Curtis Granderson: Was 2011 a Fluke?


Entering the 2011 season, many Yankee fans weren’t sure what to expect from Curtis Granderson. In 2010, his first season with the team, Granderson’s production wasn’t necessarily bad (.247/.324/.468, 24 HRs, 12 SBs [2 CS,] 112 wRC+, 2.8 oWAR, in 528 PAs,) but it’s fair to assume that most fans expected more. It’s also worth noting that Granderson spent time on the DL with a sprained groin that season. However, he wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire before the injury.

In 2011, Granderson gave Yankee fans the production they expected, and then some. The 30-year-old center-fielder had a triple-slash line of .262/.364/.552, hit 41 HRs, stole 25 bases (getting caught 10 times,) had a 146 wRC+ (16th in the majors) and a 5.4 oWAR (14th in the majors.) To put it simply, he had an outstanding season. However, it was also a career-year, which means questions will be asked. Can he do it again? Can he be even better? Was it a complete fluke?

When trying to analyze that and come up with an answer, two stats really jump out. The first being his Lefty/Righty splits. By now everyone is familiar with the story. Kevin Long worked with Granderson in August of 2010 with the hopes of making him a capable hitter vs. left-handed pitchers. But since that was towards the end of the season, a large enough sample-size to accurately assess if Long’s “tweaks” in Granderson’s approach vs. LHPs worked wasn’t available.

However, the 2011 campaign showed that whatever Long did really did work. Granderson’s L/R splits were staggering (vs. RHP [472 PAs]: .258/.372/.531, 25 HRs, 142 wRC+; vs. LHP [219 PAs]: .272/.347/.597, 16 HRs, 151 wRC+) compared to his career-norms. This means that Granderson fixed a huge – and what was arguably the largest – flaw in his game, and turned himself into a complete offensive player. Someone who can hit for power, get on base, utilize his speed and have successful at-bats vs. both right and left-handed pitchers.

The second statistic that jumped out was his Home/Road splits. Many baseball fans and analysts seemed to think that Granderson had such a tremendous season due to him playing in such a hitter-friendly home park. Definitely not an outrageous suggestion, but in this case, it was simply wrong:

2011 Home:

332 PAs, .262/.359/.563, 21 HRs, 146 wRC+, .294 BABIP

2011 Road:

359 PAs, .263/.369/.543, 20 HRs, 146 wRC+, .296 BABIP

As clearly shown, Granderson had nearly identical production whether playing at Yankee Stadium or on the road.

Of course, it’s important to remember that, after all, this was a career-year, and to expect Granderson to either improve on that production or even repeat it may be asking too much. However, it’s also very plausible that this is who Granderson really is as an offensive player, since he made such a tremendous adjustment vs. LHPs.