The Grand Transformation

Curtis Granderson seems to have something new to high-five about every day. (AP)

The evolution of Curtis Granderson continues to amaze. Tuesday's home run off Oakland's Brett Anderson was his ninth of the year off a southpaw — more than he's hit off righties, and more than any major leaguer, lefty or righty, has hit off a lefty this year. Today at Baseball Prospectus and ESPN Insider, I've got a quick piece detailing his remarkable transformation:

The most striking facet of Granderson's turnaround is his performance against southpaws. During his four full seasons with the Tigers (2006-2009), he hit just .206/.265/.331 in such matchups. By rights he should have been riding pine whenever a lefty was on the hill, but manager Jim Leyland started him in 179 out of 193 such games. Though Granderson began playing every day with the Yankees, manager Joe Girardi had fewer reservations about benching him against lefties upon first-hand exposure to his woes. Granderson sat for eight out of 29 games, and hit just .206/.243/.275 with one homer and an ugly 28/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 110 plate appearances against lefties when he did play—worse than his Detroit days. Since re-emerging [on August 12, 2010], he has not only survived against southpaws, he has thrived; among lefties with at least 75 PA against their same-sided counterparts in that span, only the Reds' Jay Bruce has done better:

Player               PA  HR    AVG/OBP/SLG     OPS
Jay Bruce 84 14 .405/.470/1.041 1.511
Curtis Granderson 133 12 .305/.374/.669 1.043
Joey Votto 130 4 .357/.446/.580 1.026
Chase Utley 79 4 .299/.405/.537 .942
Stephen Drew 132 5 .287/.341/.533 .874
Logan Morrison 125 0 .330/.440/.427 .867
Colby Rasmus 104 2 .279/.394/.465 .859
Jason Heyward 109 4 .275/.394/.462 .856
Adrian Gonzalez 164 5 .329/.384/.470 .854
Daric Barton 120 2 .283/.400/.444 .844

Granderson's potent bat has helped the Yankees offset agonizingly slow starts from Swisher, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada, and overcome the peaks and valleys amid the generally strong work by Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Russell Martin. He hasn't gone more than four straight starts without an extra-base hit, or more than seven straight starts without a homer, both the shortest spans among Yankee regulars. During that homerless drought — which ended with his shot off Anderson — all Granderson did was hit .357/.471/.607 with six extra-base hits and three steals, a reminder that there's more to his game than just the long ball.

I didn't have room for it in the published version, but check out how Granderson's performance since that date stacks up among all lefty hitters:

Player               PA  HR    AVG/OBP/SLG     OPS
Jay Bruce 352 31 .319/.387/.655 1.042
Joey Votto 428 15 .332/.451/.553 1.004
Matt Joyce 310 13 .327/.403/.576 .979
Curtis Granderson 422 31 .274/.356/.599 .955
David Ortiz 404 20 .301/.376/.546 .922
Travis Hafner 271 9 .322/.399/.519 .918
Adrian Gonzalez 459 19 .316/.386/.529 .915
Carlos Gonzalez 408 17 .307/.377/.537 .914
Logan Morrison 371 9 .297/.402/.511 .913
Ike Davis 347 11 .297/.392/.495 .887

An aside: aren't Bruce's numbers insane? I thought they had to be in error, but very quietly he bopped nine homers off lefties amid a 14-for-32 spree against lefties from August 12 to the end of last year, and thanks to a recent spree, he's outslugging the reigning NL MVP, teammate Votto.

Anyway, those are some of the most feared lefthanded hitters in the game, and Granderson is right there with them, though it's worth noting that he's been held back by a .281 BABIP in that span, which is at least 50 points lower than everyone else in the top 10 save for Ortiz (.310), who's both slow and subject to an extreme infield shift. If some of those balls in play ever started falling in and boosted his batting average, he'd be a legitimate MVP candidate.

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