Curtis Granderson

Deep Dive: Estimating Curtis Granderson’s aging pattern

In signing Curtis Granderson to a $60 million contract over the next four seasons, the Mets made a sizable bet on improving the team in the short term. The slightly front-loaded deal covers Granderson’s age 33-36 seasons, the years where players of his ilk — outfielders who strike out regularly, but rely on power for their offensive value — decline dramatically.

In this post, Toby Hyde will dig into the type of player Granderson has been, and the one he’ll likely be going forward. Finally, he will construct an estimate of Granderson’s value to the Mets…

Toby Hyde, Contributor

Granderson clearly fills a need for the Mets: a big league outfielder. In 2013, Mets outfielders produced 7 fWAR, 20th in baseball. The since-traded Marlon Byrd was responsible for half (3.5 fWAR) of that production. Before Granderson agreed to terms with the Mets, Eric Young Jr. and his career 77 wRC+ (where 100 is league average) was the placeholder in the corner not occupied by Chris Young.

curtis-granderson-540x372

In some ways, Granderson is a similar player to C. Young: they both hit home runs, strike out regularly and have played centerfield in the past. With Juan Lagares in center, Granderson and Young should complete a very fine defensive outfield.

The Mets farm system was not prepared to offer a starting everyday outfielder for Opening Day 2014. Cesar Puello, the best option in the top three levels of the farm system in 2013, finished his year hitting .326/.403/.547 with a career-high 16 home runs in 91 games in double-A, but missed the final month of the season because of a Biogeneis-related suspension. An aggressive hitter, some time in triple-A will serve him well to work on his strike zone discipline. Perhaps, after a few months in Las Vegas, he will be ready to help the Mets by the heat of summer. Promising 2011 first round pick Brandon Nimmo ended the 2013 season in a-ball with Savannah. He’s at least two years away from the big leagues.

In short, the Mets needed another outfielder.

The left-handed hitting outfielder hit free agency after an impressive four-year run with the Yankees, when he hit a combined .245/.335/.495 with 115 home runs. His 41 home runs in 2011 were, at the time, a new career high, one he surpassed a year later when he hit 43 in 2012.

Granderson’s 2013 was marred by injury when he was plunked by a pair of pitches. The first, in spring training, broke his foream.  After he returned to action in May, eight games later, a broken pinkie sent him back to the disabled list.

When he did play, Granderson hit .229/.317/.407 in 61 games. By wRC+, again where 100 is league average, he earned a 97, making him slightly below league average. By bWAR, Granderson was worth 1.1 wins, while in Fangraphs’ accounting he was worth 1.4. Prorating his time out to say, 140 games, we can estimate his bWAR at 2.53 and his fWAR at 3.22. Fangraphs assigns a positive number to his defensive contribution because he was playing centerfield in a below average way, and right field in an above average way. Defensive numbers over partial seasons bounce around, so those estimates on his defense are rough. (Note: I use both fWAR and bWAR in this piece. There are various comparative searches that I find easier at one site or the other. For most purposes, now that there is a unified replacement-level baseline, they’re similar enough.)

Power Spike

Why did Curtis Granderson have back-to-back 40-home run seasons in 2011 and 2012, his age 30 and 31 seasons? Simple. He had a HR/FB spike. He hit line drives, ground balls and fly balls at rates that looked like his final seasons in Detroit (2007-2009) and his first with the Yankees (2010). However, in all of those seasons, his home run to flyball ratio hung between 10.9% and 14.5%. In 2011 and 2012 it climbed to 20.5% and 24.2% respectively. By 2013, it was back down to 11.3%, in line with his career norms.

Walks and Strikeouts

Granderson is a high-walk, high-strikeout hitter. He fanned in 28.5% of his plate appearances in 2012 and 28.2% in 2013, while walking 11% in both.

Platoon Splits

Over the course of his eight-plus professional seasons, Granderson has run a major platoon split, hitting righties much better than lefties. He’s hit .274/.357/.519 against righties with a 21.8% strikeout rate and a 11.1% walk rate. Meanwhile, against lefties, he has hit  just .226/.295/.409 with a 26.7% strikeout rate and a 7.8% walk rate.

