Curtis Granderson sucks lately. I don’t believe I’ve ever described a player that way before, at least in writing. Especially a Yankee player. When it boils down to it, the centerfielder was supposed to carry this team. After all, the Grandyman can. Yet since June 1st, he’s hit just .214/.300/.430. Matt I. broke the news to us yesterday, and ex-TYA writer Eric Shultz had a nice breakdown at River Ave Blues. Please go read it, I’ll wait for you.
Ok, so as Eric concludes, Granderson is making less contact. It’s a great point, and it certainly passes the eye test. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the 2011 MVP candidate swing and miss at breaking pitches a couple feet outside the zone. But there is another part of the story too, and that’s BABIP.
From April 6th to May 30th, Granderson hit .259/.359/.549 with a BABIP of .283. These numbers were right on track with his 2011 season. The BABIP has sharply declined since then, and from June 1st on he’s owning just a .254 BABIP. Before we start discussing whether he’s been lucky or unlucky, BABIP has to pass a few tests. The first one being speed, and although he has less stolen bases, there’s no reason to think speed has cost him a considerable number of hits. The second is contact, and in there lies the problem.
The early season sample had Granderson hitting 16.5% line drives, 40.9% groundballs, and 42.6% flyballs. Since then, the BABIP has dropped, and Granderson has hit 18.8% linedrives, 32.0% groundballs, and 49.2% flyballs. Both numbers fall on either extremes of his career batted ball rates, (20.6% LD, 35.3% GB, 44.1% FB) but there’s no wonder to why his BABIP has dropped with a significant increase in flyballs.
When you consider the decrease in contact that Eric spoke of, and the increase in flyballs, I’m left here wondering if he’s changed his hitting approach. We always used to hear that he didn’t consider himself a homerun hitter, but I don’t think we’ve heard him say that in a while. When swinging for the fences, you’re certainly aiming for more flyball contact, rather than groundball, and you should expect more whiffs. I decided to break down his swing, taking a look at hits from April, August, and yesterday.
This is a gif for ants, so I made a much larger version that you can find by simply clicking it above. At half speed, you’ll see that Granderson’s swing has remained exactly the same. There’s no difference whatsoever. So what is going on?
And now I feel much safer in saying it, this might be bad luck. Over his career, he’s hitting .741 on line drives, .239 on groundballs, and .263 on flyballs. Since June, he’s hit .811 on linedrives, .206 on groundballs, and just .075 on flyballs. That means he’s seen a .188 drop in batting average on flyballs, and considering half his batted balls are flies, of course he’s hitting just .214.
I agree with Eric in that his contact rates are a huge concern, but when looking at his BABIP, there are reasons to be optimistic. Granderson hasn’t changed his approach at the plate, which means we can expect batting average on flyballs to increase at some point. Hopefully that means quite a few extra-base hits in September and October.
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