weapons.
Either way, Granderson needs to sit down with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long and figure out what he’s doing wrong and needs to fix it. The Yankees need him to be one of their offensive leaders. If he’s going to continue hitting .220/.314/.422 over the final two months while getting plenty of at bats at the top of the order, the Yankees are going to continue to struggle all the way to the finish line.