In 2013, his worst season by OPS+ or wRC+ since 2006, Granderson actually hit lefties (.242/.356/.435 in 73 PA) better than righties (.224/.300/.395 in 172 PA). Largely, this was a result of unusually good results on balls in play. He had a .371 BABIP against lefties and a .279 BABIP against righties. His underlying rate stats were better against righties (25.6% k rate/9.9% walk rate) compared to lefties (34.2% K/14% walk).

Lefties have given Granderson fits, over the course of his career, but he has improved against southpaws from his younger days through his Yankee peak in 2012. For example, take a look at his on-base percentage against lefties, by year, moving forward from 2007 through 2012: .225,  .310, .245, .292, .347, .304.

Defense

Once a strong center fielder, Granderson will play a corner outfield spot for the Mets, likely deferring to Juan Lagares’ prowess in center. UZR rated Granderson as a combined 27 runs above average in 2006 and 2007, but that was a long time ago. In his four years as a Yankee, he was a combined 14.2 runs below average. That’s a slightly controversial rating, as the other advanced systems do not rate him as poorly. Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved, puts Granderson at seven runs below average for his Yankees’ tenure. Total Zone measures -8 for the same four-year span.

There’s a line of thinking that playing next to a very strong defender, as Granderson did when playing alongside Brett Gardner, will hurt his defensive ratings. If Granderson was playing next to say, Lucas Duda, he would have caught more balls, both within his zone, that is the area a center fielder is expected to cover, and outside of it. Both types of catches, in and outside his area, would have helped his zone numbers.

Lets assume moving forward that Granderson’s defense on the corners will help his value a little – say five-ish runs a year.


Projection Moving Forward
At this point, we should have a pretty good handle on what kind of player Granderson has been, but the question the Mets just spent $60 million to answer is what kind of player he will be in his next four years.

Curtis GrandersonThe Oliver projection system at Fangraphs sees Granderson as a 3.0 fWAR player in 2014, who experiences a slow, steady decline. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS system does not see as big a bounceback in 2014, and then a similar if slightly steeper decline. Analysis that rests on these two projection systems which have Granderson contributing something like eight or nine WAR over the life of the contract turn generally positive. This includes Eno Sarris’ fine work here.

Many of the analyses of the contract assume a gentle aging curve for Granderson. However, most of his peers, once they started to go, went in a hurry.

I created my own specialized aging curve for Granderson. First, using Baseball Reference’s play index to find players like Granderson, I selected outfielders who put up between 15 and 25 WAR in their age 28-32 seasons who struck out at least 596 times. These are good, solid, above-average everyday outfielders. The bWAR cap of 25 removes six players  - who are or approach Hall of Fame level  (Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome, Reggie Jackson, Carlos Delgado and Bobby Abreu). The rest are comfortably Granderson’s peers: he put up a 18.3 bWAR over his last five years. (Note: I would have preferred a rate-based search around strikeouts or production, but neither Baseball Reference nor Fangraphs offers that publicly. My original cutoff was 600 strikeouts. However, moving down four whiffs adds Jim Edmonds into the list and, much more on him later. Edmonds is a fairly good match for Granderson’s peak by WAR value and strikeout rate.)

We’re dealing with 19 players, found here.

I removed the following four players who moonlighted in the outfield, but were not primarily outfielders in any sense of the word: Dan Uggla, Mo Vaughn, Carlos Pena and Jorge Posada.

I removed the following guys whose careers ended before 1980, because hey, it was a different game 33 years ago and players follow different workout regimes now, and can be expected to age differently. Bye-bye: Willie Stargell, Bobby Bonds, Tony Perez.

Again, to make sure we’re dealing with decent defensive outfielders, I mandated that all of the comps had played at least some center field. Goodbye, Frank Howard and Mikey Tettleton.

This left our final comparable list as: Alfonso Soriano, Dale Murphy, Gorman Thomas, Nick Swisher, Ray Lankford, Jayson Werth, Jeremy Burnitz, Mike Cameron and Jim Edmonds. Swisher, who is as old as Granderson, has not begun his age 33 season. His career offers no clue as to how Granderson will age in his 33+ years.

These are good offensive outfielders. Their combined age 28-32 seasons look like this.

