Yesterday, I posited a theory whereby Robinson Cano’s struggles with men on base and his poor 2008 season could be explained by his attempt to pull everything, and attributed his 2009 success with taking pitches middle-away the other way. Soon after I finished writing that post, Jeremy Greenhouse of The Baseball Analysts posted a study that seems to support my assertion about Cano’s 2009. He split the strike zone into various zones, and then computed run values for each hitter in each individual zone. This chart marks the leaders and trailers for pitches middle-away:
Greenhouse then comments about Cano, and notes that this data fits Cano’s MO as someone who excels at hitting the ball the other way. At least some of his 2009 success was directly attributable to his ability to deal with those pitches. Conversely, Curtis Granderson also made the list, but was one of the trailers. Why is this significant? After the Yankees acquired Curtis, I did some reading of various Tigers blogs, and based on the data they collected, reached the following conclusion:
From an amateur scouting point of view (and one that the Tigers fans agree with in the comments), it seems that Granderson has a similar problem to that of 2008 Robbie Cano: he has trouble laying off the pitch on the outer half, and instead of lining them to the opposite field, he is either pulling them to the right side or popping them up to the left. The Tigers Blog writer suggests that this increase in popups is the cause for his low BABIP, meaning that there is more than luck at play. This is an issue that Kevin Long fixed with Cano, and the hope is that he can correct it with Granderson as well.
This assertion is backed up by the batted ball data, which among other things shows an increase in his “pull” rate. As I noted in the excerpt and as Greenhouse’s reasearch confirms, Granderson seemed to have been plagued with an inability to go the other way with pitches middle-away. Hopefully, he can do some work with Kevin Long and make changes in this regard. For inspiration, he does not need to look any further than his own clubhouse and Robinson Cano. Every player is different, and just because Cano was able to remedy his problems does not guarantee that Granderson will be able to do the same. However, it is encouraging to see that there are identifiable explanations for Granderson’s tough season, and that the Yankees and Kevin Long have experience in fixing similar issues.