I’ll be the first to acknowledge that calling a player “exciting” on a blog infatuated with statistical analysis seems counterproductive, but the fanboy in me absolutely loves this move. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Curtis Granderson is the most exciting outfielder the Yankees have had since the late 80s, at least in regards to speed, athleticism and offensive prowess. Brett Gardner may display some flash defensively, but the jury’s still out on whether he can be a useful everyday offensive center fielder, and even if he can he’ll never have Granderson’s power.
First things first: the trade itself. As noted by RAB, despite the three teams involved, for the Yankees the deal essentially boiled down to the trading of Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke for Granderson. As far as I’m concerned, I would’ve happily given the latter two away — Kennedy has outlived any semblance of usefulness for me and I hate Phil Coke — making this deal essentially a Granderson for Jackson swap. As noted in this space, I’ve been on board with centering a package for Granderson around Jackson, and I’m a big fan of this trade. So is FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron.
While the general consensus seems to be that Jackson’s ceiling is Granderson (something I happen to agree with), there’s no way of knowing definitively what kind of numbers Jackson will end up posting, and so comparing the two players won’t really give us a great idea of what the Yankees have given up. However, we do know what Granderson is capable of doing, and we can take a look at what he’ll be replacing.
There’s been a good deal of hemming and hawing over Granderson’s struggles with lefties, but I’m not going to look at splits in this analysis. While the sub-.500 OPS against lefthanders is a concern, a lefthanded batter like Granderson seems tailor-made for the short porch in Yankee Stadium. Additionally, while there’s no way of quantifying a hitting coach’s instruction, I’d like to think that Kevin Long can help Granderson fix a couple of the issues he’s had with lefties in the past.
Another concern is Granderson’s seeming decline in 2009, going from .395 and .374 wOBAs in 2007 and 2008 to a .340 last year. and As a couple of folks have noted, Granderson’s .276 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) in 2009 was a career low, primarily due to an increased fly ball rate (49.3%). Even if Granderson still hits fly balls nearly 50% of the time, moving from 81 home games at cavernous Comerica Park to Yankee Stadium should help increase that BABIP, and I’d also expect Long to work with Granderson on hitting the ball on the ground more.
Most importantly, let’s take a look at what this does to the Yankee lineup. Granderson’s .340 wOBA replaces Melky’s .331 wOBA. Additionally, Bill James is projecting a bounceback year for Granderson (.366 wOBA) and another meh year from Melky (.330).
A lot of people have taken the Granderson deal to mean that Johnny Damon somehow now does not factor into the Yankees’ plans, but that’s false. Acquiring a center fielder doesn’t fix the team’s left field hole, and Melky Cabrera is not a suitable option. Despite all the posturing in the media, it seems like the Yankees and Damon will end up coming to some sort of agreement that works for both sides. I’ve read two years, $20 million being bandied about, which is still probably an overpay, but one I can live with.
Unfortunately it sounds like if the Yankees do retain Damon, they won’t look to also acquire a full-time DH, which is also false. I absolutely cannot stand this idea that the Yankees need to keep DH open to rest the other guys in the lineup. It makes absolutely no sense and means the Yankees will be punting a spot on offense on days where, say, Girardi wants to DH A-Rod.
I’d still love to see Matsui come back, but if not, I will continue banging the drum for Nick the Stick. So let’s take a look now at my dream New York Yankees lineup for 2010:
|2009 wOBA||2010 Projected wOBA|
I’m aware that Bill James’ projections tend to be wildly optimistic, but it’s still tough not to like the way that hypothetical lineup looks.
Just for kicks, let’s see what it looks like with Matt Holliday instead of Johnny Damon.
|2009 wOBA||2010 Projected wOBA|
Not saying they will, can or necessarily should tie up the dollars and years that it would require to get Holliday, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened if they can’t bring Damon back.
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