Is Curtis Granderson Slipping?

Much was expected from Curtis Granderson last year. After re-tooling his swing in 2011, Granderson turned in an MVP-caliber season. The biggest addition to Granderson’s game was his sudden power against lefties, which had plagued him up until that point in his career. While he managed to retain those gains, and actually hit more home runs in 2012, his slash line fell to .232/.319/.492. Granderson will turn 32 next March, which is an age where many players start seeing decline. Can Granderson stave off the inevitable just a bit longer?

Granderson is a safe bet to improve on his .260 BABIP, which means his overall numbers should see a bit of a rebound. But there were plenty of reasons for concern about Granderson’s numbers that cannot simply be written off as luck. One of the biggest problems was his strikeout rate, which jumped by 4 percent. Granderson was already a player whose strikeout rate was just high enough for him to still post solid numbers, so jumping to 28.4 percent is tough to swallow. As Adam Dunn, Chris Davis and Pedro Alvarez can attest, there’s still some value in striking out in nearly 30 percent of your plate appearances if you can hit for monstrous power, but it’s a dangerous line to walk.

Perhaps more troubling is how dependent Granderson has become on the long ball. Many of his at-bats seemed to end with an all of nothing outcome. Either he made contract and went yard, or he missed the ball completely. Granderson’s contact rate, specifically on pitches in the strike zone, fell from 88.1 percent to 81.0 percent last year. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s finished, as some talented hitters can succeed in spite of low contact rates, but it’s not especially promised when coupled with his rising swinging strike rate.

While that combination of factors seems to suggest that maybe Granderson lost some bat speed last year, that’s not immediately evident when looking at his pitch value data. Granderson was still effective against fastballs, just not to the same degree as last year. In fact, the PITCH f/x data suggests that Granderson was better against all type of fastballs last season than he was with off-speed stuff. Granderson actually struggled with off-speed pitches, particularly curve balls and change ups. He managed to be just barely above average against sliders, which, for him, was a slight decline from 2011. It could be that Granderson was going up to the plate looking to hit fastballs, and wasn’t able to adjust as easily to slower pitches.

That puts Granderson in a bit of a murky situation heading into next season. He did see some age-related decline, and may have been too dependent on hitting fastballs, but a BABIP rebound still ensures his overall line improves. There’s a chance those two factors offset, and Granderson is able to succeed in spite of a declining skill set. But watch him numbers closely next year. If his high strikeout rate and inability to make contact continue, there will be justified reasons for concern.

Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

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9 years ago

Obviously. In his last four seasons, he’s had one great year and been a .244 hitter aside from that year. His percentage of pitches he swings at that are outside of the strikezone is 30 percent while pitchers have thrown him fewer strikes every year. Out of all pitches seen last year, only 40 percent were strikes, and Granderson managed to walk just 75 times while whiffing 195 times.

While he still has power, he only had 18 doubles… he’ll never hit .300 again or have 10(or 23 like he had in his best season six years ago.) His speed and defense are both in decline. The Tigers easily got the better of the trade in retrospect. Austin Jackson is only getting better, Coke showed up in the postseason, and Scherzer has become one of the most dominant pitchers in the the majors. Granderson’s batting average and overall offensive stats could really be a product of falling in love with fastballs and homeruns. A guy with his speed should easily be getting more than 18 doubles. He’s not a guy with Adam Dunn’s speed and homerun or strikeout skills.

So… he’s slipped defensively mostly, but his offense has to be partly falling in love with hitting homeruns.