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Has There Ever Been Another Yankee Like Curtis Granderson?

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The repeat 40-home run hitter has no antecedents in pinstripes.

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Has there ever been a Yankee like Curtis Granderson, now two-time 40-home run man? Only a handful of the previous 29 Yankees to hit 40 taters has had a batting average below .300:

PLAYER

YEAR

HR

AVG

Tino Martinez

1997

44

.296

Mickey Mantle

1960

40

.275

Roger Maris

1961

61

.269

Curtis Granderson

2011

41

.262

Jason Giambi

2003

41

.250


(Parenthetically, Mickey Mantle is the only Yankee to hit precisely 40 home runs. Everyone else in team history either stopped at 39 or kept going to 41 and up.)

The above doesn't quite do Granderson's .229 batting average justice. Not only does he have the lowest average of any 40-homer slugger in team history, he's also the furthest away from the league average. Of the five players above, all had above-average, um, averages except for Giambi, who was .017 below. As of this writing, Granderson is .027 below. He has also broken the team strikeout record - his own - and hidden it where no one will ever find it again.

This is all mostly trivia, but it gets at the uniqueness of Granderson, the most successful low-average power-hitter in team history. You could put post-2002 Giambi (.248/.397/.503) in that category, but the two players are nothing alike. One is fast, slender, and plays center field. The other played first base as if doing an imitation of a fire hydrant and wore women's underwear while trying to break a slump.

One Yankee who I keep gravitating towards as a vague point of comparison is Graig Nettles. Though a great defender, Nettles was not fast on the bases, but at his Yankees peak from 1976 through 1978, the left-hander hit .262/.335/.477 and averaged 32 home runs a season. That's only Granderson-like in the broadest outlines, and you have to remember that Nettles' late 70s .262 would probably be about a .280 in today's offensive environment. Still, that's about as close as you come-the Yankees just haven't had anyone quite like this. Danny Tartabull comes close, but he was right-handed and a miserable outfielder. Reggie Jackson would be in the ballpark, except that he hit .281 as a Yankee.

Baseball-Reference's similarity scores lists the most similar players to Granderson as Grady Sizemore, Richard Hidalgo, Glenallen Hill, Hank Blalock, and Tony Conigliaro, while the most similar through age-30 is Ron Gant. None of these are particularly encouraging in terms of Granderson's long-term value-but that is a story for another post, or several of them, as we start figuring out the future of the team after the postseason.