Curtis Granderson: Dancing in September

Apologies for the reference, but this seems like an appropriate title on this September 21st.  If I had any photoshopping skill whatsoever, you would probably be looking at a photoshop of Curtis Granderson as a member of Earth Wind and Fire.  We can all be thankful that we are not.

We can also be thankful for Curtis Granderson’s September performance, as he has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise frustrating month full of tough losses, interesting bullpen usage, and an irritating inability to hit with runners on base.  When healthy, Granderson has been fairly consistent but not spectacular at the plate, posting OPS’s around .750 in June, July, and August.  While not a horrible performance, we expected better from Granderson, as did the Yankees, when they included now-Rookie of the Year candidate Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy in a deal to acquire the 29 year-old centerfielder.

In September, Granderson has posted a .290/.397/.645 line with 6 homers, good for a 1.042 OPS and a .449 wOBA.  A closer look at the numbers could give us a better idea of whether there has been genuine improvement in Granderson this month, or if we could expect a regression (I recognize that an 18-game September sample is not incredibly significant, but bear with me anyway).  Going to the cliched evaluation of luck, BABIP, we can see that Granderson’s September BABIP of .279 is not particularly high, especially considering he had a .310 BABIP in the month of August, and a .270 in June.  Granderson’s batted ball data (from Fangraphs) also does not appear to show a major change, and his line drive percentage is actually lower in September than it was in July or August.  His HR/FB percentage of 25% in September looks a little fluky, so some regression in power could be in order.

Probably the biggest stride that Granderson has made in September is in the arena of plate discipline.  Through 18 games in September, Granderson has walked 11 times, impressive considering his highest monthly total prior to September was 10 in August.  The increased walk rate has also been accompanied by a decrease in strikeout rate, and his 11:13 bb:k ratio is very strong.  However, Grandy’s pitches/plate appearance ratio appears similar to to previous months (around 4 pitches/PA), so he does not appear to be taking more pitches.  What does this mean?  Perhaps he is making better decisions on which pitches to take and which ones to swing at.

What do these data mean for Granderson?  I recognize the small sample, and it is possible that maybe he’s simply facing weaker pitching in September (though considering the Yankees’ September opponents, I am skeptical).  If you’re a believer in the magic of Kevin Long, one could attribute the improvement to the work that Long did with Granderson recently.  It does appear that Granderson has been making better quality contact and has been swinging at better pitches.  It is possible that this is just a hot streak in a short sample, so we will have to continue following Granderson’s performance to see if he is able to sustain his improvements.  If Granderson is able to continue his hot streak going into the postseason, it will be interesting to see if this has any effect on his lineup placement in playoff games.  I imagine he will still hit 8th against lefties, but maybe against righties Girardi will try him higher in the order.  Regardless, if Granderson can keep this up, the Yankee lineup going into the postseason will be that much longer and more dangerous.

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