He’s shown better plate discipline in the past, and usually, that gets better with age, not worse (meaning that should improve back to at least normal). And the lower fastball run count could be mostly due to that O-Contact%, which coincided with that precipitous drop in BABiP and fastball run value (though let’s not let correlation equal causation here). Another piece of good news is that he’s still hitting line drives (his 22.8 LD% is the best of his career), which may indicate that his bat speed and hand-eye coordination haven’t completely forsaken him. Forgive me for saying this, but I don’t think Granderson is as bad as it seems. His peripherals don’t suggest that he’s completely fallen off the cliff from other successful seasons as his BABiP seems to be the main difference (along with some regression in plate discipline). Random variation is just that, random. Usually, we expect things to swing back (in this instance, we expected Granderson to have better luck this season because he had bad luck last season), but in truth, it was just as likely that he was to be unlucky as he was to be lucky. It happens, but his being unlucky again just doesn’t look good. But I don’t think his lack of success means what we think it does. He may not suck that bad, but it would help if that plate discipline improved because that’s a problem.
As for the lefty hitting thing, yeah, he’s awful. But the defense might enough to just keep throwing him out there hoping for fluky good.
Defensively, there’s more to immediately like. His UZR/150 this season is 8.6, which is really good especially in center. But we don’t like single-season defensive metrics, and it’s even worse over 85 games (the number of games Granderson has been in center). Usually, we prefer multiple seasons of data. Last season, it was -1.5, and the year before that, it was -12. However, it was 14.5 and 13.5 the seasons before that. So what do we make of this? Well, let’s knock off 14.5 and -12. I doubt he’s either that bad or that good. I’d say that he was 14 runs good at one point, but it seems as though he’s declined defensively, probably to the point of being about average (which is just fine).
Now, let’s ask how much better the Yankees would be with Damon or Matsui (we’re ignoring money for right now because, let’s face it, the salaries of these players is nothing to the Yankees). Immediately cast away Matsui because he’s been two runs better offensively, and he can’t play defense. Granderson is definitely better. Damon is a bit harder to crack.
First, let’s look at WAR. Damon is at 1.7, and Granderson is at 1.6. Granderson, however, gets a boost by playing center field versus Damon’s left field. Damon is 10 runs (one win) better offensively, and Brett Gardner could just switch to center instead of Damon, who is a little above average in left this season (and the trend says that’s about what he is). This might make the Yankees a little better this season, but Granderson is still essentially Damon’s equal while probably also suffering from Lady Fortune’s whims.
But what about this Austin Jackson kid? He came out like a ball of fire, but he’s cooled since. Where does he sit? Well, he’s been worth 2.2 WAR (a half win above Granderson), but that WAR isn’t exactly telling. Jackson has been the beneficiary of a .419 BABiP, which is just ridiculous. His LD% of 26 and GB/FB rate of 2 will help propel that BABiP up, but he’s still outperforming his peripherals. He also sees 5% more fastballs than Granderson, and I imagine once pitchers stop throwing him so many fastballs that he won’t have so much luck. Regardless of all this, Jackson would be still rotting in AAA if the trade hadn’t been consummated as Gardner and Damon would be in the outfield, though one might argue Damon could switch to DH instead. It’s useless to play what if games, but essentially, Jackson was trade bait either way, though he might have been able to help reel in Cliff Lee.
All in all and using our powers of hindsight, the current Yankees would have been better not having made that trade. However, evaluating trades like that is dangerous. Granderson, as I’ve mentioned, doesn’t suck and is likely to improve (not to mention that there is still a lot of time left to evaluate this trade properly). I realize you might not believe me. You may not want to believe me. But patience needs to be exercised. Granderson should still be closer to a 3.5 to 4 win player, and if he does become that over the next three seasons (and two months! There’s still hope and time for this season! It’s funny how the chain of events influences things), he will be an excellent player for the Yankees. Sure, the trade may not have placed the Yankees in the optimal position, but it doesn’t mean it was a total failure. Not yet anyway.
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