A Grand Canyon in the Lineup

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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35 thoughts on “A Grand Canyon in the Lineup

  1. Bret

    I don't think I'm overplaying my point.  I'm using the same logic.

    Imagine the Yankees had kept Kennedy instead of getting Vazquez and kept Jackson instead of Granderson.  Do they have fewer or more wins in 2010?  I say about the same but probably more if anything.  Kennedy has the same peripherals this year as Vazquez albeit in an easier league/division.  Jackson is far outperforming Granderson.  Then you have an extra 17 million which you could use to pay year 1 of Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford's contract next year.  Nothing is lost, the team is no worse in 2010 and you have more money and keep your prospects.  No way to justify those decisions and Yankees are winning in spite of them, not because of them.

    By the way, how many games is Tex going to miss for the birth of his 3rd kid.  Couldn't he and his wife have timed this better and this isn't his first birth.  Yanks are paying him 23 mill to hit, not change onesies.  If I were Cashman this would not be acceptable.  One game is fine, more than that for a third kid is way overboard.

  2. Mark Smith

    I will admit that the team would be better without the Granderson trade for 2010, but I will not grant that Kennedy could have done anything. But the key part of the Granderson trade is that the trade is for more than 2010. We can't even judge 2010 yet as a third of the season is still left. And plenty of people could justify those trades when they happened. You can't use hindsight like that. At the time, those were perfectly justified trades that just didn't work out perfectly. It happens.

     

    And I want you to tell your third kid that you didn't show up for his birth because it wasn't special enough.

  3. My guess is that if you account for Granderson's injury time and assume that whichever one you have bats 8th, Granderson is worth more runs because of his power. I'm almost positive that a Granderson/Kearns platoon in worth more runs than Jackson in that spot.

  4. Bret

    Being there for the birth is fine and I would show up for mine but I don't make 23 million a year.  He is missing tonight at least also.  Nick Markakis missed one game when his wife gave birth earlier this year and he wasn't playing on a team battling for the AL East.  It is a touchy topic but when you make that much money you have a large responsibility to be a professional and do your job.

    My opinion.

  5. Also, I have no patience at all for anyone criticizing Tex. Seriously, get some perspective.

  6. Bret

    Yeah, but Brien that isn't an apples to apples comparison.  Kearns wasn't there the whole year, Granderson was so what happens from here on out isn't really relevant to my point.

    My point is would the team have a worse record, the same record or a better record right now had Kennedy replaced Vazquez all year and Jackson been the starting center fielder.  If the answer is the same or better, the Yankees got killed on the trade.

  7. Bret

    It is important to be there for the birth but you also have a job that you are getting very well paid for with major responsibility.   Also, this is a self induced situation – it isn't like cancer surgery – they chose to time it to have the kid during the season.  I'm just saying.

  8. Mark Smith

    I concur. The birth of a child is a real-life moment. Baseball is entertainment. I don't like to bring arguments like this, comparing "real life" to sports, into a sports discussion, but I think it's appropriate here.

  9. Bret

    I have two kids also but I only missed two days of work for each and I would not have missed two days of work if I were making 23 mill and my team was in a pennant race.  I understand 1 game.  More than that shows a lack of professionalism or committment or whatever in my opinion.  It was his choice to impregnate his wife at that time, it wasn't an external event – if it were I would feel differently.  But we can agree to disagree.

  10. Mark Smith

    They "chose to have it during the season"? Planning pregnancies isn't a sure thing, and they may not have planned that post-World Series celebration.

     

    As for the Granderson trade, how does that kill the trade? One, there are essentially three to five years left to properly evaluate the trade. Two, the only way to pan the trade is if it meant five or six games in the standings, which it hasn't, and the fact that we could argue over whether it has been the same or more shows that this is essentially a push for now. You're being way too judgmental way too early on the trade.

  11. I look at it this way Mark; most people get time off from work when they have children born, because that's the decent thing to do (if you're an employer who doesn't give their employees time off to have a kid born and you're reading this…c'mon man!)I would never expect a baseball player to be any different in this regard because they have a certain job or make X amount of money. I wouldn't care if Tex was getting paid $100 million this season, that doesn't obligate him to sacrifice the sort of personal/intimate moment that is childbirth and the bonding with the baby in the first few days. Heck, expecting anything else isn't fair to the baby.

  12. Mark Smith

    Couldn't agree more.

  13. Mark Smith

    Commitment to family does not equal a lack thereof in regard to the team. And just because other players do not cherish their family in the same way does not make Teixeira a worse player or teammate. The teams understand that this may happen, and I imagine the Yankees asked Tex how long he would be gone. The fact that he's gone without a word from the Yankees makes me think they were okay with his response.