PlayerHRWARSOGPABAOBPSLGK%CF
Alfonso Soriano172166397043188.280.333.529.2012 games
Dale Murphy17023.96777993459.275.368.512.20Yes
Gorman Thomas16516.37217313080.238.331.477.23Yes
Curtis Granderson14518.36906732858.246.333.484.24Yes
Nick Swisher12715.36697433135.263.362.470.21Yes
Ray Lankford12323.96296902856.288.382.523.22Yes
Jayson Werth11517.16556932763.270.368.478.24108 games
Jeromy Burnitz16315.76647593185.259.363.511.21yes
Mike Cameron11017.66966712790.251.340.460.25yes
Jim Edmonds13024.35966552719.299.396.540.22yes

How did this group age from 33-36? Not well. The following chart shows each player’s production by bWAR, in their age-33 season and beyond.

Player5 yr WAR avg 28-323334353637+
Alfonso Soriano3.2-1.60.5-0.22.02.4
Dale Murphy4.781.60.90.8-0.7-0.9
Gorman Thomas3.26-0.81.7-0.3-0.5
Curtis Granderson3.66
Jayson Werth3.420.74.8NANA
Jeromy Burnitz3.140.00.21.30.2-0.6
Mike Cameron3.524.33.23.13.0-0.1
Jim Edmonds4.866.07.14.41.32.2
Ray Lankford4.780.91.1-0.400.4

Graphically, their production looks like this: I normalized all of the players’ age 28-32 peak to one. Each year thereafter the player’s production by bWAR is illustrated as a single point as a fraction of their peak years.

Granderson Comps 33-36

After their age-32 seasons, only three players had a single season better than their average of their peak seasons of 28-32: Jayson Werth, Jim Edmonds and Mike Cameron. Edmonds was the only player to have as many as two seasons at age 33 and older that equalled his peak years.

What’s remarkable to me is how essentially similar all of the aging patters are, outside of those three. Moving from age 28-32, every other player lost over half of his value. Expressed as percent of their age 28-32 value by age 33 this group was worth 40% of their peak, by age 34 – 65%, age 35 – 33% and age 36 – 20%.

Fangraphs author Eno Sarris suggested a slightly different list of comparable players who put up 10+ fWAR between age 30 and 32 and struck out at least 24% of the time. This list includes three outfielders, all of whom are in our original study: Ray Lankford, Jim Edmonds and Mike Cameron. Edmonds and Cameron are the two most successful agers in the group. Lankford’s decline was steep from age 33 onward.

Now, we create specialized aging curves for Granderson using his comparable players. I simply took an average of each group’s production (bWAR) relative to their peak for their age 33 through 36 season. Then, we apply this set of parameters to Granderson’s starting level.

The following chart compares these aging curves with publicly available projections: ZiPS and Oliver.

Granderson Projections33343536Total
Full Set1.32.01.00.65.0
Sarris Comps3.13.22.01.29.5
Oliver3.02.62.11.59.2
ZiPS2.42.22.01.37.9

Graphically, Granderson’s projections for the next four years look like this.

Granderson Aging Projections

What’s remarkable here is not the difference between the systems, but the convergence. All four estimators suggest that if Granderson ages like his peers, he will be a 2.0 bWAR player and below for both of the final two years of his contract with the New York Mets. It’s also notable that comparing Granderson to the broader range of outfield candidates my “Full Set” pushes his expected aging path down.

Is there a reason to think Granderson will age unusually well? This is your time commenters. Suggest it, and I will investigate it.

USATSI_7412860_110579513_lowresThe Decline/The GrandyMan’s Strikeout Problem
In fact, there is reason to think Granderson will not age particularly well as is already showing signs of decline. Remember, his strikeout rates in his four years as a Yankee have been in order: 22, 24.5, 28.5, 28.2. There are three reasons Granderson struck out more in the last two years:
1. He swung at more pitches outside of the strike zone, he made contact with fewer pitches both
2. Outside the strike zone and 3. inside the strike zone.

If that 28% strikeout rate sounds high, you’re right. Since 1980, there have only been 21 outfielder seasons in which a player qualified for a batting title with a strikeout rate as high as Granderson’s 28.5% in 2012, (when he was healthy!). For these seasons, the average wRC+ was 110, while the mean fWAR for those seasons was 1.62 and the median was 1.5. There’s certainly some selection bias here: this group of hitters averaged 27.5 homeruns per year. Put another way, teams do not tolerate that many strikeouts unless a batter is putting the ball over the wall regularly.

