The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:

Friday, February 22, 2013 McCullough: Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson presents a puzzling case as a defender

TAMPA, Fla. – Is Curtis Granderson a good center fielder?

If you consult defensive metrics, it depends on the year.

From 2006 to 2007, Granderson was considered one of the game’s best. He ranked second among center fielders in UZR with 27.5 runs saved above average. Only Andruw Jones, in his final days as a good player with Atlanta, was better.

In 2010, Granderson was still pretty good. He saved 6.4 runs above average with his glove, according to UZR, good for fifth in the majors among center fielders. He was 0.2 runs below Franklin Gutierrez, then acknowledged as a defensive wizard with Seattle.

Then again, look at 2008. Granderson cost Detroit 11.1 runs in the fielding, UZR said. The statistic said even worse things about Granderson in 2012. Granderson was the worst center fielder in baseball, worth -17.8 runs. That, we suppose, is not good.

So what happened? Did Granderson suddenly forget how to field his position in 2008 and 2012? Why was he so excellent in other years?

UZR isn’t the only fielding metric, but it’s likely the one with the widest acceptance. It’s also something of a work in progress. Year after year, we see the numbers fluctuate.

DRS and standard zone rating are basically in agreement with UZR over the years mentioned in the excerpt.  Granderson’s defensive projections for 2012 as a CF in those three metrics are:

DRS: -3
UZR: -8
ZR: -6
Average: -6

The position adjustment for moving from CF to LF is around 10 runs, and that’s largely because an average defensive CF would be about a +10 LF since he’ll be compared against lesser defensive players in general.  So Granderson should probably be at least an average LF, although Granderson’s relative value doesn’t change with the move.  The primary benefit is that a move would theoretically put the better defender in Brett Gardner in CF where he will see more chances.

There’s evidence the Yankees are going to try that this spring and while the impact doesn’t project to be huge, it does project to be an upgrade which is important for a team that doesn’t have the margin of error that it’s had in the past few years.


--Posted at 8:57 am by SG / 32 Comments | - (0)


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I watched Granderson’s Q&A with reporters from yesterday that Jennings posted on his blog. 

I’m so very impressed with this guy and how he handles himself around the business side of things.

He did not seem pleased with the possibility of a change, but the sentiment was almost imperceptible, and he absolutely said all the right things, only the right things, and he left the reporters no tangible opportunity to pick apart what he said and form their own narrative. 

He knows he will command less money entering the free agent market as a corner outfielder than a center fielder.  Most guys would be chapped at that possibility, but Granderson is the rare guy who sees the big picture and realizes that mega-money to play left-field is so much better than real life that it’s not worth complaining about the slightly more mega dollars he may have received to play center.

I think this guy is wired like few other people on the planet, and is probably currently qualified to do way more than play centerfield, before long he may be ready to do something like be Ambassador to China.

I love having this guy on the team, and will be sorry to see him go, but going forward, I’m a Granderson fan no matter where he plays.

Yeah, I don’t think Granderson will be back, but I will always be a fan of his.

Year after year, we see the numbers fluctuate.

I so much hate this criticism of UZR - or any fielding metric for that matter.

There’s evidence the Yankees are going to try that this spring and while the impact doesn’t project to be huge, it does project to be an upgrade which is important for a team that doesn’t have the margin of error that it’s had in the past few years.

I think at worst it will be a 0 run improvement, but still the correct call since Gardner is probably the CF in 2014 (unless Heathcott is both better than expected in minors AND looks to be in CF long term).  At best it’s probably something like 10-15 runs improvement.  Not likely, but in addition to the extra plays a typical CF makes Gardner’s range may add some more plays (discussed previously).  Likely it will be something in the neighborhood of 5 runs.  Not huge, but still a move worth making.  If those 5 runs are timed well, it could mean 3 wins.

I so much hate this criticism of UZR - or any fielding metric for that matter.

I don’t think McCullough’s making this criticism, I think he’s trying to educate his readers.  He’s fairly new (at least to me) but he seems to have a good handle on sabermetrics.

I saw a quote from Girardi today, he said he was not going to pay too much attention to metrics and would base his decision more on “visual” evaluation.

It’s good that someone doesn’t forget the business side of things.

Granderson is pretty great. He may also be taking this in stride because he might be moved off of CF by a player commonly accepted to be one of (possibly the) best OF defenders in baseball.

It’s also doubtful that 1 year of Corner Outfieldering will significantly change how other teams evaluate his value and position.

[1] Oh yeah, Granderson is INSANELY eloquent. The dude is unreal. Teix, for instance, is a charming guy. But Grandy makes him look like a slobbering idiot by comparison.

Grandy is one of the nicest, smartest, great to listen to players in all of baseball.

If he is not working in the media after his retirement, it’ll be because he doesn’t want to, because he would be a godsend to any TV booth.

Wonder if he’d ever think of running for Congress in a Chicago-area district.

[4] Fair enough.  I guess I read it so often from even smart people that I get reactionary…

[8 * 9] Yean I think media may be beneath him.  IDK about Congress.  Granderson seems more of a mayor-type.

Yes, clearly, it’s only a matter of time before Granderson has to write his Nobel acceptance speech.

I saw a quote from Girardi today, he said he was not going to pay too much attention to metrics and would base his decision more on “visual” evaluation.

At this point, unless you have been fully convinced one way or another already by metrics, that’s actually the right choice since they won’t tell you anything reliable from now until opening day.

[14] Agreed.  Additionally - as we all know - stats and scouting go together.  The more data you have, the more you lean towards the data rather than the stats.  1 season of UZR is like 200PA for hitting.  So over 200PA if the stats are wildly different than what you’d previously expect (like Granderson’s UZR being so much worse), you’d generally go with a larger sample…but you can use some scouting as well, to see if you can come up with a reason other than random variation.

Of course you have to be careful with that, because sometimes you “find” a reason when there really isn’t one…like insisting that you are encoutering a lot of irritable people in a normally cheery area is b/c the moon is full (debunked), it’s likely just a random occurance that on this particular day you are encountering irritable people.  But, if you notice that it’s 110 degrees outside (and humid!), you would have a logical reason why the people are being irritable, and do something about it (in this case, limit your own irritability by staying indoors).

We’ve been lucky with some of the recent Yankees, interview-wise. Ibanez was also a really thoughtful, interesting guy. Teix, as I mentioned, is good, as well.

I think the only thing that would prevent a swap of Gardner and Granderson is if it appears that Granderson will have trouble in left.  They know Gardner can play center.  So I agree with everyone that’s saying that Girardi should use observation in this case.  There are no metrics to determine if Granderson can play LF.

I think Hughes is a good interview too.

“as we all know - stats and scouting go together”

Shhh, don’t tell rilke.

Granderson would never, ever fall for the banana in the tailpipe.

[8] Granderson already does a lot of baseball promotion overseas and and inner cities during the offseason.  I am guessing he might prefer an MLB office job to a broadcasting position based on how he currently spends his time, but I have no way of knowing his preference.

[12] cough… Obama? cough…

[20]  Is that a double entendre?

[18] Hughes does have a pleasant self deprecating humor.

[22] And you claim to be from Beverly Hills?.


Jo Pirella is gonna be huge.  DFA Tex.  Phelps closing in on Hershiser.

Mariano’s surgery was more involved than I was led to believe.

[27] That’s how Pin already sees Joba.

27 on first?

If Vader applies himself, he could give Bugs a run for his money.

Youklis and Joba already in the news together.

[31] Thread has been won. New thread please!

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