Curtis Granderson: “A Great Personality, But . . .”

Mike:

On December 9, 2013 the Mets signed Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract. By any account that is a large deal, for the small market Mets it was a huge expenditure. With spring training upon us it’s a good time to wonder what Mets fans can expect from Granderson.

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Jimmy:

To me, there’s a strange dynamic to the deal. It’s been met with almost universal approval — we’ve been so hungry for something/anything — but at the same time, it’s not hard to imagine him hitting .220 with diminished power.

Mike:

The key for me is that Curtis does provide power. Lack of power has hurt this team for years. It makes it so tough to score if it always takes three hits. Of course there is nothing like the three-run homer, but, hey, we could use solo home runs too.

Cincinnati Reds v New York MetsAnd if Granderson can produce as an actual cleanup hitter, teams might actually have to pitch to David Wright. When Ike Davis or Lucas Duda are on deck why would anyone give David a decent pitch to hit?

Jimmy:

Yes, that’s correct. And even if they continue to pitch around David, he can take that walk to first base in the hope that Curtis will make them pay.

Mike:

When it comes to numbers there is a big difference between Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. Forty home runs is unrealistic. But something on the plus side of 25 would look good to me.

Jimmy:

And he can play the outfield, run the bases, play under the spotlight of NYC, etc.

Mike:

Granderson strikes out a lot, so that will come with the package. If the pop is there, I’m not bothered by that.

Jimmy:

I think the strikeouts might be a huge issue for the 2014 team. Frankly, I’d like to read more research on the subject. I read a troubling article a few weeks ago, but can’t for the life of me recall where I found it. Chris Young is another huge strikeout guy. So Sandy has basically said, through his actions, that strikeouts don’t bother him much. I understand and appreciate that point of view. It’s something I’ve said, too; it seems to be the enlightened perspective. But I wonder if the Mets might be flirting with disaster here, if somehow they might be near a tipping point. Remember that the team hitting philosophy, such as it were, is to work deep counts. Take, take, take. It’s an approach that generates a lot of two-strike counts, and a lot of strikeouts. Last season, the Mets tied for the 3rd most strikeouts in baseball. The response to that has been to bring on two guys who K at a very high rate. We could be witnessing a lot of dreary games with all those long walks back to the dugout.

Strikeouts in all of MLB have been on the rise. At what point does it become a negative, if ever?

Strikeouts in all of MLB have been on the rise. At what point does it become a negative, if ever?

At the same time, I honestly don’t know the extent to which strikeouts matter. Last season, the Atlanta Braves had the third worst strikeout rate in the history of baseball. (The Astros were the worst ever, by far.) My point, I guess, is that the Mets are gambling that it doesn’t.

Mike:

I don’t think they care. Sandy wants power, he loves it, and he will trade a lot of strikeouts to get some home runs.

Jimmy:

I believe that Granderson will come out of the box very strong in 2014. But there are going to be months over the course of this contract when he barely hits .200. One hope that I’ve seen expressed is that he returns to his old hitting approach, more of a gap-to-gap guy, higher average, more contact, more doubles. Less all-or-nothing, which became the mode after he got his first good look at the Yankees’ cozy right-field porch. I don’t know if that’s possible at this stage of his career. On the other side of the coin, he seems to be a terrific individual, a true pro.

Mike:

One other benefit I see from this acquisition is Granderson’s self-assured air. The Mets are short on veteran presence, and there is the New York media to feed. There are also tickets to sell. Granderson has the resume and personality to give the marketing department something to work with.

Jimmy:

Yeah, when the personality comes up, I keep flashing on bad blind dates. You know, the guy who wants to fix you up with his cousin. “She’s got an awesome sense of humor . . .” Curtis will have to produce on the field or all that feel-good stuff goes away very quickly.

A glance at a few projection systems shows this:

  • STEAMER:   .228/.320/.429 . . .OPS: .749
  • OLIVER:     .220/.306/.390 . . . OPS: .696
  • ZiPS:        .237/.322/.444 . . . OPS: .766

Last season, it must be remembered, Marlon Byrd gave the Mets a slash line of .285/.330/.518 for an OPS of .848.

Will Curtis Granderson match the production that Marlon Byrd offered in 2013? Few seem to think so.

Will Curtis Granderson match the production that Marlon Byrd offered in 2013? Few seem to think so.

Mike:

True, but for good reason it took time for Byrd to establish himself as an everyday player, and longer yet as a middle of the order hitter. It is a reason, though not the only one, that the team performed better during the final 100 games of the season.

That provides an advantage this year for the Mets with the proven Granderson, who does not need to earn important at bats. He will get them starting on Opening Day.

Jimmy:

What I like most about the signing is that he’s an actual baseball player. We’ve needed more of those around here. Is he a true cleanup guy? I don’t think so. But I am content with having him in place for the next few years. He’s a significant addition, a real piece to the puzzle. I guess I come out where I began: Despite what might sound like a negative tone, I still like the signing, it’s just that I don’t have very high expectations over the course of the contract. He’ll be a better 6-hitter than cleanup guy. There’s more work to be done, but the team shapes up better with Curtis on the roster moving forward.

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15 comments

  1. RAFF says:

    I’ll take OBP and Avg w/ RISP (Loaded./2 Outs, etc), both individually and team stats over Strikeouts as indicators of individual and team productivity. The Mets had low OBP and low overall Avg with RISP- and this correlated to 11h in NL Runs Sored ands 24th in Baseball.

  2. It’s funny, I’ve never giving a rat’s ass about RISP — I think it’s a result stat. Get good hitters and the RISP numbers will be there.

