On Tuesday night, Curtis Granderson was picked off of first base while representing the tying run to end the game. On Wednesday he atoned for his mistake by hitting two home runs against the Angels, including a first-inning welcome-to-the-big-leagues three-run poke against Garrett Richards, who was making his major league debut. Granderson hit a solo homer off the rookie in the fifth to extend the lead to 6-1, and the Yankees won going away, 9-3.
Over at River Avenue Blues, Mike Axisa points out that today (August 11) marks the one-year anniversary of Granderson's brief trip to the bench as he retooled his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long. His numbers over the past 365 days are just jaw-dropping:
In 161 games over the last calendar year, Granderson has hit .271/.362/.575 with 24 doubles, ten triples, and 45 homeruns in 693 plate appearances. He’s drawn 83 walks and scored 131 runs as well, though the 164 strikeouts are a bit of an eyesore. No one’s perfect though, a few strikeouts never killed anyone. In that time, only Jose Bautista (52) has hit more homers. Only six players have hit more triples. No one has scored more runs, and only Albert Pujols (116) is with 15 runs scored of the Grandyman. He leads all center fielders is basically every significant offensive category other than batting average over the last calender year, and is near the top in those same categories among all players, regardless of position.
Those struggles against left-handed pitchers? Forget about ‘em. Grandy has hit .278/.357/.567 with 14 homers in 215 PA against southpaws since the fix, which is nearly identical to his batting line against righties: .268/.374/.578. Before the fix, he had just 17 career homeruns against lefties in 795 PA. He went from one homer every 46.8 PA against southpaws to one every 15.4. That’s a factor of three, he tripled his homerun rate against same-side pitchers with a few mechanical adjustments.
A guy could win an MVP award with those kind of numbers, particularly somebody playing an up-the-middle position for a playoff club, though it remains to be seen whether Granderson can finish out this year strongly enough to take votes away from Bautista or the various Red Sox who will draw support, namely Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury, the latter of whom had surpassed Granderson in WARP the last time I checked.
One nit to pick with Mike's article. He writes, "If you ask either Long or Granderson about the changes they made, the hands and the follow through, they’ll downplay the significance of the adjustments and say they were just minor tweaks." That's not entirely true. Here's Granderson on the subject after homering on Opening Day:
"I definitely am more confident, partly from the things we worked on with Kevin Long in terms of eliminating the moving parts," he said. "When I got them all aligned, it didn't matter if it was a lefty or a righty. It was always a little issue of getting everything in the right spot. What Kevin Long and myself decided to do was to eliminate some of those things. This is where we want to be, let's go ahead and get you right there with fewer steps than you had before."
Here's Long a month later, when it was clear that the retooled swing was still paying dividends into 2011:
"When I go back to August, I did a bit of talking to the media, saying we made some big changes, we basically revamped a lot of things. Curtis didn't feel that way at all. He's a very bright young man, he was able to take the information that was given to him and simplify it into layman's terms. Simpler and more compact, a more explosive swing. I thought it was four or five big things, and he said it really wasn't that big of a deal."
I suppose it's a matter of degree as to how you interpret the two principals' words on the matter. Either way, it's impressive work by the center fielder, and the milestone deserves a moment of recognition.