Analyzing the New York Yankees' Most Recent Addition, Curtis Granderson
As I discussed right after the trade went down, the Yankees have acquired Curtis Granderson from the Tigers. Granderson's past few seasons have been very interesting. He peaked in 2007 with a 7.4(!) WAR season and has since regressed to seasons of 3.8 and 3.4 WAR in '08 and '09, respectively.
The no-doubt biggest concern with Granderson is his awful platoon split. Over the course of his career (619 AB), Granderson has put up a horrid line of .210/.270/.344 against lefties. Versus righties, he's hit to a much more attractive .292/.367/.528 line. These numbers scream platoon player, and many have suggested signing someone who mashes lefties to compensate for Granderson's weakness.
A quick look into The Book tells a different story about platoon splits, though:
"For lefties, the number [of plate appearances before the measured platoon split is accurate] is about 1,000, which means that only veteran starters have reliable platoon splits."
Granderson only has 685 plate appearances against left handed pitchers, so while he's close, it wouldn't necessarily be right to make conclusions just yet. Going forward, it would be a good bet to say that he will hit better against lefties than he has in the past. How much better is definitely a question, but I'd bank on him putting an OPS against lefties above .614 over the next few seasons.
The platoon splits are definitely a concern, but Granderson is a plus defender in center field which makes him a legitimate everyday player. His career UZR/150 in CF is 4.9, so it's safe to project him as a plus in CF.
Not only is Granderson a speedy player, a quick glance at his stats shows a steady increase in homerun power. Over the past four seasons, he's hit 19, 23, 22, and then 30 home runs. The center fielder who can hit 30 bombs is not something you see very often.
While his 30 homers in 2009 are enticing, they don't tell the whole story. His ISO decreased to the lowest it has been since 2006. The real reason for the increase in homeruns was a huge increase in fly balls. Over his career, Granderson has hit fly balls on around 44 percent of his balls in play. In 2009, that number increased to 49.3 percent. His homeruns per fly ball rate actually stayed the same, it was really just an increase in fly balls that led to the "power surge".
However, I don't think that 30 homeruns is something we won't see from Granderson again. In 2009, almost all of his homeruns were hit out to right field:
There is no doubt that this bodes well for Granderson. Comerica Park is known for having a very spacious outfield, which is a tiny bit different from what you hear about the new Yankee stadium. The four-year homerun factor for Comerica Park was 101 (100 is average). In the new stadium's first year, the homerun factor was a whopping 130. I'd definitely expect that to regress, but it will be very exciting to see the type of power numbers that Granderson will put up for the Yankees. I think it is quite likely he will top 35 home runs in a season in his Yankee tenure.
As I mentioned, Curtis Granderson hit a lot more fly balls in 2009, actually setting a career high. For a speedy player like Granderson, it's often encouraged for the player to hit ground balls, with the thought that they will be able to get on base more. With the power Granderson has, and the stadium he'll be playing in, I don't think that would be the best approach.
Granderson's BABIP dropped to a career low .276 in 2009, a far cry from his career .323 mark. Some of that can definitely be attributed to the increase in fly balls, but his line drive rate still remained solid at 21.2%(20.7 career mark).
His xBABIP of .301 shows that his high fly ball rate affected his BABIP, but also suggests that his real BABIP of .276 was a fluke. With his speed and line drive ability, it is very unlikely that he'll post a BABIP that low again. Normalizing his hitting for luck, I come up with a .267/.341/.471 line, which is definitely closer to what we should expect in the future.
Granderson looks tuned for a big improvement a la Nick Swisher in 2010. From the Yankees' perspective, how could you not like this move? They added a 29-year-old center fielder with plus defense and power who is only making $25 million over the next three seasons. Put his bat and the new Yankee Stadium together, and we could be in for some gaudy numbers.
With Austin Jackson gone, the center field question is definitively answered until 2013. Granderson is also renowned as one of the best people in baseball, known for being a positive force in his community and I know that Detroit will seriously miss him. I am ecstatic that Brian Cashman was able to pull this deal off and can't wait to see Granderson step foot on the field in pinstripes.
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