  3. IB says:

    I find this new thing, projections, utterly preposterous on several levels. All I got to say.

    • Agreed. As I wrote a few days ago, it’s all driven by the billion-dollar fantasy market. People go out, buy their PECOTA Projections, then do their draft. Gives ‘em an edge! One of the problems is that because so much money is tied up into it, none of these “experts” are going to poke a hole in that balloon. There’s too much money in the dream of the perfect projection system.

  4. BP’s Top Ten Mets Prospects:

    1. C Noah Syndergaard
    2. RHP Travis d’Arnaud
    3. 3B Wilmer Flores
    4. RHP Rafael Montero
    5. SS Amed Rosario
    6. 1B Dominic Smith
    7. OF Cesar Puello
    8. C Kevin Plawecki
    9. CF Brandon Nimmo
    10. RHP Marcos Molina

    (Note: I subscribe but forgot my username and password. It’s that kind of day. But we’ll get through it!)

  5. Eraff says:

    The Grandy Projections are very low…and I admit to being fearful they might be correct. That said, it’s all about the Input for these things—and, at a RESULT of under 700 ops!!!—that would indicate that he’s not an ED Player!!!

    Grandy’s lifetime OPS is over 800, home and away—828/838… his lifetime versus Lefties is over 700. The guy turns 32 in a Month—the projections deal a heavy dose of Injury/Damage within the input.

    • The computer does not want to throw away the 2013 season, which would be our inclination.

    • Yes, but his lifetime OPS is not built on a stable even path, he has three very good MVP contender type seasons, and a couple of fringe all star seasons, with a few meh seasons built in.

      Very roller coaster vs. even plane. The projections while faulty tend do play out in general for these guys. As a baseline.

      Their biggest flaw is they can’t predict accurately when age makes it crumble, or if a player is going to adjust.

      If Granderson does not attempt to go back to what made him great in Detroit, he is going to be swallowed whole by Citi Field. It will eat his game alive. He’s not in the Bronx anymore.

  6. IB says:

    My last 2 cents:
    Too many forces, dependancies, contingencies, arbitrary and otherwise. If Newton, Einstein and Hawking wrote the algorithm I’d still call it hogwash. But, they didn’t. This stuff is fine and fun, for what it’s worth – which is diddly.

    Signed,
    Grumpy Old Git

    • GOG,

      Have you ever taken a look at how these actually play out?

      I use to flip all the non baseball card metrics a big bird, but over time started paying attention to them, digging into them, there is more to it than random guess work and labels.

      • The great Nate Silver, who made so much buzz by correctly predicting every state in the last election (and more, as I don’t actually recall), was key to developing PECOTA. It’s very sophisticated and very smart. So I do agree with Patrick, that the baseline is a good guide. Next season? Granderson could have an OPS ranging from .675 to .825, I think. Over the four years of this contract, I think he’ll have at least one miserable season.

  7. IB says:

    Patrick – I think you might have misunderstood me. I have no doubt the alogrithms and data sources are well thought out. What’s random and unpredictable is the machinations of baseball. Wind and weather, team chemistry, situation, on and on and on. To predict results based on scientific, statistical methods seems hyperreal to me.

    But, to be fair, I haven’t checked projections against actual results. I’ll do that. Actually, I was taken aback by Steamer’s Met rotation projections (horrible) so I’ll ad that to my list.

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      Unless we have an ice age, wind and weather are items that sort themselves out pretty regularly over the course of each 162 game season.

      The other stuff, chemistry particularly is something I could very rarely if ever attribute to performance. Being surrounded by all-stars may lift an average player up based more on statistical opportunity, ie hitting more often with runners on base etc.

      But the thing with these #s is that they attempt to make the most reasonable educated guess on where someone’s season is headed. The more data a player has, the more likely that data gives a more accurate picture, not exact but very good approximate.

      I don’t think the Steamer projection for Mets starting pitching is all that off. They basically expect Jon Niese to be Jon Niese, Dillon Gee to be Dillon Gee. In fact I think they give Colon a fairly favorable view considering he is a year older and arguably could be pitching for a much less defensively strong team. I suppose it could be surprising that they have reserved projections on Wheeler, but that is one thing these statistical views can’t and won’t express, that is to say when a player “arrives” and gets it to click. Sort of like Matt Harvey last year. Even so, most of the projections on Harvey would have shown some regression were he to pitch in 2014. It is expected with young pitchers.

      As James pointed out, these things are more geared toward the wonks building their fantasy roster. As such the producers of these types of statistical projections are trying to maintain some sense of being reserved. It does them no good to try and add “this is the breakout year” when it is impossible to see that coming.

      So maybe Wheeler pulls a Harvey and then some in 2014. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that with or without a stats projection. It is unlikely for young pitchers to take such big leaps.

      In a similar light, could Jon Niese take a step forward, sure, but again there is not a lot to indicate such a leap is on the horizon.

      Who knows, maybe Collins forgoes the temptation of not putting Lagares in CF, maybe Ruben Tejada plays healthy productive shortstop, maybe Ike Davis becomes the Ike Davis he looked like he was on the verge of in early 2011. Perhaps Granderson produces more like his days with Detroit than the Bronx. If all of those things fall into place the team is better both offensively and defensively than last year, which sure has a rolling impact on the pitchers.

      In short (and by now you might tell I am not good at short) predictive modeling is definitely not an exact science and fails to account for things that can’t be locked down.

  8. IB says:

    Yes Patrick, in short “it is not an exact science and fails to account for things that can’t be locked down” So, in other words, sometimes you hit em sometimes you don’t. Good luck.

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