Mechanically Speaking: Curtis Granderson

I’ve done a lot of work with stats on this site over the past two years. Maybe too much at times. One approach I want to take more often going forward is a focus on the mix between mechanics and the numbers. I have done a lot of writing about mechanics when it comes to prospects over at, but I haven’t applied that focus as much to this site. I played the game of baseball from my childhood, through college and a few summers of adult-league ball. I’ve spent some time coaching in those years as well, so I’ve done plenty of studying the mechanics of hitting, pitching and fielding. The mix of statistical and mechanical analysis should only help with the accuracy of projections and in-season advice.
Coming into the 2010 season, Curtis Granderson was an intriguing top seven round pick on draft day. He had hit 30 home runs and stolen 20 bases for the Tigers in 2009 and was traded to the Yankees, which put him in a great lineup and great home ballpark for left-handed hitters. There were, of course, worries about his AVG, which had dipped below .250 in 2009. Part of that dip was an extreme issue against left-handed pitching. Granderson hit only .198 against lefties in 2009 while he hit .275 against right-handed pitching. While Granderson’s struggles against lefties improved slightly in 2010, he didn’t fare as well against right-handed pitchers as he had in the past.
Having been in a slump for the better part of the season, Yankees’ hitting coach Kevin Long made significant adjustments to Granderson’s stance, which eventually delivered positive results.
Granderson had always had a wide open stance with his hands held out over the plate and above his head. This meant many moving parts as the pitch was delivered. During the pitchers delivery he would have to close his stance, move his hands in and back while striding toward the pitcher. His new stance is closed and his hands are pulled in toward his shoulder.
Three things in particular this change accomplishes:
  1. It eliminates excessive movement, making his swing less complicated and making his mechanics more repeatable.  
  2. It keeps his front shoulder in longer, in particular against lefties.
  3. His hands are closer to his body, cutting down his swing path and getting his bat through the zone faster. This allows him to see the ball longer and let pitches get deeper in the zone.
This mechanical change was made in August and, while there was an adjustment period, Granderson responded with 14 home runs in the season’s final two months (and a few October days). He had hit a total of 10 home runs from April through July. Also, Granderson hit four home runs off of left-handed pitching in 2010. Two came after the change in his stance (off of Marc Rzepczynski and Jerry Blevins).
Granderson’s huge September (.278/.369/.622, 9 HR, 23 RBI) was helped by mechanical changes in his stance and swing. In many ways this gives fantasy owners more optimism for 2011. While Granderson may never be a source for AVG/OBP, he still has a shot at another 30/20 season. Given the troubles with his AVG the past two seasons and a down year in home runs and stolen bases in 2010, it is easy to imagine his draft stock falling in a sizable fashion on draft day 2011. He remains in a great lineup and in a great ballpark for left-handed hitters. The mechanical changes made late in the year could make a big difference going froward and could make Curtis Granderson a value pick next season.