Because their high strikeout rates keep these players batting averages down, they must contribute offensive value through secondary skills. Among this high-strikeout group of 21 seasons, there are two above three fWAR: Adam Dunn’s 2004 (4.9) and Drew Stubbs’ 2010 (3.6). Dunn hit 46 homeruns with a 16% walk rate while Stubbs supplemented his offensive and defensive value by being worth 10 runs, or roughly one win, on the bases. Granderson has never had a 46 homer season, a walk rate above 12.3% or a season worth more than 6.3 runs on the bases since 2009.

Lets go back to those four seasons by our full outfield group age age 33+ that matched or exceeded their production from their peak years: Jayson Werth’s 2013, Jim Edmonds’ 2003 & 2004 and Mike Cameron’s 2006. If those guys could do it, could Granderson?

All four had strikeout rates significantly below Granderson’s in both 2012 and 2013.

Last year, Jayson Werth hit .318/.398/.532 in 129 games for the Nationals with 25 home runs. The 25 homers seems like a reasonable enough estimate for Granderson’s production if he can stay healthy in 2014. Werth walked in 11.3% of his plate appearances, a rate nearly identical to Granderson’s recent seasons. However, Werth struck out in only 19% of his plate appearances. That’s over 9% less than Granderson’s recent seasons. Granderson has one full big league season with a strikeout rate at 19% or lower — 2008 — when he hit .280/.365/.494 with 22 home runs for Detroit.

Jim Edmonds was great in 2003 and 2004. In ’03, he hit .275/.385/.617 with 39 homers, a 14.5% walk rate and a 23.9% strikeout rate and was worth nearly a full win on defense. In ’04, he poked .301/.418/.643 (!) with 42 homers, a 16.5% walk rate and a 24.5% strikeout rate. Those strikeout and walk rate numbers are just not close to Granderson’s 2012 and 2013.

Mike Cameron’s story is the same in 2006, when he hit .268/.355/.482 with 22 homers, an 11% walk rate and a 22.4% strikeout rate for the Padres.

Note that all of these seasons came with strikerate rates well below Granderson’s 2012 but similar to his 2010-2011 period. Can he return to that form?

Conclusion

Even with a strikeout rate in the upper 20s, if Granderson can stay healthy, bop 20+ home runs in the next two years and play average- to plus-defense on the corner — all extremely reasonable expectations — he will be roughly a 2-to-2.5 win player, and help the Mets in the next two years. If Granderson can cut his strikeout rate back to 22-24%, his batting average and on-base percentage will rise, and he could be a 3+ win player.

However, my expectation, is that by the third year of this contract, Granderson will be a sub-two-win player – a below average regular. The concern here is not strictly a dollar/win calculation. It’s simply the likelihood that Granderson just should not be starting everyday for a winning team.

Perhaps, Granderson, who has long struggled with lefties, will become the long half of platoon for the Mets with a right-handed hitter. The Mets actually have a pair of right-handed hitting outfielders in the upper minors, Puello and Cory Vaughn, who have hit lefties hard in their minor league tenure. Both Puello and Vaughn would start at the Major League minimum.

Granderson’s contract potentially says something important about future Mets’ payrolls. The Mets now have $36 and $35 million committed to David Wright and Granderson combined in 2016 and 2017. This is inconsistent with running a payroll below $100 million, as the Mets have done the last two seasons. They will need 23 other active players on the roster. Some of them, ideally, will be good. Some very good. Some of them will be expensive or at least, not earning the Major League minimum. In order for the Granderson contract to not hamstring the Mets’ roster construction past even 2014, the team’s payroll will have to rise comfortably above $100 million again so the team can continue to address other areas of weakness. This signing suggests, or even demands, that once again, the Mets will be willing to spend at a level well above their recent seasons. 

In some ways this is an odd deal for the Mets. It makes the team better in 2014 by putting a league average player, who can provide insurance for centerfield, out in a corner. It could make them better in 2015. It is extremely unlikely to add a league average player to a corner in 2016 and 2017.  There is downside risk all over.

The Mets identified a need in the outfield. They spent to fix it. However, the patch they chose looks like a short-term repair, and one that is already showing signs of ripping.




76 comments
gothamsane
gothamsane

I really appreciate your time, effort and critical thinking.

I now see a little more how teams make long term decisions.

Thank you

foley
foley

Boy, a lot of work must have gone into this!!!


I think its hard in these days of lower offensive production to project just how much of a dropoff a mid 30's outfielder will have.  


