Curtis Granderson: Is the New York Yankee Primed for a Bounce-Back Season?
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Curtis Granderson's debut season with the New York Yankees can best be described as one filled with many peaks and valleys. Judging by his strong second half and impressive postseason numbers, it wouldn't be surprising if Granderson has a 2011 similar to his breakout 2007 season with the Detroit Tigers.
His Yankee career couldn't have gotten off to a finer start. In his first at bat of the season, he crushed a Josh Beckett pitch into the right-center field bleachers at Fenway Park.
Just three days later, Granderson led off against the Red Sox in the 10th inning and delivered an early moment of ecstasy to Yankee fans by blasting a game-winning home run to right field stands off of Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Granderson quickly endeared himself to his teammates and the "Bleacher Creatures" by immediately performing against their hated rivals, but his numbers would soon take a tailspin.
He finished April with a batting average of just .211 and only managed to hit two home runs. Some Yankee fans began to question whether their center fielder would be able to produce under the bright lights in the Bronx.
Granderson's struggles at the plate continued into July. His sub-par first half totals consisted of a .240 batting average, seven home runs and 24 RBI and wasn't impressing the hard-to-please crowds at Yankee Stadium.
He soon found his power stroke and went on a torrid run, hitting 17 home runs in the second of half of the season including nine in September/October. Granderson complied a slugging percentage of .523 after the All-Star break, which was 114 points higher than his first half mark.
In the 2010 playoffs, he took his game to new heights by leading the Yankees with a .357 batting average and tied Robinson Cano with a team-best six postseason RBI. In the ALDS against the Twins, Granderson dominated the Minnesota pitching logging a .455 batting average and a monstrous slugging percentage of .727.
Granderson will be looking to turn the page in 2011 and find the consistency that allowed him compile some fantastic seasons in Detroit.
He told the New York Daily News, "All those 'firsts' are done with. I know the guys more, I know the facility more, the coaching staff more. This year will be very similar in mentality to every other Spring Training except for last year. I'm excited about that. Everything is just normal again."
A player that possesses tremendous tools, Granderson played very well defensively last year and has the all-around ability to mold himself into a complete ballplayer. Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long will work with Granderson during Spring Training to perfect his swing.
Long was able to turn a struggling Cano into a fearsome MVP candidate and has been known to expertly retool the approach of Yankee batters over the years like Alex Rodriguez.
If Granderson can continue his bright performances throughout the 2011 season, he could come close to raising his average to above the .280 mark that he was accustomed to with the Tigers. In a "down year" in 2010, Granderson still was able to hit 24 home runs and drive in 67 RBI. Once he figures out Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field, he might have a shot at surpassing his career-best total of 30 home runs.
I'd like to see manager Joe Girardi take the training wheels off and allow Granderson to be aggressive on the basepaths. In 2007, Granderson stole 26 bases and only was thrown out once all season. Last year, he converted 12 of 14 stolen base attempts and should come closer to being a "20-20" man in the upcoming season.
Granderson will turn 30 before the Yankees' March 31 season opener against the Tigers. He is in what most would consider his prime years and very well could go on to produce a career-best season in 2011.
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