Friday, August 12, 2011

In The Sabermetric Spotlight: Curtis Granderson

The Power of the Spotlight is @COSFBA points out "Five SABR reports; 2 DL stints. I'll be sure not to suggest you write about any of my studs."

So...40% of the Sabermetric Spotlight articles have ended in a DL stint? This is what I get when I return from vacation? Yikes... Well, at any rate, back to baseball...

There are very few sportscasters that I can stand listening too these days. Either they speak in monotone or they are such big homers it's impossible to listen and enjoy at the same time. I can't even stand listening to my own hometown broadcasters, Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven. Two sportscasters that really stick out as exceptionally annoying in my mind are John Sterling and Ken "Hawk" Harrelson. The reason I bring this up, is because a lot people have been singing praises about this week's Sabermetric Spotlight candidate. Even though I'm not a fan of John Sterling, the guy knows how to turn a home run or great catch into a phrase that will stick with a player for the rest of his career. The Grandy Man Can...and thats why this week we shine the Sabermetric Spotlight on....

Curtis Granderson, OF New York Yankees

I don't think anyone doubted Granderson's potential or skillset. He was a 30/20 guy in 2009 with the Detroit Tigers and he was headed to the powerhouse Yankees. Everyone in pinstripes seems to increase their HR numbers. So what happened to Granderson in 2010? He posted career lows in AVG and OBP, and his lowest RBI and SB numbers since 2008. What gives? Wasn't Granderson supposed to hit the ground running in the Big Apple and become one of the games elite 5-tool players?

There was probably a lot of factors that lead to Grandersons disappointing 2010 campaign. Exactly a year ago, Granderson was on the bench (he was benched 8/10/10 and 8/10/11) and was in danger of becoming part of a platoon with Marcus Thames. Maybe it was the fact that he was thrust into the spotlight in New York, and he wasn't ready for it? Maybe pitchers picked up on a hole in his swing and were exploiting him. What a world of difference one year makes. Granderson is hotter than Waco, TX!

It's clear that Granderson's approach at the plate is the cause for the new found success. Granderson is all but officially a pull-hitter now. Don't believe me? Take a look at the below spray charts, courtesy of Texas Leaguers. The top one is Granderson in 2010 and the bottom is this season so far.

It's pretty obvious that over half of Grandersons hits are coming down the right field line, and a good portion of them are clearing the fence. Grandersons ground-outs are nearly identical between 2010 and 2011, and the vast majority of them are going to somewhere between 1st and 2nd base. Don't think this looks like the typical pull hitters spray chart? Do me a favor, and look up Jim Thome's spray chart, or Mark Teixeira from the left side of the plate.

So Granderson likes to pull the ball. Pitchers should pitch outside with off speed stuff to keep him off balance and prevent him from turning on the ball right? Well, maybe they are, but Granderson is hitting them just the same. Take a look at the heat chart from Fox Sports. I'm no expert, but it looks to me like Granderson is actually hitting pitches middle-away better than inside pitchs. This allows him to extend his arms and get more force into the ball.

Ok, it's reasonable to assume that Granderson has changed his approach at the plate, but that doesn't always translate into success, so what do his peripherals tell us? Maybe Granderson is just having one of those years, and is getting lucky? It wouldn't be the craziest thing that's ever happened *cough - Brady Anderson - cough*.

You might be surprised to find out that Granderson's BABIP isn't all that high. Sure, it's about 20 points higher than his career average (.308 in 2011, .286 over career), but if you were to take out 2009 and 2010 (.275 in 2009, .277 in 2010), it's actually the lowest of his career. Grandersons K% is also at a career high, and his IFH% (Infield Hit Percentage) is the second lowest it's ever been. This doesn't sound like someone who is getting lucky to me, it sounds like someone who is hitting the ball with authority and pitchers haven't adjusted well to his new approach.

Another interesting data set is Grandersons career trends for GB%, FB% and how they relate to his ISO. It appears as though these numbers have been trending, pretty steadily and consistently, over the course of his career.
It's hard to say what Granderson's true value is. In the future, should we expect similar numbers to what he posted last season, or is he closer to the player that he's been this season? I think that his value is somewhere in between, but closer to how he is performing now. Granderson is 30, so it's not as if he's just entering the prime of his career now, so you should temper your expectations for the coming year. I do however, expect him to be a solid keeper or dynasty pick next season.

But wait, what should I do with him if I have him on my roster?

I'm glad you asked! If I were you, I would sell like I've never sold before. I would be willing to bet that by seasons end, Granderson will post his best career numbers. Not to date, rather the best he will post in his entire career. I don't see Granderson ever hitting 40 HR after this season. His counting stats are through the roof, and I've heard of people offering trades including everything but the kitchen sink to get Granderson. If you can get 1st round value for him, now is the time to make that deal. If your in a single season, non-keeper leauge, you might want to ride him out, as I said, he's having the best year of his career.

Have a question or comment? Want to suggest the next player featured In The Sabermetric Spotlight? Leave a comment below or drop me a line on Twitter @SillyLittleGame.

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