Park Factors, Fly Balls, and Granderson

Mood Music - The Candy (Grandy) Man Can

I will do my best not to beat a dead horse on this one.  I really don't want to rehash "the trade," and I'm not going to mention a former Yankees center field prospect.  What I am going to talk about is what Curtis Granderson has brought to the table so far this year and what we can expect down the road.

Granderson's 2007 season with the Tigers was absolutely incredible by any metric:

.302/.361/.552 with 23 HR, 23 3B, 38 2B, 122 Runs, 74 RBI, 26 SB, a .395 wOBA, a 142 wRC+, +14.9 runs in the field, and an overall 7.4 WAR.

So far, the 2010 version of Granderson has given us: .251/.319/.436 with 10 HR, a .334 wOBA, and a 108 wRC+.  Not nearly as good, but how is he hitting the ball?  You might be surprised to see exactly how similar the numbers are:

 

Line Drive

Fly Ball

Ground Ball

Strikeout

Walk

2007

21.0%

44.8%

34.2%

23.0%

7.7%

2010

23.2%

45.0%

31.8%

23.6%

8.8%

Career

21.0%

43.2%

35.8%

23.9%

9.4%

If I hadn't labeled them with years, who among you could have said which was his career year, and which was his down year?  In fact, a case could even be made that Granderson is hitting the ball with more authority in 2010 than he did in 2007, but both years are pretty close to being in line with his career numbers.  What gives?

Before I answer any of the questions I've posed, let's talk a little bit about park factors and New Yankee Stadium.  Park factors are determined by comparing the rate at which teams bat in different stadiums, meaning, how much more likely are the Yankees and their opponent to hit a home run, double, triple, etc. while playing at New Yankee Stadium vs. any other park?  Here are some of the park factors for 2010 (Numbers over 1 -> advantage hitters, numbers below 1 -> advantage pitchers) :

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The full list of park factors is available here.

So, as you can see above, Yankee Stadium has been the second most hitter friendly ballpark in the game, but that doesn't tell the full story.  While Yankee Stadium is the easiest park in which to hit a home run, it is the 3rd easiest to record a hit, the 13th hardest to record a double, the 21st hardest to hit a triple, and the 16th hardest to draw a walk.

While having the right field wall at little league depth enables the Yankees to blast home runs at a league high pace, it also means there is very little real estate in right field for balls in the gap to land for doubles and triples.  But what does this have to do with Granderson?

In 2007, Granderson hit .301 on fly balls, with 12 triples and 18 doubles (with half of his games being played in spacious Comerica Park).  In 2010, Granderson is hitting .181 on fly balls with 2 triples and 2 doubles.  So, while Granderson may see the advantage of the close right field wall, a lot of his ability to put the ball in the gap in right center and use his legs has been negated by having so little room to work with.

I am still firmly of the opinion that we will continue to see an improved version of Granderson in the 2nd half, but the "his swing is perfect for Yankee Stadium" mantra that we were fed in the offseason might just be entirely wrong.

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