  14. The fact that Granderson is still hitting righties pretty well gives me hope they kind find a very productive role for him.

  15. jon

    Is there any hope that we can find a team that is as optimistic?  And trade him?

  16. Bret

    On any other team the Granderson trade would have been a bigger disaster than the Hindenburg.  Give up top 3 prospect who will win Rookie of Year.  Check.  Get less production in return.  Check.  Also give up pretty good left hander out of bullpen.  Check.  Also give up decent right handed starter who is having an average year but whose peripherals are pretty good.  Check.  Oh,  and cost yourself 20 mill over the next 3 years.  Check.

    It is all distorted because of the payroll, everyone talks about the scrutiny in NY but this is a move that isn’t scrutinized at all because 22 mill is chump change to the Yankees and they are still winning in spite of it.  Had any other team in baseball made this move with the possible exception of the Red Sox the GM would be fired by now.

  17. Mark Smith

    Jon, I bet you could find a team willing to take him, but you aren’t going to get much for him. Teams probably like him enough, but teams understand perception. All the Yankees can do is be patient, which I think is the right approach anyway.
     
    Bret, geez, harsh. Yes, Jackson has been more productive, but there was little indication the Yankees were willing to go with him, meaning he’d be in AAA anyway. And history is littered with ROY that turn into nothing. And while it is less production, the year and years of control are not over yet. Phil Coke has been pretty good, but that gaudy ERA hides a 1.7% HR/FB rate that just isn’t sustainable. Most relievers are volatile and, therefore, fungible. Ian Kennedy hasn’t been good. I don’t know why the DBacks insist he is untouchable. He’s maybe a league-average starter in a poor offensive division, and he’d be much worse in the AL East. As I said in the post, the Yankees are in a worse position after making the trade, but it’s not significant. Granderson is fairly close in production to Jackson, and I imagine it will be much closer by the end of the season and contract. And yes, we do ignore money with the Yankees sometimes because it just doesn’t matter as much with them. My guess is that Cashman knew this and made the deal accordingly. If he’d been the GM elsewhere, he would have looked at the situation differently.

  18. On the accompanying parts; whatever you think of Kennedy, there was just no place for him with the Yankees. At best, he’d make a long reliever/spot starter on the big league team, and those aren’t that hard to find. Coke is the definition of expendable, and Boone Logan isn’t doing too bad of a job replacing him.
     
    On Jackson, yes, he’s producing better on the top line, but I wouldn’t understate the fact that he still has no power. For the Yankees, probably looking to fill the 8th spot in the order, I think a Granderson/Kearns platoon is a better option than Jackson.

  19. Mark Smith

    That hot start for Jackson and frigid start for Granderson made a powerful impression on everyone. It’s hard to let those things go.

  20. Chris

    /*

    Well, that didn’t happen, did it? His .240/.307/.417 line is worse than last season’s, and though he somehow managed to be 6 runs above replacement on offense last season, he’s been almost exactly replacement level this season.

    */

    This statement is incorrect.  The runs component of WAR is relative to the average player, not the replacement player. His bat has played essentially league average this year.

    See http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/win-valu….

    Granderson's is worth a significant value to the Yankees. Granderson is only 29 with a proven track record. There is no way he hits this bad for the rest of his contract. If  Granderson's BABIP regresses a tad, he doesn't completely shit his pants against lefties, and continues to play average to above average defense in center, he is one hell of a bargain over the next two/three years. He will be worth something like ~2.5 WAR this season (in an off season for him) in which he is only being paid 5.5mi. The trade for Granderson was at worst a draw for the Yanks.

  21. Bret

    If there was a place for Chan Ho Park there was a place for Kennedy.  And although Dustin Moseley has done okay, Kennedy probably would have gotten the call instead of him.  I’m not a huge Kennedy fan, but I think giving him up for nothing was pretty stupid.

    Other thing to remember though is Jackson is entering the low prime of his career, he should get better and better the next 5 years when he will only be 28.  Granderson has been regressing since 2007 and is past his prime.

    By the way, you can say the same thing about the Vazquez trade.  Poor performance, probably could have gotten equivalent production for the minimum, big money lost (11 mill), and gave up a top 3 prospect (though the Yanks lucked out and the prospect got hurt after pitching tremendously the first half of the season so it doesn’t look as bad).

  22. “If there was a place for Chan Ho Park there was a place for Kennedy. ”
     
    So they shouldn’t have traded him so that he could be one of the last guys in the bullpen? Or so he could be the long man in the bullpen and make an occasional spot start? This is pretty poor logic at it’s finest.
     
    as for the Vazquez trade, now you’re overplaying your point. Vizcaino was a pretty good prospect yes, but he was very young and several years away from the majors. Plenty of prospects like that never wind up making it to the big leagues, and Vizcaino wound up getting hurt like a lot of good looking 19 year old pitchers do.
     
