Granderson’s Just Fine

Plucked out of the University of Illinois at Chicago in the 3rd round of the 2002 draft, Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson has surpassed all expectations.

Since reaching the big leagues for good in 2006, Granderson has blended a keen batting eye, surprising pop and fleet feet to become one of the most productive players patrolling the middle garden. The lefty batter posted 3.9 Wins Above Replacement in 2006, +7.4 in 2007, +3.8 in 2008, and +2.9 in 2009 with a few games yet to be played.

Granderson enjoyed a banner year in 2007, compiling a .395 wOBA which lead all center fielders. That performance came with a .362 BABIP and a stunning 23 triples, though, so it wouldn’t have been reasonable to expect a repeat performance the following season. Curtis was still highly productive in 2008, however. With his BABIP down to .317, Granderson posted a .374 wOBA. Only Josh Hamilton, Grady Sizemore and Carlos Beltran boasted better offensive numbers.

In 2009, though? Granderson appears to be in the midst of a disappointing campaign. Curtis batted .280/.365/.494 in ’08, but he’s down to .246/.326/.445 this year, with a .337 wOBA. What gives? What’s different in 2009?

Evidently, not much. Take a look at some of Granderson’s key offensive barometers from 2008 and 2009:

Walk rate: 11.4 BB% in ’08, 10.4 BB% in ’09
K rate: 20.1 K% in ’08, 22.8 K% in ’09
Isolated Power (SLG%-BAVG): .213 in ’08, .199 in ’09
Outside Swing% (MLB avg. is about 25%): 19.8% in ’08, 20.1% in ’09
Contact% (MLB avg. is about 81%): 79.6% in ’08, 80.1% in ’09

Granderson has walked slightly less while punching out a little more, popping a couple fewer extra base hits as well. But there’s nothing here that would portend to a 37-point dip in wOBA.

What’s the problem, then? Granderson’s BABIP, as mentioned before, was .317 in 2008. In 2009, that figure has fallen all the way to .276.

It would be easy to simply declare, “he’s been unlucky” and move on. But thanks to some outstanding work done by Chris Dutton and Peter Bendix on what factors influence BABIP for hitters, we can go beyond such a cursory statement.

For a while, most analysts attempting to find a batter’s expected BABIP would used a formula like “line drive percentage + .120.” The premise makes some sense, as line drives fall for a hit about 74 percent of the time.

However, Dutton and Bendix included many more variables in their XBABIP study. Taking items such as line drive rate, batting eye (BB/K ratio), speed score and pitches per PA into consideration, Dutton and Bendix’s XBABIP model yielded very promising results. Their study indicated a 59 percent correlation between actual and predicted BABIP, compared to just 18 percent for the “LD + .120″ concept.

Luckily, Derek Carty of The Hardball Times came out with a simple XBABIP tool based on Dutton and Bendix’s work. The tool takes a hitter’s AB’s, HR’s, K’s, SB’s, LD%, flyballs, pop ups and grounders and spits out an expected BABIP.

According to the XBABIP tool, Granderson’s BABIP should be around .303. That’s somewhat lower than his 2008 figure, because Curtis has hit more flyballs (which have a lower BABIP) and he has popped out more often (pop ups are near automatic outs):

2008: 40.7 FB%, 5.0 infield/fly ball%
2009: 48.8 FB%, 12.2 infield/fly ball%

Even so, Granderson’s line would be .273/.353/.472 in 2009 if his BABIP were .303 instead of .276 (and that’s assuming all additional hits were singles). That equates to a wOBA of about .369. Not quite at his 2008 level, but pretty close. As an additional bonus, Granderson has swiped 20 bags in 26 attempts this season, after limiting his running in ’08 (12 SB, 4 CS).

Granderson’s 2009 line is misleading. He had a career year in 2007, and has settled in as a .370 wOBA-type hitter over the past two seasons. Odds are, he’ll be undervalued on draft day heading into the 2010 season. Granderson is still the same all-around threat.




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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


20 Responses to “Granderson’s Just Fine”

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  1. kevin says:

    Let me get this straight….these guys came up with a formula to calculate what Grandersons numbers “should be”? They are what they are…..he has been a disappointment this season. Lets just hope the Tigers have a legitimate lead-off guy next season…

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  2. Drew says:

    Not “should be”, but would be if everything had fallen into place under “normal” circumstances. The same thing could be done using his 2007 season, when it would appear that his BABIP was higher than it would have been under “normal” circumstances, causing all of his numbers to be inflated a bit.

    They’re not saying he didn’t put up relatively bad numbers, but that the .246/.326/.440 line should not be cause for alarm, and that any perceived decline should be ignored, for now.

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  3. kevin says:

    “According to the XBABIP tool, Granderson’s BABIP should be around .303.”

    Shoulda, woulda, coulda…the only thing that matters is what he actually does….

    The only cause for alarm would be the Tigers relying on him to lead-off again next year….Talking about hypothetical numbers is absurd!

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  4. Klaus says:

    kevin:

    I’d like to extend an invitation for you to my home poker game. It just so happens that we love to play against folks like you who give little credence to silly things like math. Please contact me here for my address and other info: roger.klausenheim0@gmail.com

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  5. Everett says:

    The purpose of this isn’t to say anything about this year other than that he’s been a bit unlucky (in past years he’s been somewhat lucky). This is valuable, because the goal of statistics is two-fold. To evaluate what a player did his past year, and two predict what he’ll do in the future. xBABIP is a more of predictive tool, than an evaluative tool. Granderson’s results have been less than expected, but given the underlying skills, it appears likely that he’ll bounce back next year.

