Three months ago to the day, I wrote about a couple of catchers whose rates of ownership in fantasy baseball leagues, I felt, should have been increasing based on some early-season positives, albeit from a limited data sample. Josmil Pinto turned out to be a pretty justifiable inclusion for a little while, but Yasmani Grandal appears to have been a misguided recommendation. You win some, you lose some.
I haven’t given up on Grandal, but I’d begun to lose hope. His strikeout rate remained significantly greater than his career standard, whereas I expected (hope for) some regression. The San Diego Padres croucher’s fantasy production took a nosedive about a week into May and hadn’t come up for air. I came across some new stuff on him not long ago, something to follow. But I wasn’t sure what to make of the information at the time, and without a deeper look, more data or both, I wasn’t about to draw a conclusion or feel a jolt of optimism.
Grandal has made a significant change to his stance. I first learned about it thanks to the fan blog Friars on Base, which hosted a post pointing to a Padres Prospects tweet that alerted the Twitter community to the observation. I don’t think that the timeline for Grandal’s adjustment from the writer of that post and/or the tweeter is accurate, to be clear. I don’t type so in order to call out either of them, just to note it so that there’s no confusion between what appears there and the timeline I follow, which is different. Many thanks to both of them just for the discovery and dissemination.
This isn’t a change that has been in the works all season and may have carried over from last. It appears that Grandal began this campaign largely the way he ended the 2013 one (rather prematurely, I might add) and probably those prior. The switch hitter appears to have altered his setup sometime in May of this year, though, judging from some of his other MLB.com video highlights (near the beginning of the month; near the end). The backstop is more upright in the batter’s box in the latter clip, and that adjustment can surely affect a host of things. I couldn’t confidently break down what those are and which are occurring if I had extensive video of the hitter, let alone with these snippets of action, so I won’t bother.
Anyway, such a timeline meshes with a story on the team’s official site dated this past Sunday. Minus one detail, which is that Grandal made the change last month, not in May. Which I’d dispute based on those clips alone, but it’s neither here nor there at this point. We have a bit of confirmation that something is going on and how and why it came about. The why is of particular interest, because, according to the news, he adopted the new approach in order to alleviate pain in his surgically repaired knee. That’s a positive, I’d say.
If Grandal did indeed begin to implement his adjustment in May, then it might help to explain the drop-off in his production that month (.115/.203/.327) and his essentially equally terrible June (.200/.286/.280). The official site’s piece suggests that he’s reached a comfort level with the new stance, however, and, lately, we have a bit of data that reinforces the notion. This month, he’s hit .289/.373/.533 in 51 plate appearances. Check out some video evidence from this past weekend (Saturday and Sunday), if you’re into that. The former clip is of the “mammoth 440-foot moonshot” the MLB.com article describes, the latter of a golf shot that just cleared the fence, a kind of display of his raw power. It’s nice to see that he can go down to get one from the upright look, I think.
From the numbers alone, even before this mini resurgence in July, we could surmise that Grandal’s power hasn’t disappeared. His season-to-date ISO as well as splits in ISO support the former thought. The MLB.com story asserts that viewpoint, too.
Grandal’s control of the strike zone still concerns me, however. His strikeout rate has been around 20% for this month, perhaps heartening, but not especially so given that such a reduction seems apt to accompany improved outcomes like his regardless. I’d like to see that 10.4 swinging-strike rate come down a percentage point by the end of the season. It’s hard to say that I can reasonably expect significant positive regression in his K% anymore, like I did in my April blog, given that it’s basically stable at this point. The conditions under which he’s recorded it have changed significantly, so I think that changes the conditions for stability. But nothing other than the fact that there’s been a change in the circumstances provides reason to hope that there might be a positive change in that particular outcome, I think.
Still, it’s nice to put some of the pieces together regarding the performance of Grandal. I still believe that there’s a good bit to like about his upside as a hitter, most notably the type of power he can generate. It seems that he and his hitting coach in SD have devised a way for him to avoid further knee problems. It seems that the 25-year-old has reached a new plateau of comfort in his recently adopted stance. Now comes a new challenge: keeping it that way. I think that this development should give his owners reason for optimism for the rest of this season, at least, and those in 12-team mixed leagues reason enough to consider him again.
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