Yasmani Grandal Will Be Alright

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

If you drafted Yasmani Grandal based on Steamer’s 2022 pre-season projections, you were likely preparing to play in an OBP league. Grandal was projected to finish the season with the tenth best (tied with Max Muncy) OBP at .373. The 2021 league average OBP was .317. If you were to now head over to our 2022 leaderboards, you would see Grandal is holding a disappointing .279. But, narrow down that leaderboard to only viewing qualified catchers. The first thing that you may notice is that there are only seven catchers on the list and that Grandal is one of them.

You’ll also notice that Grandal’s .279 OBP is third from the bottom, yet his 12.2% BB% ranks first (high), his 18.4% K% ranks second, and his 7.6% SwStr% (low) ranks first. He’s walking and he isn’t striking out. That marks off two of the three true outcomes. Homeruns, being the third true outcome, have not come more than twice for Grandal, and that coupled with a .210 BABIP and a .180 AVG have probably made those rostering Grandal feel a little uneasy. But, if those same fantasy managers are believers in regresión a la media, then they are sitting pretty.

Yasmani Grandal has never, ever in his career, posted a lower AVG, OBP, SLG, or wRC+ than where they sit right now (among many other statistics). His current 18.4% K%, however, has not been that low since his first two seasons in the big leagues. Sometimes, a rolling average graph looks like multi-colored spaghetti. Other times, it looks like a story. In the case of Yasmani Grandal, it tells one that seems pretty clear:

Grandal Rolling (wOBA, Zone%, Swing%)

Grandal just decided not to swing at pitches outside of the zone around game number 30 last season. When he did that, his wOBA went on the rise. Pitchers took notice as they always do and started throwing the ball in the zone more often (around game 55, 2021), but Grandal adjusted and raised his wOBA to a season-high. Yes, there was a lengthy stint on the IL in there, but towards the end of the season, pitchers once again backed off the zone, Grandal swung less, and his wOBA finished above average. Now, on to the current (2022) season and we see a somewhat similar pattern as 2021. There’s that little blip around game 120 where Grandal is swinging less and his wOBA is increasing, but then starts to dip once again. What this tells us is that Grandal has excellent recognition skills. He swings in the zone and doesn’t outside of it. This swing/take profile from baseball savant might tell you that Grandal could be more aggressive:

Grandal Swing/Take Profile

However, Grandal’s strength in recent years has been his ability to get on base with walks and Grandal continues to do that with a +7 take run on the season, coming mostly from his ability to not chase. Should he swing more at pitches in the heart of the zone? Probably, but when you’re being super patient and waiting for the pitcher to expand, you have to take a few meatballs every once in a while.

As I began writing this article, I realized that the Paul Sporer and Justin Mason broke down everything I had covered in my first draft in a recent Sleeper and the Bust episode. I swear, I didn’t just listen to that podcast and write down everything those two said. Or, did I?

Justin Mason: “…lowest swinging strike rate of his career…his zone contact numbers are the best of his career…he is just getting super BABIP’d and unlucky right now. He’s gonna be fine.”

These guys know what they’re talking about, but let’s look at some of the luck metrics just to be sure:

Yasmani Grandal’s 2022 Luck Stats
0.180 0.235 0.242 0.401 0.243 0.318

Here’s some video evidence of this occurrence as well:

Note: Yes, these videos have ads. These videos are sourced from the MLB Film Room and I use them because they are good quality and fit nicely into these posts. If the ads at the beginning of the video annoy you, I recommend clicking play, continuing to read, and then going back to watch. 

If there is some room for concern, it comes in the way of Grandal’s ground ball rate (45.1%), which is the highest it has been since his 2015 season. This has increased his GB/FB ratio to 1.15 on the year. Looking at a rolling chart doesn’t tell us that this is unusual and that something has happened to his swing. He’s currently within a typical ground ball rate high and you can see that his wOBA is hurting because of it.

Grandal GB%/wOBA Rolling Chart

Getting the ball off the ground will help Grandal a lot. His power is down and most of the hits he has recorded in 2022 have been hard-hit grounders. Could there be something in the swing? Probably not for a veteran hitter. But, should we look? Just for fun? Why not:

Grandal Swing Load Comparison, 21'v22'

I have absolutely no business or expertise trying to break downswing mechanics. They’re mostly just fun to look at. Don’t forget, that’s why we’re all here, right? This is fun. I tried to capture the same stadium/camera angle and in the photo above we see Grandal swinging from the right side against a lefty with a slightly less exaggerated leg kick in 2022. Could that be the reason for a lower 12.5 average launch angle in 2022 compared to a 13.3 career LA? Here are the links to the videos if you prefer to watch  in motion:

2021 video link

2022 video link

While Grandal has always gotten more opportunities as a left-handed hitter (vs R as L, career 2600 ABs) than as a right-handed hitter (vs L as R, career 760), this season and over his career he has been better by batting average from the right side, so there doesn’t seem to be any splits issues here:

Grandal Splits, Career vs. 2022
vs L as R vs R as L
2022 0.250 0.163
Career 0.242 0.237

So what should you do with Grandal? Nothing. In the small sample of the beginning of the season, he is performing well below his average. His batted ball skills have not changed. He has been a victim of bad luck and if you drop him in your fantasy league, you will be giving another manager an end-of-season top-three catcher. I hope I’ve provided enough evidence here, but in reality, you could have just listened to he experts:

Paul Sporer: “He deserves better. It will come. Sit tight with Grandal”

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1 year ago

Since I have Grandal shares and will not sell, I’m holding you, and Sporer and Mason accountable since you’re all doubling and tripling down on it. I shall revisit in October.