Some of you may have noticed, especially those of you lucky enough to have Curtis Granderson on your fantasy team, that something peculiar has happened so far this season. As of last night, Grandy has 9, count 'em, 9 Home Runs this season, good for second in the American League. Keeping in mind that he had 23 and 22 in the last two years, respectively, I would say that this qualifies as a rather torrid start. On the flip side, he has only 2 Doubles, and 0 Triples which is equally peculiar given his history as a triples machine and doubles enthusiast. He is also only batting .259, partly because of a very slow start and in part because of this:
""It's just a weird spiral right now," Granderson said after his go-ahead two-run homer Saturday, "and I'm not sure what to make of it. I'm still just trying to even everything back out."and
"I'm still not in a groove each at-bat. It's just consistency. I'm trying to get it back, but in no panic by any means. It's May 2, so there's still plenty of baseball to go."
Apparently, Curtis is playing in some sort of baseball bizarro world, in which he hits home runs at an incredible pace, still doesn't feel comfortable at the plate and hits lefties at a .333 clip--well above his lifetime average and substantially exceeding his batting average against righties.
What is going on?
Personally, I think that Granderson is looking to get into his comfort zone. He looked really bad at the plate earlier this year, and although he was getting some hits, there was a lot of ugliness in those at bats--you could tell he was battling. The lefty/righty dynamic is a taste of things to come, in my opinion. No, I'm not saying that he's going to struggle against rights and dominate lefties. I think that he has turned the corner against lefties and will return to equilibrium against righties to raise his overall average. Here's why:
Curtis Granderson's Offseason Mission List
2006: Play Better Defense
2007: Cut Down on Strikeouts
2008: Hit Lefties Better
Hmm...Check, check and check (so far). Each season, Granderson has set a specific goal for himself in the offseason and accomplished it. He should have won a Gold Glove in 2007, Strikeouts went from 141 to 111 in 2008 and he is tearing up lefties so far in 2009. This man is one of the most dedicated, hard working players in the game.
Why all the power? Well, it was actually there all along. You don't hit that many doubles and triples unless you can swing the bat for power. However, this year Granderson added a little more muscle to his frame and now those doubles and triples to the wall are going over the fence. This is how players evolve. I expect more home runs and fewer of the other XBHs this season on account of Granderson's added strength.
Finally, the 5 hole. Last night, Granderson batted 5th, in what was welcome change for many Tigers bloggers. Here's why: By moving Granderson down in the order you add power to drive in runs, speed to avoid the double play, a left-handed bat and protection for Miguel Cabrera. You think Miggy isn't thrilled about this? He went 3-4 with a HR and 4 RBIs last night with Granderson protecting him. In theory, I like this move. However, Granderson has been such a perfect leadoff hitter for this team--consistently setting the table for the big boppers in the lineup that moving him worries me. However, with him not feeling comfortable yet this year, there probably isn't much to disrupt. Also, with Guillen hitting sub-.200 (and now on the DL) and Magglio Ordonez having lost all of his extra-base power, this is really a change that needed to be made. If it is permanent (or even occasional) and Granderson starts to feel comfortable there, expect two things:
1. An MVP for Miguel Cabrera
2. A possible 30/100 season out of Curtis.
Granderson had a breakout year in 2007, but I think 2009 is the year that he finally gets recognized as one of the game's premier players (We can start with getting him a freaking spot on the All Star Team).