Friday, November 13, 2009
Ain’t lovin’ Granderson?Posted by Chuck Brownson
This is my first post here at THT after spending a year and a half blogging for my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals. It's good to be on board.
With the end of the World Series, every baseball fan's second favorite pastime is rumor-mongering about who's heading where and for how much or whom. As is always the case, I've been suckered into it as well. While there has been a lot of talk about the top free agents on the market, the rumor that has really drawn my attention is the one that suggests that the Tigers are looking to trade Curtis Granderson. On the surface, it appears as though this is not an altogether terrible idea. He batted just .249 last season and struck out 141 times. He also struggles to hit lefties, mustering a feckless .484 OPS last year against southpaws.
Digging a little deeper, however, one has to wonder exactly what the Tigers hope to gain by trading their starting center fielder when he's signed for the next three seasons and stands to receive just $5.5 million in 2010. Starting center fielders don't grow on trees, after all and Granderson, despite all the strikeouts and the low batting average, still managed a .340 wOBA in 2009.
|**The Tigers would be making a huge mistake by selling low on Curtis Granderson** (Icon/SMI)|
His batting average was at least partly a consequence of a BABIP that was a full 47 points lower than his career average. Granted, that's partly due to the fact that his fly ball rate (49.3 percent) was the highest of his career and 13 percent of those were infield fly balls. When one hits a lot of pop-ups and fly balls, we would expect his batting average to slide some. Still, David Golebiewski over at Fangraphs used Derek Carty's handy XBABIP tool to determine that Granderson's BABIP should have been .303. If this had been true, Granderson's wOBA would have been .369 rather than (the still above average) .340.
Even so, in his worst offensive season since 2006, with a .484 OPS against lefties, Granderson still managed to be six runs above average at the plate in 2009. As for his defense, UZR has him as a slightly above average center fielder in 2009 with 1.6 runs above average. His three year UZR puts him at 6.9 runs above the average center fielder. If you're not a fan of UZR, Tango's Fans' Scouting Report has Granderson as an above average fielder as well.
The bottom line is that the Tigers have an above average hitting, above average fielding center fielder who is under contract for 3 more seasons and will earn about what Kaz Matsui will earn next year. If they're planning on selling low on Granderson simply because he hit .249 and struck out more than 140 times last season, they're making a huge mistake. Granderson's been worth at least 3.4 wins and $14.3 million per season each of the last 4 seasons and will be only 29 when the major league season begins next April. Moreover, there's every reason to believe that he's actually an even better player than he was in 2009. Does he have his flaws? Of course but, as I said earlier, above average center fielders don't grow on trees.
If the Tigers do plan on trading Granderson, they had better be prepared to ask for a bunch in return. You don't sell low on players as talented, and as inexpensive, as Granderson. He has provided millions in excess value to the Tigers each year for the last four and should do the same for at least the next couple of years as well. It's probably in the Tigers' interest to hang on to Granderson at least one more year and then try to sell high as his salary, and wins, escalate.
Chuck is a lifelong Cardinals fan who welcomes comments below or via email at chuckbtht AT gmail DOT com.