I grew up during the 1990′s, and during that time big, hulking guys like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, and Ken Caminiti were the prototypical look of a home run hitter. They hit bombs all over the yard and were the awe of fans everywhere. Home run records were shattered each year it seemed and interest in baseball was at an all-time high after the 1994 Player’s Strike.
Fast forward to today and you can see the players’ physique has changed to a sleeker look, but they are still ripped and you can still pick out those who look like they can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Sure, you have the Kemps, Brauns, Pujols, Fielders, Bautistas, who are always in the running for the most home runs on a yearly basis. However, none of them have matched the home run production of 6’1″, 195-pounder, Curtis Granderson.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Granderson is tied for the most home runs (58) of any player in the majors (Jose Bautista being the other). If that doesn’t fascinate you, then you probably don’t have a pulse. The naysayers will bring up the fact that he plays half his games in Yankee Stadium with a short right field porch. They would be absolutely right as seven of his 17 home runs this season have landed in that fashion. However, that leaves 10 home runs that have either been hit to left or center field or on the road.
One of the reasons Granderson became expendable in Detroit before the 2010 season was he was awful against southpaws. In fact, during 2009, when Granderson hit 30 home runs and had a .249 batting average, he hit a paltry .183 average against lefties in 133 plate appearances. During his 2007 campaign where he hit .302 with 23 home runs, he batted .160 against lefties in 133 plate appearances. Dreadful.
It’s a trend that followed him throughout his career until that fateful August in 2010 when he sat three games and worked with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long to shorten his swing, bring his hands down, and calm all the pre-pitch movement. Since then, he’s become one of the more complete and dangerous hitters in the league. Last season, in 219 plate appearances against lefties, he hit .272 with 16 home runs, which was better than his overall average (.262) on the year.
This season, he has been dangerous against lefties, with a .273 batting average and six home runs in only 75 plate appearances. It’s true Granderson strikes out a ton, but most home run hitters do. He hasn’t hit with runners in scoring position this season, but the Yankees as a whole haven’t hit all that well in that situation.
For a team featuring the fifth-leading home run hitter of all-time in Alex Rodriguez, one of the AL’s perennial home run leaders in Mark Teixeira, and Yankees best hitter Robinson Cano, Granderson holds his own and is now looked at as the one who can change a game with one swing of the bat. Other teams are beginning to realize just how powerful the center fielder is at the plate. Knowing how humble Granderson is, I bet he’d much rather have the spotlight on his teammates.