Friday, October 26, 2012

Season Assessment and Off-season Outlook: Curtis Granderson

Curtis might be getting a new pair of glasses this winter.
Either way, with his walks down and strikeouts up, he needs to work on those eyes 
(NY Daily News)


It almost sounded like a joke, something too good to be true.  The Daily News reported last Saturday that Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson visited an eye specialist after a season of racking up a total of 211 strikeouts (combined regular season and playoffs). 

That's fake, right?  I mean, "getting your eyes checked" is just an old baseball cliche, isn't it?

I don't want to make a huge issue of this, because it won't have an impact on Granderson's tenure in the Bronx.  But a good way to start Granderson's season assessment is to focus on those eyes.

Season Assessment:

In 2012, Granderson accomplished two feats.  First, he proved naysayers wrong by maintaining and surpassing his prolific power numbers from 2011.  He set a new career high in homers with 43 and eclipsed 100 runs and 100 RBI for the second straight season.  His career high before finding home in the short porch in right field was a modest 30 in his last season in Detroit.

Second, he continued his transition into the last thing you might expect from a Yankees' center fielder: an all-or-nothing hitter.  He blew away the single-season franchise record in strikeouts (his own record, in fact: 169 in 2011) with 195.  His average dropped 30 points from 2011 to a career-low .232.  In the second half, he hit only .216 but his homerun production (23 in 327 AB before the All-Star game, 20 in 269 after) was the same.

Oddly enough, the perfect Granderson comparison is the 2006 version of one Adam Dunn.  Yes, Adam Dunn.  Compare Curtis' line of .232/.319/.492 and 43 homers to Dunn's .234/.365/.490 and 40 long balls.  Dunn had one less strikeout than Granderson that year. 

He has always been a solid defender in center field, though by no means is he a Gold Glove candidate.  Sabermetrically, he is a below-average defender (granted, this year his dWAR was measured against career years from Mike Trout and Michael Bourn among others).

Everyone knows his playoff struggles: 30 AB's, 3 hits, 16 K's.  "Ugly" is the best description of his numbers.  "Baffled" the best for his approach at the plate.  He ended up getting benched for Game 4 of the ALCS before striking out as a pinch-hitter.  

Off-season Outlook:

As said earlier on this blog, Jon Heyman reported the Yankees plan to pick up Curtis Granderson's $15 million team option for the 2013 season instead of opting for a $2 million buy-out.  The choice was a no-brainer for the front office, as Granderson is the team's best power threat (assuming Robinson Cano will collect around 30 and Alex Rodriguez will never be the hitter he was in 2007). 

About those eyes, now.  Granderson can't deny any longer that he's not a power hitter, and if that's how he can be most productive that is fine with me.  The .319 OBP is ominous, however.  That's a 50 point drop from the season before and also the worst of his career.  If Granderson is the all-or-nothing hitter, he has to get on base.  That said, you know that power will not last forever.  I doubt the Yankees will consider Granderson a long-term asset.  In other words, 2013 is probably his final season in the Bronx.

Unless this was his last year.  Granderson is one of the few Yankees without a no-trade clause.  But trading him, getting equal return value in the long-term, and succeeding in the short-term is such a long shot.  At the moment, Granderson is the power bat in the lineup, and replacing that production would be tremendously difficult based on the free agent market and assets already in New York's hands.  While Torii Hunter's name has floated about (as a corner outfield spot, with Brett Gardner moving to center), at his age and as a right-handed batter he would not come near 40 homers in New York if he were pursued. 

Equal value for Granderson's production would be near-impossible.  The fact is, Granderson is so much mroe valuable for the Yankees because of that short porch in right.  At home, he has 26 homeruns and 6 doubles; on the road, 17 and 12.  Teams are aware of that home/road split and realize a deal would only profit them if they give up no more than the away-version of Granderson.

In the end, the Yankees should do two things with Curtis: set him up with frequent appointments with Kevin Long to bring back the 2011 Granderson, and ask him to consider a move to left field so Gardner can really make use of his range.  I expect him back in the Bronx this spring, I expect another high total of four-baggers, and I really hope for less strikeouts and more walks. 

And new contact lenses. 

1 comments:

Hand and eye coordination is really key in baseball. I have poor eyesight so I really know how a person with blurred vision play. Even baseball bases are hard to see. So caring for your eyesight is really an investment in sports.

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