Curtis Granderson Must Sit If New York Yankees Are to Win AL East

Phil WatsonCorrespondent ISeptember 9, 2012

Curtis Granderson pops out to end a New York Yankee threat in the top of the eighth inning of New York's 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Saturday night.
Curtis Granderson pops out to end a New York Yankee threat in the top of the eighth inning of New York's 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Saturday night.Rob Carr/Getty Images

Something that may be lost in the controversial ending to Saturday night’s 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles is the continued slide of All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson.

Granderson entered Saturday’s game as a pinch-hitter for Andruw Jones in the sixth inning and struck out against Baltimore reliever Darren O’Day with the tying run at second base in what was then a 3-2 game.

He stayed in the game to play center field and got another opportunity with a runner in scoring position in the top of the eighth inning. Trailing 5-3 with Robinson Cano at third and pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez at first, Granderson meekly popped out to Oriole catcher Taylor Teagarden against reliever Brian Matusz.

Two at-bats, a strikeout and a pop-up, four runners left stranded—two of those in scoring position. Oy.

It would be easy to say there is a bit of an overreaction here to two at-bats in one game over the course of a 162-game season. But Saturday’s results aren’t an anomaly by any stretch of the imagination, they’re the continuation of a trend that somewhat resembles a very, very steep downward slope.

For the season, Granderson is hitting .230, a career-low, with 34 home runs and 81 RBI. His OBP is only .321 and his OPS a pedestrian .792. Worse still is that his ability to create havoc on the base paths seems to have gone to the same place as his swing. After stealing 25 bases and scoring 136 runs a year ago, Granderson currently has eight and 84 in 2012.

In his last seven appearances dating back to Sept. 1, Granderson is 2-for-19. That’s a .105 average for those of you scoring at home. Included in that stretch are zero extra-base hits, one run, two RBI and 10 strikeouts.

Oh, those strikeouts.

Granderson will never be confused with Hall of Famer Joe Sewell when it comes to his ability to simply put the ball in play. Sewell, who played for the Cleveland Indians and the Yankees from 1920 to '33, is baseball’s all-time leader in strikeout percentage with .016—an almost impossible-to-fathom 114 strikeouts in his career, which covered 7,132 at-bats.

Contrast that with Granderson’s 168 strikeouts this season. He’s closing in on his career high in whiffs, set when he was a Detroit Tiger in 2006 with 174. He’s currently second in the American League behind free-swinging Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox in most times making the walk of shame back to the dugout.

But it’s all part of a continuing trend for Granderson, who wasn’t setting the world on fire in the first half of the season.

He hit .248 with 23 homers and 48 RBI and a triple-slash of .248/.352/.502. But that’s positively Ruthian compared to what he’s done since starting for the American League at the Midsummer Classic in Kansas City.

Since the break, Granderson’s bat might as well be on the side of a milk carton. He’s hitting .200 since then with 11 homers and 33 RBI. The triple-slash is a hideous .200/.263/.416 and he has 69 strikeouts in just 185 at-bats.

He’s just lost at the plate right now.

If manager Joe Girardi wants to fend off the stubborn Orioles over the final 23 games of the regular season, he needs to set aside his loyalty to his veterans and get Granderson’s bat out of the lineup.

At this point, Granderson is such a liability at the plate that there are better options available. Move Ichiro Suzuki to center field and cover left field with a platoon that could include whoever was the hottest among Steve Pearce, Raul Ibanez, Jones, Jayson Nix and Chris Dickerson.

Granderson’s only value right now is as a late-inning defensive replacement or pinch-runner because he’s only a danger to the Yankees when he has a bat in his hands.