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Curtis Granderson’s BABIP

New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson is in the midst of his fifth full season in the major leagues. After performing at roughly a league-average clip at the plate in 2006 (.333 wOBA), Granderson went on to crush the ball in 2007 and 2008. The former third-round pick in the 2002 draft posted a .395 wOBA in ’07 and a .374 wOBA in ’08. Granderson’s bat, worth +1.2 runs above average during his first full season, jumped to +35.7 in 2007 and +23 in 2008.

Since then, however, Granderson’s lumber has been merely decent. He turned in a .340 wOBA last season (+6 runs above average), and he has a mild .318 wOBA (-1 run) during his first year in the Bronx. Granderson still possesses an above-average walk rate and good pop…

..but his BABIP has taken a big tumble. The lefty batter had a .333 BABIP in 2006, a .360 BABIP in 2007, and a .316 BABIP in 2008. His BABIP dipped to .275 last year, and it sits at .265 in 2010. Here are Granderson’s batted ball percentages over the years:

He’s hitting fewer grounders, and more balls classified as fly balls and liners. Fly balls have a lower BABIP than ground balls, but line drives fall for hits 72 to 73 percent of the time on average.

What are Granderson’s expected BABIP totals over the years? To help answer that, we can use this expected BABIP tool from The Hardball Times, based off the research of Peter Bendix and Chris Dutton. Dutton and Bendix found that hitter’s eye (BB rate/SO rate), line drive rate, Speed Score, pitches per PA and power all have a positive relationship with BABIP. The simple xBABIP tool uses a batter’s rate of home runs, stolen bases, line drives, fly balls, ground balls and pop ups to estimate BABIP. Here are Granderson’s actual BABIP and xBABIP totals since ’06:

While Granderson’s actual BABIP has been all over the place, his xBABIP has been fairly consistent. The exception is 2009, when his xBABIP was low due to a high rate of pop ups hit (13%, compared to a 7.6% career average and the 7-8% MLB average). His xBABIP is .310 this season, yet his BABIP is just .265. What gives? To shed further light on Granderson’s BABIP decline, here are his numbers by batted ball type over the years:

I highlighted the two biggest changes — Granderson’s BABIP on fly balls has gone from way, way above average to well below average. Further, his BABIP on liners is low this season. Here’s a graph that shows Granderson’s BABIP by batted ball type since 2006, compared to the AL average. The FB line falls off a cliff:

Granderson should show improvement in the second half of the season — his rest-of-season ZiPS calls for a .346 wOBA, with his BABIP climbing to .286. But I’m curious what you readers think, particularly Tigers and Yankees fans. Is Granderson doing something noticeably different at the plate over the past two years? Could it be related to his percentage of lefties faced, which is quite high this season (37 percent, compared to 28 percent in ’09, 25.3 in ’08, 19.7 in ’07, and 24.2 in ’06)? Do you buy the rest-of-season ZiPS BABIP, or do you expect something different?