To me this is relatively simple - he's a major league player at an offensive position, and the Mets have had too few of those the last few years.  I expect in the last couple of years of his contract, his actual production will not be as negative due to, as suggested he be part of some kind of platoon.


I hope so.  Personally, I think platooning is incredibly underrated - as managers are generally afraid of "losing a player" by taking him off the field - but as far as generating wins are concerned, there are so many good players who have significant splits for righties vs. lefties, and a platoon would be so much more productive.


If the commitment to fielding a productive team is there in 2015 and 2016 - considering how inexpensive the starting rotation should be those 2 years (Harvey, Wheeler, Noah, Niese, Gee?) and consider that Niese and/or Gee could be serious trade bate over the next two years with Colon under contract and more young starting pitching around (Mejia, Montero, DeGrom etc.)  then the 15 mil should not be too onerous - and he should still be a hopefully average to above average corner outfielder.


Its a signing the Mets had to make for '14 and '15 if they are going to compete.  Everyone recognizes the fact that they are not yet in a position to make trades yet for this type of player - while there is significant depth in the organization in young pitching, they are still a year away from trading it away for real value.  I mean, a Montero gets you something I'm sure - but who knows if the Mets will need him and the others and they don't have enough experience putting up numbers at high minor league levels yet.


Bottom line - I want to see this team at least be competitive this year, like everyone else - and this signing is one move toward doing that.  You also can't only look at the move in isolation  The Mets simply have trotted out too many players who were below average at their respective positions, so this move improves one position.

Goorru®Mets
Goorru®Mets

Human beings are not robots.  Certain factors that can never be quantified come into play here such as work ethic and health.  The simple fact is you don't need a crystal ball or a sabermetric mind to surmise that a 32 year old player will be less effective when he is 35 and 36.

dooley
dooley

Great analysis! I was wondering if it would be better to avoid using WAR since it is heavily dependent upon player position? I may be totally wrong, but I think you may have evaluated Chris Young in a similar way (which is valid if he stays at CF).

I apologize for my ignorance; I am asking so I could learn more about statistical analysis :)

Robbert Roos
Robbert Roos

Interesting article. Thorough. The only thing I wonder about is if the NL will be different to Granderson than the AL. All his numbers are in the AL. 


Philip Kossoy
Philip Kossoy

Philip Kossoy here...sure hope he plays more like Mike Cameron than Gorman Thomas!

Imran Ali Khan
Imran Ali Khan

Awesome article! I hate to say it but the article is probably right in the sense Granderson might not offer much in the last year two years of the deal. But what other choice did the Mets have? 

Offering a two year offer would not suffice especially in this free agent/trade market. 

Having Chris Young, EYJ, Lagares in the outfield would probably translate into the same level of production as last year, maybe even worse since Byrd contributed a lot last year.  

Obtaining a significant big bat through a trade would surely mean saying goodbye to Wheeler and/or Noah. That would be counter-productive. 

Signing Ellsbury would have definitely break their budget, but more importantly be riskier given Ellsbury's injury history, his every other year hot & cold performance, length of contract, and his style of play 

Signing Choo would be risky, simply because is he really worth a 100 million plus at 6,7, or 8 years? 

Signing Cruz has it's own risks with even older age, defensive skills, and PED use. Plus Cruz will probably get the same if not more money than Granderson. 

I agree that we probably won't see the Granderson we want to see in '16 & '17 but from with all the other options, I think the Mets picked the right one.

dude31
dude31

haha why even play the season since these numbers r always right just right down the projection and call it a year

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www dot rotochamp dot com/baseball/Player.aspx?PlayerType=Hitter&MLBAMID=434158


a conglomeration of people in the business of estimations.

they basically have him at about 25 HRS, 80 R, a shade under 80 RBI and a .239 ave. and that's year one.

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

Wow.  What an exercise in mental masturbation.  Here's what it boils down to.  If for the duration of the contract he can average 25 homers and 75 to 90 rbi per season, it's a success.  In a similar way to some contracts may be structured, the productivity may be "front loaded".  Maybe next season he hits 40 homers and knocks in 110 of those runs.  By year 4 the productivity may decline precipitously.  Despite the significant effort, all this is is a very complicated guess.  


