This time last year, you were hearing a lot of whispers about how Nick Swisher was primed for a bounceback year (OK, I wrote it). Swish was coming off an embarrassing season in Chicago, where he set a career low in wOBA, while batting just .219. This, though, was a prime example as to why batting average is not an indicator of actual performance. In the article linked above, I labeled Swish unlucky, and for good reason. Even though his line drive rate was a career high, his BABIP was just .249. Hitting the ball hard, with the same relative frequency, resulting in fewer hits = UNLUCKY.
That brings us to Curtis Granderson. Yankee fans are all at half mast thinking about the fact that Grandy hit 30 home runs in 2009 while playing half of his games in a canyon, but there is more to what he can, and in my opinion will, add to the 2010 Yankees. Much like Swisher’s ugly ’08, 2009 saw Granderson’s BABIP fall by a significant amount, in fact an even more exaggerated plunge than what Swish experienced. Meanwhile, Granderson continued to hit the ball hard, with LD% of 21.2% against a 20.5% career average. Yet, perhaps inexplicably, it resulted in decidedly less success.
The key to the tough times for Granderson may lie in his ground ball percentage. Even though his fly ball percentage was relatively flat year over year, his GB% fell by 11%. For a guy with Granderson’s speed, that could result in a big drop in hits — and it did.
We can’t ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Curtis was about as useful as a wet cardboard cutout against lefthanded pitching. Here’s a number that could explain at least part of that: .226. That was Granderson’s BABIP against lefties, versus a .295 BABIP against righties. His line drive rate, you ask? Identical against all pitchers regardless of what hand they throw with.
Am I saying that Curtis Granderson is going to win a batting title in 2010? Hell no. What I am saying is that Curtis Granderson is not a .183 hitter against lefthanded pitchers and, in turn, will be a superior offensive player for the Yankees. I don’t know about the 40 home run nonsense that the Sals from Staten Island are calling Francesa and screaming about, but I think you could be looking at a big year from the Yankees’ first real centerfielder since someone kidnapped Johnny Damon.