     
     

  23. Mark Smith

    Just because there could be a spot for Kennedy doesn’t mean he would have filled it well. Park and Kennedy’s respective career numbers: 7.75 K/9, 4.13 BB/9 vs. 7.25 K/9, 4.12 BB/9. And after the previous two seasons, I don’t imagine that he had a whole lot of trade value.
     
    As for Jackson, that could hurt the Yankees. But Granderson is only 29, and he could still be a 3-4 win player over the next 3 seasons. Jackson’s 2.2 WAR are pretty dependent on that .419 BABiP, and if that goes down, he’s not as valuable. And yes, he should improve skills-wise, but it’s not a sure thing that his production will increase. And sometimes, guys don’t improve. Sometimes, they get really good. But this dilemma is the Yankees. They’re willing to pay a bit more for established production while eschewing the volatility of prospects. Yes, it could bite them, but I imagine that, with their money and ability to brush off bad contracts, they end up on the right side more often than not, even if it doesn’t work this specific time.

  24. Mark Smith

    You are right about the offensive run values. Instead of being a well below average hitter, he is now a below average hitter. Regardless, the point is that Granderson is underperforming expectations.

     

    And while I agree (as stated in the post) that he is not this bad and should go back toward his career norms, you can't say with certainty that there "is no way he hits this bad for the rest of his contract". He hasn't been right for a year and a half, and there's a non-negligible chance that he has changed as a hitter. There's also injuries that could hamper him. But yes, he shouldn't be this bad going forward, but this stuff isn't exactly pure science.

  25. And I’m just saying I don’t have any interest in arguing the point. I’ve got two kids myself, and what Tex wants to do regarding the birth is completely his choice in my opinion, and if the organization is fine with it it certainly isn’t my place to pass judgment. Anyone making any sort of an issue out of this has a serious lack of perspective.

  26. “Yeah, but Brien that isn’t an apples to apples comparison.  Kearns wasn’t there the whole year, Granderson was so what happens from here on out isn’t really relevant to my point.”
     
    I think it’s pretty relevant. Granderson is still productive against right-handed pitching, his total numbers are bad mostly because he’s so awful against lefties. So in the worst case scenario, you pick up a platoon partner for him which, as they demonstrated with Kearns, isn’t that hard to do. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they always intended to get someone to platoon with him if he couldn’t improve against lefties.

  27. Bret

    Most other players whose wives give birth miss one game.  That is a fact.  Of course he can choose to do anything he wants but he will have plenty of time to bond with the baby in the offseason when he is living at Xanadu with 40 servants, the mortgage being paid by the Yankees.

    It is probably too early to judget the Granderson trade fully but if he is just going to be a platoon guy the next two years I think that makes the trade worse, not better.

  28. How is a Granderson platoon worse than having Austin jackson if the platoon is more productive than Jackson?

  29. Chris

    Appreciate the responses. However, I don't appreciate the "read the post" jab, theres little point at ad hominem attacks . Your article essentially first says (1) Granderson has stunk this year (2) he hasn't completely stunk (3) He is better than Damon but worse than ajax (4) The trade shouldn't have been made (5) it is too early to tell if the trade was a net positive (6) Granderson is not a total failure. There are a couple of contradictions in there and I apologize if I missed the overarching point you were trying to make, but I got the general sense that you were undervaluing Granderson.

    It is that second to last sentence of your response that keeps irking me. Granderson has produced. I am trying to point out that if things continue as they are, we should be happy with his production. He is not producing at an all-star level, but its still an asset to the club. I whole-heartedly agree that Granderson's true skill is in the 3-4 win range and that this has only been a slight down year for him. A 3-4 win player is incredibly valuable.

  30. Mark Smith

    I didn't mean any jab, and reading my comment, I apologize for what is sounds like. However, you make it seem like I said that Granderson's a bad player or that I'm adding to the criticism, which I'm not.

     

    As for the player himself, I feel I'm somewhere between you and the detractors. He has stunk this season (production is production), but there are underlying reasons to believe he will be better going forward. As for being in between Damon and AJax, the situation's muddled, but he's somewhere in their area. WAR is great (at least better than deciding by BA, HR, RBI), but I'm not an absolute stickler. Saying a 3 win player is better than a 2 win player is fine, but when you start getting close, it's harder to tell (what is the right BABiP, will the player learn new skills such as better plate discipline, defensive statistics, etc.). Either way, the three players are close to the same value. As for the trade, I do think the Yankees would have been better off right now (I should have emphasized the "right now" part more) not making the trade (Jackson's a fine center fielder or could have been used to bring in someone better, more money, use Kennedy and Coke for something else in addition to Montero for Lee, perhaps), but being that the trade has been made, the Yankees really aren't that worse off and could still come out on the winning end if Granderson plays better. It's kind of a complicated situation, especially with all the unknowns.