With respect to how he "ages", I suggest a very interesting book by the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, it's call A Brief History of Time.  Last I checked we're younger now than we'll be 4 years from now.  The book explains this in great detail.  

fast_eddie
fast_eddie

While I appreciate the work that was put in to come up with all the stats, graphs, projections and comparisons, I don't really even need to read that stuff to know that Grandy will be a very good player for us for 2 or 3 years. Sometimes the best test is the eye test and my eyes tell me that Granderson is an excellent player and very good fit for us at this point in time. He's a solid hitter with a professional approach at the plate, a very good clubhouse guy and a classy, upbeat kind of person. He's an above average fielder with good baseball instincts on the bases. Yeah, he strikes out a little too much, but you can't have everything - even the best players strike out a lot these days. He will be a very nice influence on our young guys and take a little of the leadership pressure off of David Wright  as well. Maybe the best part of Grandy is that he comes New York-ready so he will not wilt in the big spotlight. All in all, Curtis Granderson is a great signing and a bargain at 60 million dollars when you consider they type of money being thrown around in today's market. To be honest, I'd rather have Grandy at 60 million than Ellsbury at 153 million. Sandy did well with this move no doubt about it, but he's still has lots of work to do...

CJM
CJM

To me, the biggest question with Granderson is not how he'll age, but how he'll adjust to Citi.

Zach Ripple
Zach Ripple

Toby, you're leaving me no choice. I must call you out again here...


First of all, you have compared Granderson to many different kinds of players. You also lied about all those players being center fielders. Jeromy Burnitz? The guy played less than a full season of games out there IN HIS CAREER. From ages 28-32 (the window you specified), he played 27 (!) games in CF, only a little more than half of which were starts. You also failed to point out for Burnitz that he had already declined to a 2.0 WAR player over his last two seasons in that age group: 1.5 at 31 and 2.6 at 32. He's also a guy who was never a good defender. He was a 19 WAR player through his age 32 season. Granderson is a 35 WAR player. They are NOT the same.


How about Dale Murphy? He was FAR superior to Granderson during his heyday. However, that average WAR you put up is skewed by a career year (7.7 WAR) at the age of 31. He put up a 2.6 WAR at 30 and a 3.1 mark at 32, an average of under 3 for those two seasons. He had already showed significant signs of decline, despite avoiding injuries and playing full seasons. He had also already been moved off of CF at age 31 before splitting time between CF and RF at age 32, and he then went back to the corner outfield full-time. Granderson, on the other hand, as you mentioned above, has not shown significant defensive regression in CF, plus he will be moving to the least demanding position, LF, next season, which should help as he ages.


And what about Mike Cameron? He was never the kind of power-hitter Granderson was, only once posting a 30-homer campaign, which came as a Met when he hit exactly 30 in 2004, but they are comparable offensive players outside of the power, which isn't far off, in their careers: 

Granderson: .261/.340/.488

Cameron: .249/.338/.782

You also dismissed Cameron's case as another successful aging player. Yes, he only posted one season above that average WAR of his prime. But it wasn't like he wasn't still a great player. He consistently had AT LEAST a 3.0 WAR each of the next four seasons- the very same window Granderson will be a Met. His WAR also was boosted by returning to center field, as his defensive WAR took a hit as corner outfielder with the Mets. Corner outfielders typically receive poor defensive WAR because they get less chances to impact the game on defense, which is why this is one of those cases where an eye-test is a better overall evaluation method. It's why only Mets fans REALLY understood how badly Ike Davis was struggling- it went beyond the bad batting average and strikeouts. His swing was horrendous. 


Now of course, aging players are likely to decline, but to assume he will fall of the table into oblivion and potentially a platoon player is crazy. As you pointed out, that while he's struggled in his career against lefties, he and Kevin Long, the hitting coach from the Yankees, worked to improve his approach, and it worked. While you mentioned his better numbers against lefty numbers last year, you called it a fluke. It's not:


2011 (his MVP-caliber season): 

Against RHP: 472 PAs 392 ABs 101 H 20 2B 6 3B 25 HR 75 RBI 20 SB 8 CS 70 BB 110 K .258/.372/.531
Against LHP: 219 PAs 191 ABs 52 H 6 2B 4 3B 16 HR 44 RBI 5 SB 2 CS 15 BB 59 K .272/.347/.597

