Granderson is a case where these old eyes do not get where the metrics are coming from. These eyes watched a lot of Bernie Williams in center and Granderson runs circles around Bernie. And yet, not only is Granderson ranked dead last among major league center fielders, he is dead last by a huge margin. His defensive metrics are downright Bernie-like.
Now people are always saying to not get wrapped up in just one year’s fielding data. They say to look at chunks of three years. Okay. Let’s do that. His first year with the Yankees was positive according to all the major sites. But last year’s fielding valuation threw Granderson under the bus and this year is heading in even deeper chasms than last. So the three year trend is sinking faster than Best Buy’s profit margin. And look at his UZR, which currently sits at -16.8. Of all qualifying center fielders, that is more than ten points worse than the second worse guy. And his UZR/150 comes in at a staggering -29.1. The closest to him there is Dexter Fowler with the Rockies at -11.1. Ouch.
RZR is another stat for fielding. RZR determines a range for what center fielders should cover. Then it counts how many balls are hit into that range and how many of those plays were converted into outs. According to this stat, Granderson has converted 94 percent of plays into his zone into outs. That is third best in the majors. He has made 51 plays out of his zone which is in the middle of the pack with Denard Span of the Twins having the most at 69 and Drew Stubbs the lowest with 25.
Granderson’s arm has worsened this season which doesn’t help. After two years of positive scores in that category, Granderson is in the negative there this year. And the eye confirms that as his throws seem particularly weak this season. You have to wonder if his arm is hurt a bit the way he is throwing.
The head is trying to understand while the eyes are telling a different story on Granderson’s defensive season. But then again, saying as much is usually a cause for ridicule. Such poor defensive metrics pushes Granderson down in fWAR all the way to fourteenth on the list of qualifying center fielders. According to Fangraphs, both Colby Rasmus and Michael Brantley are more valuable players this year than Granderson. That is super hard to rationalize. That is not going so far as to say they are wrong. It just doesn’t feel right.
But say the metrics are correct. How does that project Granderson’s future value. Baseball Prospectus does that for us and predicts his value will decline by small measures the next few years but enough not to justify paying him, say $15 million a year. If he is heading south as a fielder as badly as the metrics say, then that means a move away from center. To where? Left and then let Gardner go?
The overriding question circling around this brain this morning is if Curtis Granderson is really that bad a center fielder. Is he really as bad as a 34 year old Bernie Williams? And how will this come into the accounting for the Yankees’ long term plans? This post grapples for the answers and only comes up with questions.