     

    Now, let's talk Jackson v. Granderson a bit more. As you mentioned, Jackson's BABiP is unsustainable and his value will drop, but I think, when you discuss WAR, you're forgetting about defense. Jackson, by most accounts anyway, seems to be quite the center fielder, but UZR doesn't like him so much (-1.1). Defensive metrics don't really describe anything for at least a couple seasons. Therefore, Jackson could be a better center fielder than he's given credit for, evening out some/most/all the BABiP reduction. In the future, Jackson is likely to keep playing defense well while Granderson is likely to slip, again making up for some of the difference in the offensive production. I think the difference between the two, right now, is close. Shades of 2007 run through our head, but he's not that good.

     

    Okay, now about production. I do think you're right–he is producing. But I also think he is not producing to his standards or to the standard people believe him to be capable. To a normal center fielder, he is better, and the Yankees don't need a superstar hitter there. However, the trade was made probably believing him to be more of a 4 win player than the 3 win player he's been for the past few seasons. He is producing, but I'm not sure he's producing enough to cover the prospects and his salary. In a way, the Yankees did not expect that he would be an average hitter. They expected more, and most projections for the Yankees had him doing better. He hasn't, and when evaluating Granderson, the Yankees are missing some of the production expected. He still has valuable production, but it's not what was expected (and, I guess, assumed). He was expected to hit more like a LF while Gardner was expected to be more of the CF hitter, if that makes sense.

  31. Mark Smith

    But yes, I probably went too far implying he hasn't produced at all.

  32. Chris

    Part of my point is that even at his current level of production he is not a “grand canyon in the line-up.” It isn’t that  ”He hasn’t been right for a year and a half”, he has simply seen his BABIP regress from an unsustainable .360 to its current .283. Looking at Gradnerson’s ZIPS ros projection, he should essentially hit as well as last year, which is fantastic for a center-fielder and slightly above average for hitters as a whole. He is not going to win the MVP, but a team with A-ROD, Texiera, Cano, Jeter, CC, etc. a league average player at premium position is more than enough for the Yanks.
    Furthermore, I think you are a bit premature on making your final point that the yanks would have been better off not making this trade. You mention A-Jax’s unsustainable BABIP, but I don’t think you appreciate enough how much it has propped up his season. See this article on Fangraphs from today:
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/expanded-four-factors-austin-jacksons-babip/
    Sorry I don’t know how to hyperlink in this forum. IF A-Jax’s BABIP drops to a more reasonable .360, his WAR drops to ~1.5 and you are looking at the same level player as Granderson with less of an upside (No Power).
    I am an unabashed Granderson proponent and it I think he has been receiving undue criticism because he isn’t producing like Bernie Williams in his prime.

  33. Chris

    2 for 2. :)

  34. Mark Smith

    First of all, the title is mainly satirical. If you read the post, I think it should be fairly clear that, while Granderson isn’t having the best year, I don’t think he’s a bad player. However, you mention that the BABiP has to come back to normal. It doesn’t. There are other factors (high flyball rate, increased strikeout rate, increased o-swing% and o-contact%, and diminished walk rate) that have to make you ask whether he could return to previous levels of production. He’s probably a 3-4 win player, which is just fine, and at that production, he’s somewhat of a bargain. I also agree that he’s received too much criticism, but the fact is that he hasn’t produced like he’s capable and hasn’t for a while at the plate. You can’t simply ignore production, but I made an effort to show that he should get better.
     
    As for the trade remark, I mentioned in the piece and in the comments that it’s way too early to judge the trade. He’s here for two (and probably three) more years. However, given what AJax has produced, the Yankees would currently be a bit better, would have more trade bait, and have more payroll flexibility. But as I’ve said, you have to account for the next few years as well, in which Jackson will probably not be as productive as Granderson but might be nearly as productive. And as a young player, he could improve in certain areas to be as productive as Granderson, especially considering his defense (which gets panned a bit by UZR but seems to be applauded elsewhere). There are a few possibilities, and I think you’re bent on showing that the positive one will happen.
     
    Maybe I should have been stronger in defending Granderson. But the fact is that he hasn’t produced for about a year and a half, and that is cause for some concern. Now, I think he should go back toward career norms, but that isn’t a certainty.

  35. Mark Smith

    2 for 3. ;) But I like that he also walked.

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