Improvement In 2013: Curtis Granderson

Only a year ago, Yankee ownership and fans were talking about how the team could extend Curtis Granderson into the budget years of 2014 and beyond. This year, I don't think I've heard a single fan mention the idea of extending him, and most of the talk is about trading him. One season can vastly change the perspective surrounding a player, and even with 43 home runs in 2012, it's hard to call the outfielder a fan favorite. In 2011, Granderson finished the season with 41 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and .262/.364/.552 slash line. His 7.0 fWAR was 8th best in baseball, 1.3 wins above Robinson Cano, and his home run total was only 2 behind Jose Bautista for the MLB most. In 2012, he hit those 2 additional home runs, but it took him 195 strike outs to get there, along with 15 less stolen bases, and 10 less walks. Even with the home runs, the left handed hitter hit less overall extra base hits, and Granderson's ISO fell from .290 to .260. The decrease in power was hardly noticeable in his day-to-day game, and it was no comparison to his OBP falling from .364 to .319. In the matter of a year, his wRC+ fell from 146 to 116 and his fWAR fell from 7.0 to 2.6. But perhaps Granderson's most troubling feature in 2012 was his fielding, which grew from average to noticeably distressing.

Despite turning 32 years old in 2013, Granderson should see some improvements over 2012. It would appear that the Yankees are leaning towards switching him and Gardner in the field, giving him less area to cover and less negative field value.

When it comes to hitting, Granderson actually improved on his line drive rates last season. From 2011 to 2012, Granderson boosted his LD% from 18.2 to 23.0, while taking away 4% of his flyballs. This improvement went unnoticed because his batting average on ground balls fell from a career .237 average to .164. Assuming his groundballs become hits at career normal rates, Granderson then hits somewhere around .255/.345/.520. That bump in on base percentage is the biggest difference, and in total only about 14 or 15 ground balls that should have gone for hits but didn't.

When it comes to xBABIP, Granderson appears to have much more than 14 or 15 groundball hits stolen from him. Of all qualifying players with over 300 plate appearances, Granderson ranked 7th amongst players with the largest underperformance between their xBABIP and actual BABIP. His xBABIP has him at .323, while his actual BABIP was .260, a difference of .063 points. Of course xBABIP needs to be understood within a certain context, since many teams play Granderson in a shift that should theoretically lower the amount of ground balls and line drives that go for hits. With that said, Granderson so vastly underperformed his xBABIP that within a large enough sample size, we shouldn't expect his 2012 numbers to continue.

In 2013, Granderson should see a higher BABIP and better defensive numbers when switched to left field. His strikeout numbers should also regress as his plate discipline outside the zone and his overall contact rates were at an unprecedented low point. Expect Granderson to improve on his defense, contact, and strikeout numbers in 2013, but I don't believe we'll see anything close to 2011.