In 2012, while he wasn't as great against lefties, he still wasn't bad. To sum it up faster, his OPS against righties was .839. Against lefties, it was .762- still above-average production for ANY hitter in ANY circumstances. 
Granderson is a good player. Granderson is a good hitter. He's a great personality, and the Mets got him cheap. Yes, CHEAP. Shin-Soo Choo, who has also played about 2 1/2 seasons of games in the past three years, has been worth 9.1 bWAR in that time. Granderson has been worth 9.5 bWAR and plays better defense. Choo may be 2 years younger, but he's going to cost Ellsbury money. Mets got a steal, and while you can point out comparable players who didn't age well, there are also examples where they were fine, even from the list of guys you named. 
Also, you fail to account for every player being different. Saying "Comparable" is a cop-out and doesn't stay just how different they all are. About half those guys above aren't even center fielders, such as Soriano, Werth, Swisher, Burnitz, Murphy (to an extent). Saying guys like Swisher and Werth are center fielders is like now calling Andre Either a center fielder.
I understand your argument, but you need to put things in context. Some of the things you presented as fact above are either partially are entirely incorrect, and that, whether intentional or not, is deceitful. I appreciate your in-depth analysis, Toby, which is something non-existent in many areas of the industry, but I felt obligated to offer a counter-argument and rebuttal to your claims. Don't take it personally man, and keep up the good work- love your blog!

Toby Hyde
Toby Hyde

@dooley Well, WAR is a fair estimate of a player's overall value. And yes, all other things equal, a CF is more valuable than a corner outfielder. But with respect to Granderson, he has been, by the metrics a below average defensive CF in the last few years. Moving him to the corner, where he could be better relative to average, could/should be good for his overall value. 


But yes, positional value is quite important.  

gothamsane
gothamsane

@macacaca - You are a disrespectful moron.

dave27a
dave27a

@Brian Daley I agree.  These analyses are simultaneously fascinating and irritating beyond belief.  At the end of the day, there's never been another Curtis Granderson, and so there's no real way to predict how Curtis Granderson's performance will evolve.  And while it's always interesting to view guys whose careers are comparable…I'd just as soon and see how it plays out.  

muskytoes
muskytoes

@CJM The great unknown is how he'll weather Citi and the Wilpon Curse. It's merciless and no Met escapes unscathed. You can't fit that kind of devastation in a spreadsheet. 

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

@Zach Ripple I'd be hesitant to call a person a "liar".  I stopped reading there.  He may have been mistaken, you may disagree, but calling him a "liar" is an ad hominem.  You seem like a bright kid but your social skills suck.  

Toby Hyde
Toby Hyde

@Zach Ripple Zach,

You're right. They are comparable players, not identical players. 


The idea was not to find only "true" centerfielders. The ability to play some MLB centerfield was used as a rough proxy for a player's athleticism. You know what? Granderson won't be a CF for the Mets either. 


Cameron's aging profile is very unusual. Obviously, the Mets hope Granderson will age like Cameron. Unlike Cameron, Granderson has already shown evidence of decline (via rising strikeout rates) in his age 31 & 32 seasons. 


Splits: The idea that Granderson's improvements against LHP can both be real, and his 2013 can be flukishly good can both be true at the same time. I thought I made clear that both are true.  

Zach Ripple
Zach Ripple

@Macacawitz @Zach Ripple I appreciate that. When I went back and read it, I came off as brash and rude. I really am sorry for that because I had no intention of coming off that way, as I truly have nothing personal against Toby or anything he said, nor anything anyone says. That was just poor word choice on my part and I regret it.

Zach Ripple
Zach Ripple

@Toby Hyde Hey Toby,


First of all, thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. I really appreciate knowing that you acknowledge and read what we have to say. 


Secondly, I want to apologize for certain wording in my above post, as I think it came out a lot harsher than I intended (like "lied" in that first paragraph). As I said at the end of my post, I think you do an awesome job and nothing I said was to be taken as a personal attack- I just like talking (and sometimes debating) about baseball. 

Back to the baseball...

I think the primary thing I failed to make clear was that I don't consider WAR to be the end-all analysis of players, as I think it can be inaccurate in depicting the value of certain players. For example, guys with weaker on-base percentages are typically discounted as great players. 


