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Why Curtis Granderson Must Improve If New York Yankees Want to Keep AL East Lead

Andrew BurtonCorrespondent IIIJanuary 4, 2017

Why Curtis Granderson Must Improve If New York Yankees Want to Keep AL East Lead

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    Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees has been in a slump ever since the All-Star break concluded.

    The Yankees sit on top of the AL East with a record of 67-46, but if they want to maintain their six-game lead, Granderson is going to have to return to his prior form. 

    He's going to have to pick up his plate production, average and defense if the Yankees want to remain in first place during the chase for No. 28. 

Low Batting Average Doesn't Intimidate Pitchers

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    Curtis Granderson wasn't brought to New York to only play a stellar center field. Instead, the Yankees hoped he'd bring a lethal bat to their lineup. 

    He's a career .264 hitter, but this month, Grandy's averaging just .189 (as of August 12th), which has lowered his season average to .240. 

    At this rate, opposing pitchers aren't really fearing Granderson as they did in the beginning of the season, and that's a problem for New York because they rely on his bat as much as anyone else in that top half of the lineup. 

If He's Not on Base, He Can't Score

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    Plain and simple—Granderson must get on base for those behind him in the batting order. With the Yankees' lineup as potent as it is, driving in Granderson shouldn't be a problem. However, the center fielder isn't on base nearly as much as he should be.

    For the month of August, Granderson's on-base percentage is a mere .286. New York wins ball games by putting runs on the scoreboard; if Granderson isn't scoring runs, than who is? 

    If New York wants to sit comfortably on top, Granderson needs to get on base more and let his teammates work with him. 

He'll Receive the Most Outfielding Playing Time

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    Curtis Granderson is the youngest outfielder on New York's active roster. Therefore, he's less likely to be on the bench in comparison to guys like Ichiro Suzuki and Andruw Jones. 

    While Granderson's defense is usually great, his bat has become a liability at this point. I say this because in his last 37 plate appearance (not including yesterday's game), Granderson has struck out 11 times (30 percent of his at-bats).

    The Yankees don't have an answer for Curtis' batting woes, but they're willing to sacrifice his bat for his defense right now. However, as evident from the standings, Tampa Bay and Baltimore are very much still alive in claiming the American League East, so No. 14 has to take his game up a notch.  

Fill the Void Left by A-Rod

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    Alex Rodriguez is a power bat that New York needs in their lineup, but because he's out with a broken hand, it's up to Granderson to help alleviate that missing power with his own at bat.

    Curtis hasn't done a great job thus far: he's only managed three home runs in A-Rod's absence. Taking a deeper look, Granderson's hitting .154 over the last seven games—completely unacceptable for an All-Star wearing pinstripes.

    New York has always been a place of high expectations, and Granderson has showed glimmers of excellence, but he's got to play better baseball during these last eight weeks of the season.  

Yankees Thrive Off the Long Ball

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    Before June 16th, as tweeted by Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, all of the Yankees' wins came with at least one home run in the game. 

    As the team leader with 30 homers, Granderson has to continue to put out the long ball—during both home and away games—but he's been struggling lately and it shows in his .240 batting average.

    Granderson only had five home runs in the month of July, and he's only had two so far in the month of August.

    No. 14 needs to find himself this month so the Yankees can stay ahead of Tampa Bay and Baltimore in the standings. 

1-Run Ball Games

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    Before August 9, the Yankees had dropped the ball in eight straight one-run games.

    In those eight games, Granderson had only three hits. How can a playoff-quality team win one-run ball games if their All-Star is in a slump?  

    You can't impact your team in a positive way if you're struggling at the plate. Great hitting translates to runs which wins ball games, and you need to win ball games to stay ahead of the competition in the American League East.

No Room for Error

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    Granderson has been one of the elite center fielders for a few years now, but on July 29, he misplayed a ball against the Red Sox that cost them the game. 

    George A. King III's NYPost.com article, titled "Granderson's misplay in 9th sinks Bombers," describes the center fielder's mistake and reaction to it.

    “I broke in because I didn’t think it was hit as hard as it was,’’ said Granderson, who turned a routine fly ball out into an RBI triple and watched Dustin Pedroia’s sacrifice fly off Rafael Soriano score the second run. “You are going to make mistakes. I didn’t get a good read. I was playing back, a little deeper than normally. Who knows why I didn’t get the best read on the ball.’’

    If the Yankees want to hold that lead, they can't drop ball games, let alone games against AL East rivals like Boston. 

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