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    • Big Oil says:

      I agree – this was a good article and will be one I file away before draft day next year while the rest of the league sees his.246 BA and passes.

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    • Topher says:

      We need to be careful in how we interpret this analysis. Granderson is not more likely to bounce back next year because he had a down year this year. I’m not more likely to win the lottery just because I’ve never won it before. (The whole “he’s due” fallacy.) This type of analysis is useful because it identifies his underlying talent (.368 wOBA) which, along the player’s risk, is all a real or fantasy GM should be concerned about going forward. However, Granderson is just as likely to put up a year like 09 in 2010 as he was this year. (Although, I should say, I’m plenty happy with him on my team as he’s one of only three 30/20 guys in the AL this year. Even with a bad BA, I’ll take that any day.)

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  6. Neil says:

    Grandy or Werth in 2010?

    I’ll take Werth

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    • Everett says:

      Depends on which round each is available in. Straight up, Werth. If Granderson is available several rounds later though, its a question of value.

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  7. Mario says:

    LOL I needed a smile, thanks Klaus

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  8. Bill says:

    Grats to everyone for getting trolled.

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  9. Polanco_Fan says:

    First off i am a Tiger fan who loves Grandy… I think he is a great player…

    I understand the article, and know what the author is trying to say.. He is saying that Grandy had some bad luck this year, some great luck in ’07, and that his true talent is probably close to his ’08 numbers…

    BUT, the point of baseball is to win games… Stats serve as a record of what a player did on the field, and what he did to help his team win games… RIGHT??

    SO, even though Granderson should be better next year, he STILL DID have a bad season… IMO there is no way around that fact… he didn’t hit in as many runs, he didn’t get on base as much, and in the end he didnt do as much to help his team WIN as he did in the past…

    We can predict his future performance all we want, but in the end, this year wasnt a good one for my boy C.J.

    P.S. His 3 homers this past week were sure a step in the right direction though!!

    GO TIGERS.. Win Thursday night and it’s BRING ON THE YANKEES!!!

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    • HAK says:

      BUT, the point of baseball is to win games… Stats serve as a record of what a player did on the field, and what he did to help his team win games… RIGHT??

      Yes, but the point of this website and especially the Rotographs part is to analyze the numbers inside and out and possibly give the readers some insight into what might be expected next year. Judging from the analysis, it seems as though a return of 2008′s production should be more likely than a repeat of 2009′s. If you play Rotisserie baseball, this can be a valuable tool when you decide when to draft, or how much to bid on, Granderson.

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  10. longbomb says:

    I’m also a big tiger fan, and I have to disagree somewhat with the analysis. I think the drop in BB rate and the rise in K rate is more notable than referred to here in the analysis. When you look at K rate as a % of Plate Appearances, Grandy’s rate goes from 20.0% in 2008 to 17.8% in 2009. Moreover, from June 1 on, is 2009 K rate as percent of PA was 20.9%. I think such an increase in K rate and the fact that his flyball rate and pop-out rate climbed substantially (leading to more outs) was his downfall. His approach at the plate has apparently changed and I don’t think for the better, particularly for a leadoff guy. His success against lefties also took a significant dive. And all these downturns were at an age where he should be getting better, not worse. I have much bigger worry beads about Grandy than the author here has. Grandy seems to be a real smart kid and I’m hoping he recognizes and corrects his faults. He’s a great rep of baseball and I would love to see him go on to greatness. But in my opinion, he’s definitely moved in the wrong direction this year.

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  11. GOBLUEBILLY says:

    As a huge fan who watched most of the Tiger games this year, I agree with the conclusion that Granderson is a fine player (and great guy). Across the board, he was sligtly above average for centerfielders in every catagory.

    Among the qualified CFs in 2009, he was 9th in the value calculation on this site, 11th in batting, 10th in fielding, 10th in arm strength, 14th in WPA (negative overall for the year), 12th in OPS, 5th in wRC, and 10th in speed.

    My difficulty with the “he is fine” analysis is that he disappeared from August 1 until the last week of the season. I generally use +/- .1 when looking at the win probabilty added stat to identify statistically-significant games. While I admit this is an arbitrary number, it seems a reasonable gauge to see who impacted the game most.

    During that stretch of 50 games (nearly a third of the year) when the Tigers were battling for the divisional title, Granderson had 8 statistically-significant games by that measure — 7 negative and only 1 positive. And he was benched often against tough left-handed pitching. In the “real world” he had a solid but somewhat disappointing season.

    But I wish we had a lot more players like him.

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  12. darrell says:

    I agree with longbomb. He hit some homers early and got pull crazy and became helpless against lefties. It also seemed to me he was less aggressive on the bases and more tentative in the field. He is a player like Bernie Williams, great talent, but with little natural feel for the game, sort of an anti-Jeter. Remember, his rookie year, Tiger fans were wondering if he could beat out Nuke Logan for CF, and now we are disappointed he’s not Tori Hunter. He is highly intelligent and motivated, and might be able to do better against lefties in the future. It would help if Leyland moved him down in the order. Tigers lost the division because of a weak offense, and their 2nd best power hitter spent most of the year leading off.

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