April was not kind to him through 24 games played, as he posted a .145/.265/.229 line with one home run, seven RBI and 26 strikeouts in 83 at-bats.
That’s not the kind of production general manager Sandy Alderson was hoping for when he signed Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract over the winter.
During his tough April, it seemed he was behind in the count nearly every time he walked to the plate. Not surprisingly, he’s struggled to a .135/.135/.135 line with 21 strikeouts in 52 at-bats when the pitcher is in control this season.
Of his 156 plate appearances heading into Thursday’s Subway Series finale against the New York Yankees, the count has run to two strikes against him 82 times. The count has reached 0-2 on him 34 times.
The left-handed hitter has turned things around so far in May. Through 47 at-bats, Granderson owns a .319/.396/.596 line with four home runs and 12 RBI. He’s seen his season batting average rise from .141 on May 1 to .200 before Thursday night’s matchup.
The Mets have a unique approach they’re trying to instill in their hitters. Maggie Wiggin of MetsBlog talks about this “selective aggression.” When looking at advanced statistics, the “Grandy Man” is following suit to a degree but has struggled with finding success.
Granderson is swinging at pitches out of the strike zone 27.7 percent of the time, his lowest rate since 2011. Meanwhile, he’s swinging at strikes at a rate of 69 percent, the highest in his career. Unfortunately, his contact rate within the strike zone is the lowest it’s ever been (77.8 percent).
Even though he’s swinging at strikes, he’s not swinging at ones he can punish. That’s because he’s been behind in the count so often. Pitchers are throwing him the pitch they want, not the one Granderson wants.
Since he’s trying to protect against the strikeout, he feels obligated to swing in order to stay alive. That approach didn’t work much in April.
While there was hope he’d eventually turn things around, his amplified aggressiveness at the plate has helped. His two hits against the Yankees on May 12 are perfect examples.
In his first at-bat, he wasted no time getting a good pitch to hit from Hiroki Kuroda in the first inning, lining his first offering into center field for a single. In the sixth, he was free to swing on a 3-0 count, leading him to deposit another pitch from Kuroda in the right field bleachers.
Entering Thursday, Granderson has seen an average of 4.03 pitchers per plate appearance, ranking 44th among qualified hitters, according to Sporting Charts. That’s in line with what he’s done since 2010—that number has been as high as 4.44 and as low as 3.99.
Since he’s susceptible to the strikeout, it would be best for Granderson to stay aggressive earlier in at-bats. He shouldn’t be as selective as New York would like because he struggles so much once he gets behind in the count.
When he has the leverage in a matchup, he’s hitting .317/.525/.634 in 61 plate appearances. Obviously, it’s easier to be in control of pitchers when they start an at-bat by throwing a ball instead of a strike.
If Granderson jumps on the first or second pitch more often, pitchers will eventually be more careful with their initial offerings. If they're more careful with their pitches at the start of an at-bat, more balls will be thrown out of the strike zone, immediately giving him the upper hand.
The outfielder is on his way to making that season-starting slump a thing of the past. He collected just five extra-base hits (four doubles, one home run) through his first 88 at-bats, yet still has a .148 ISO (isolated power) this season, which is a respectable number.
He’s certainly regained his power stroke over the last two weeks. It wasn’t expected for him to hit .280 with 40 home runs this year. If he can raise his batting average to the .230-.240 range and hit 20-30 home runs after the start he had, that will be ample protection for David Wright.
Granderson will stay hot if he remains aggressive at the plate, jumping on fastballs early in the count before it runs to two strikes, where he's at the mercy of a breaking ball or off-speed offering.
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