For example, Mark Trumbo and Daniel Murphy, who each possess widely different skill sets, I think are both undervalued. While I'm not a particular fan of Trumbo's game, I think he gets brushed aside because of his strikeout and walk rates. However, I think there is tremendous value in a guy who hits 30 doubles, 30+ homers and drives in 100 runs, all while scoring 85 runs as well. While runs scored and RBIs do depend at least partially on the rest of the lineup they play in, I would argue that driving in runs is a talent (just ask Lucas Duda). And in Daniel Murphy's case, hits are FAR more valuable then walks, as they are more likely to advance runners and, in turn, create runs. While I think the Mets can benefit from trading him, that comes with the caveat that the Mets get a fairly significant return. He was, after all, second in the league in hits last season, and I think his WAR would substantially increase with a move to the corner infield and a park friendlier to hitters where his power numbers would go up a bit. 


Back to Granderson...


While I get that you weren't necessarily looking at "natural" center fielders, I think that is an important point. As someone below mentioned, guys with better "young player skills" tend to age better, which I assume means athleticism and speed, and also defense. That's significant, because he will still likely be a positive contributor at a corner outfield spot, even if his overall offensive production takes a hit. 

I went back through some BABIP numbers to see if he was lucky or unlucky in given seasons. In 2012, he was EXTREMELY unlucky, with a BABIP of .260, including a second-half mark of .233. His career number, in contrast, is .305. 

As you said, his walk and strikeout rates were pretty much identical both in 2012 and in his injury-plagued 2013. while he had that poor .260 BABIP in 2012, his 2013 mark was a more normal .302. However, his average was actually WORSE. How does a guy have a much better BABIP and slightly lower strikeout rate, but put together a lower average? I'm actually stumped here, so any help would be appreciated.

However, I don't agree that you said his lefty splits might not be a fluke. Your original post definitely focused on his high BABIP against lefties last year and, while you mentioned his improvements against lefties, you said it was only slight improvements and still said later on that he would become a platoon player in the later stages of his career. To me, the fact that he's a fairly consistent player against both righties and lefties is valuable. Shin-Soo Choo, someone I mentioned before, has terrible platoon splits that have gotten worse and worse. I don't want an everyday player who is only good 2/3 of the time and can be easily countered late in games when it matters most. The fact that Granderson continues to offer power against lefties is also important, as it still makes him a threat at any moment of the game to turn it around.

My point? I think Granderson is a better athlete than most of the comparable players you listed, and I view him more in the mold of Edmonds and Cameron, even if his defense isn't on the same level. If you look at Soriano, who is probably the most comparable when you look at strictly natural athleticism, he isn't really a comparable when you look at his career. Soriano is a guy who has built his career on two stretches early in his career of back-to-back seasons. In his 15 seasons in the league, he has just four where he exceeded a 2.0 bWAR. Granderson, on the other hand, had an 8-year run come to an end last season because of the injuries, although he was still on pace to approach 3.0. Also, Soriano saw a significant hit to his baserunning and defensive value because of a ton of leg injuries. From his age 31-35 seasons, only once did he play more than 137 games. Granderson played no fewer than 136 games in any of the 7 seasons prior to last year, and his injuries were from hit-by-pitches- hardly a reason to expect a regression in health. 

Basically, I don't expect as significant a regression as you've mentioned. While the strikeouts are definitely a concern, I could definitely see a change it hitting philosophy by Granderson with the Mets, maybe more close to what he was in Detroit. While it's hard to 100 percent expect him to just instantly snap back in to what he was five years ago, I find it hard to believe that he couldn't hit for a higher average with less of a home run approach, which Kevin Long turns every Yankee into. Honestly, I'm not sure anyone knows exactly how Granderson's Mets career will turn out in the end. That being said, I think there's a much better chance he succeeds than fails because of the power-speed-defense combination and the consistency throughout his career. 

Jason Luft
Jason Luft

@Toby Hyde@Zach RippleAnother important difference was that Cameron was an elite athlete and played an exceptional CF, even in his early 30s.  Haven't there been studies that show that players with really good "young player" skills age better than those who don't?  Not that Granderson doesn't have speed or defensive value, but Cameron strikes me as an extreme example to base any aging comparison on.

CJM
CJM

@Toby Hyde@Zach RippleBig thing to remember about Cameron's aging is PED use. I don't think Grandy is on the sauce.

RandomDreg
RandomDreg

@Jason Luft@Toby Hyde@Zach RippleThis dialogue is a perfect example of why this new commenting system is horrible and why the ability to have conversations in the comments, despite Cerrone's feeling that there is no place for it per his tweets, is a positive thing that only enhances and elevates this blog.  I realize that this may be deleted like a number of my other comments but hopefully that won't happen.