According to most defensive metrics, Curtis Granderson had an awful 2012. Even the eye test told a tale of a center fielder misplaced on a team filled with more adept outfielders. The collective online Yankee community is in agreement that sending Granderson to left field, and giving him less area to cover, will help stop his defensive regression. The Yankees don’t agree.
When a player is visually struggling, you usually go to the stats to see how long and how poorly they’ve played. When a player suddenly puts up awful numbers, you usually go to the video to see why the numbers are degrading. This generation of baseball enthusiasts is lucky enough to have the numbers, analysis, and video available instantaneously on the internet, and it allows us to judge team’s decisions in a more scientific and thorough way than ever before. But when it comes to defense, the amount of data and the way we analyze it is still in its infancy.
To give you an idea of the reliability of today’s defensive statistics, Curtis Granderson’s 2012 -18.2 UZR/150 was the worst in all of baseball, while his RZR ranked well above average at 10th overall, placing him between BJ Upton and Andres Torres. You can also trace this yearly, and see that his UZR/150 has fluctuated from 7.9 in 2010 (the fourth best center fielder), to -5.3 in 2011 (12th ranked center fielder), to finally the worst ranked center fielder last season. This isn’t the first time UZR/150 has had mixed feelings, in 2006 and 2007, Granderson put up a 13.6 and 14.6 UZR/150, followed by a 2008 that dropped to -11.9.
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