Last August, Kevin Long did some work with Curtis Granderson to try and address the lefty’s struggles against LHP. I was skeptical at the time about Long’s ability to “fix” a player who had struggled against lefties for a long time, and I cautioned against taking the positive results that we saw in that department at the end of 2010 too seriously. However, as Mike Axisa pointed out in a tweet this morning, Granderson has continued to mash lefties this season, to the tune of .281/.343/.813. Joel Sherman has more:
Remember Granderson was one of the worst batters in the majors vs. southpaws when he arrived to the Yankees. He had hit .183 vs. lefties in 2010 and for his career he was at .210 batting average/.270 on-base percentage/.344 slugging percentage. It was a line quite similar to what Paul O’Neill’s was when he became a Yankee after the 1992 season. In fact the similarities went beyond that and so I wrote this column in spring training 2009 wondering if Granderson could make the transformation accomplished by O’Neill, which was to gain enough ability against lefties to become the full-time No. 3 hitter during a dynasty.
The root of O’Neill’s success began with the work he did with his hitting coach then, Rick Down, as the two developed a toe-tapping timing mechanism that improved O’Neill’s approach overall, including against lefties. And Granderson’s success now begins with work he did with his hitting coach, Kevin Long. The duo removed some moving parts last August and Granderson began finishing his swing through the zone holding the bat with two hands. The results since he began using his new swing last Aug. 12 have been phenomenal.
In that timeframe, Granderson’s overall line is .270/.357/.597 and his 25 homers are tied with Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki for the second most behind the 29 of Toronto’s Jose Bautista. But it is the numbers against lefties that are really staggering.
Against southpaws in that span, Granderson is at .284/.364/.614. His eight homers vs. lefties is third in the majors tied with Boston’s Jed Lowrie and St. Louis’ Albert Pujols, trailing only Tulowitzki (11) and Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce (10). And Bruce is the only lefty in that group besides Granderson.
Now, it is important to note that small sample size warning bells should be clanging in your ears, as we are only talking about 100 or so at-bats that can be skewed by a few positive results. That said, this is a case where we have some context for Granderson’s improvement, and it would be folly to dismiss the swing changes as being transformative simply because the sample is not huge. While in some cases we would look at the small sample and the selective endpoints and dismiss the performance as a fluke, Granderson and Long have provided us with a reason to set August 12th as the start of a new evaluative period during which he has excelled. As such, I would give greater weight to this sample than I typically would afford one of its size.
I have some doubts that Granderson can sustain this level of success against lefty pitching, but if he can settle in at a league average level for his weaker platoon split, Sherman may be underselling him with the comparison to Paul O’Neill. A centerfielder with his line against righties combined with a league average line against lefties is a likely MVP candidate. With an aging lineup beginning to show signs of wear and the minor league system largely devoid of impact bats at the upper levels, Granderson performing at an MVP level would be a huge boon to the Yankee offense going forward. Hopefully, Curtis Granderson is in fact “cured.”
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