Curtis Granderson had a very good 2015 season, finishing as a top 30 outfielder. He hit .259/.364/.457, with 26 HR, 70 RBI, 98 Runs and 11 SB. After an injury plagued him in 2013, and a down year in 2014, what can Granderson’s 2015 stats tell us to expect in 2016?
In 2015 Granderson had some interesting first/second half splits:
A couple of key things stand out here: how consistent his HR and SB were in the first and second half and how much better his avg, runs, and RBIs were in the second half. Possibly the main contributor to this uptick in counting stats was a better lineup around him. The Mets traded for Yeonis Cespedes at the beginning of August and David Wright returned from injury in the last week of that same month. As we can see below, Granderson had nearly as many runs and RBIs before Cespedes was acquired as he did after, in barely more than half the plate appearances:
Having protection in the lineup enabled Granderson to get better pitches to hit. He saw a 3% increase in fastballs after the Cespedes acquisition with most of the new fastballs coming in place of curveballs and changeups. He used the better pitch selection to turn an improvement in his already excellent soft contact rate, dropping it from 13.1% to 11.9%. He also improved his hard hit rate, which was an above average 36.5% to an excellent 37.8%. These improvements led to an increase in BABIP from .301 to .312. When he was getting hits, the improved offense around him enabled him to get more runs and RBIs.
So we can see some reasons why Granderson was improved in the second half over the first half. The question we want to answer is can he repeat or come close to what he did in 2015? Barring the Mets making a bigger splash in free-agency, he won’t have another bat like Cespedes behind him for the whole year. However, looking at Granderson’s track record suggests he may not need the lineup protection to repeat his 2015 success..
If we compare his season-long numbers with his career numbers we see that 2015 was much in line with his overall career:
Looking at the line for 2015 against his career line we see that last year fits very nicely with what we would expect from Granderson. One interesting thing to note is that for the last 3 years his walk rate has increased. His strikeout per walk rate has improved for 4 years in a row. As he is getting older he is becoming more patient at the plate. His power numbers are down from his peak with the Yankees, but his batting average and OBP have improved since becoming a Met.
There are reasons to be cautious, however. The percentage of line drives Granderson hit, at 27.1%, was 6% higher than his career and 4% higher than his previous career high. This is not a by-product of his better pitches to hit after the acquisition of Cespedes, as he hit 27.5% line drives before and 26.5% after the trade. If this evens out to his career norms he’ll lose a handful of doubles, a couple home runs and a few points off of his batting average.
Something else that could affect his HR projection is his average fly ball distance. In 2015 Granderson hit fly balls an average of 290.3 feet. This was his longest average since 2010 and the third highest in his career. His average since 2007 is 285.2 (see chart below) with a peak in 2008 and 2010 of 291.6. The two lowest marks in his career came in 2013 and 2014 with both coming in under 275.5ft. After missing over half of 2013 with the first real injuries of his career (a broken forearm and pinky), his dip in average fly ball distance could have been due to recovering from these injuries. Although he had surgery to repair a ligament in his thumb, his World Series performance shows he should be able to keep his fly ball distance in line with his career average in 2016. There may be a slight dip as his age is taken into account, but not to the 2013 or 2014 levels.
All this leads me to believe that the average, on base percentage, slugging percent, and home runs are largely sustainable. He will lose a few runs, RBI’s, and stolen bases (he will turn 35 next year, you can’t run forever), but 2016 should still turn out to be a good year for Granderson.
I project a year in which he hits .250/.350/.440 with 25 home runs, 70 RBIs, 80 runs scored and 5 stolen bases. If you pick him in the 25-30 range of outfielders you should see a good return in value. If you play in a points league or a league that counts OBP instead of AVG, he will contribute a bit more since he does have a good walk rate.
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