Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tiger Fans: Blinded By Granderson's Smile?


He was the home grown star. He was the face of the franchise. He was one of the Tigers’ “untouchable” players. But should he have been?

If I can, allow me to take off my usual court jester’s hat and play Devil’s Advocate for a moment.

I’ve spend several days reading hundreds of comments and articles from Tiger fans who are upset over the trade of Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. Although there are some in favor of the trade, most seem to be up in arms over the whole deal. Many of these folks are bloggers and newspaper writers that I like and respect. Others are just people upset that their favorite player has been traded for prospects, while the team remains loaded with dead weight. Myself, I too, was upset at first. After some time, I wondered why we didn’t get more out of the trade, like Phil Hughes, for example. And now, I’m kind of accepting the whole deal and am generally happy with it.

Why is that? Well, is it at all possible that we Tiger fans have turned Curtis Granderson into the most overrated Detroit Tiger in history? Is he really that good?

The numbers don’t lie. Odd as it seems, Grandy only played four full seasons as a Tiger. It seems much longer, the way the city took to him. After an okay rookie year in 2006, he exploded in 2007 with his famous 20/20/20/20 year. But the past two seasons since, he has done nothing but regress. Have his outside interests overtaken his on the field responsibilities? Jim Leyland brought this up during the ’09 season. Has the league just started to catch on to Granderson’s abilities and learned to pitch him better? Is he too focused on becoming a home run hitter? That number is about the only stat improving.

Maybe, just maybe, Dave Dombrowski unloaded a guy that’s declining as he approaches age 30 while he still has some value left. Take a look at these numbers.


Stat: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

VORP: 21.7, 64.7, 41.4, 25.8
OPS+: 98, 135, 123, 100
OPS: .773, .913, .858, .780
OBP: .335, .361, .365, .327
SLG: .438, .552, .494, .453
wRC: 86.3, 120, 99.3, 91.7
WARP1: 2.4, 7.0, 4.7, 2.7
Avg: .260, .302, .280, .249
Doubles: 31, 38, 26, 23
Triples: 9, 23, 13, 8
Comerica Park Avg: .249, .286, .277, .230
Comerica Park OPS: .715, .863, .854, .696
Avg vs RHP: .274, .337, .288, .275
Avg vs LHP: .218, .160, .259, .183
OPS vs RHP: .805, 1.014, .900, .897
OPS vs LHP: .671, .494, .739, .484
Strikeouts: 174, 141, 111, 141

My apologies for not knowing how to make a chart on Blogger.

In almost every case, Granderson has started to decline since 2007. He is dreadful against left-handed pitching. What is there to say that this pattern won’t continue?

Sadly, it’s not just his offense. Granderson’s Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) has gone from 13.7 in 2006, to 14.2 in 2007, to -8.9 in 2008, to 1.6 in 2009. I know we all like to think of him robbing Grady Sizemore of a walkoff homer, but that was just one play, people.

Look, I get that Curtis Granderson is a special person, especially in the world of the me-first athlete. He is a hellova guy. He is one of my favorite players of all time and will be featured later on in my DNR 25 Countdown of my favorite all-time Tigers…in the top ten, in fact. I love the guy. But he’s not Mickey Mantle. He’s not Al Kaline. He’s a good ballplayer…not a great one. Baseball-reference.com has something called “Similarity Scores” where they compare stats of players and come up with guys in baseball history that players are most similar to. You know who Granderson’s #1 Similar Batter is? Kal Daniels, an okay journeyman outfielder in the 90’s. His Similar Batter at the age of 28? Bobby Higginson, of all people. At 27 it was Reggie Sanders, and Corey Hart at 26. Decent players, but not great ones.

It seems to me that Tigers fans want nothing but good guys on their team. As long as they smile and pat sick kids on the head, it doesn’t matter that they aren’t producing at the ballpark. See Granderson, Curtis and Inge, Brandon, arguably our two most popular players last year. Really, are there two more overrated players in baseball to their fanbase just based on what nice guys they are off the field? Don’t forget, until the last week of the season, Miguel Cabrera was a role model to many. Until two weeks ago, Tiger Woods was EVERYONE’S role model. I’m not comparing Curtis to them, but I’m just saying…you can’t keep a player because people think he’s a nice guy.

Dave Dombrowski managed to get a decent left-handed pitcher in Phil Coke and the #1 or #2 position prospect in the Yankees organization in Austin Jackson for Granderson. Jackson has succeeded at every level that he’s played in at his young age. He’s farther along that Grandy was at the same age, from what I’ve read. Is he going to be the next Rickey Henderson? Doubt it. Is he going to be the next Brian Hunter? Hope not. We don’t know. We won’t know for a few years. But Dave Dombrowski rolled the dice while he had the chance.

Again, the stats show that Granderson has done nothing but decline the past couple years. He makes only $5.5 million in 2010. That jumps to $8.25 million in ’11, $10 million in ’12, and an option for $13 million in ’13 (with a $2 million buyout option). If trends continue, what would Granderson’s trade value be down the road when the salary jumps? I’m thinking it could possibly be where guys like Ordonez, Guillen, and Robertson are today. Meanwhile, the opportunity was there now to get a possible blue chipper in Jackson. It is a chance that Double D felt he had to take.

For Curtis Granderson’s sake, I hope the trends don’t continue. I hope he succeeds in New York. I’m not going to quit rooting for the man just because he’s wearing a different shirt, nor do I expect other Tiger fans to. More importantly, I hope that Tiger fans are patient and give Austin Jackson a chance to develop into something special of his own. This trade wasn't his idea.

But one thing I do agree with my fellow bloggers and Tiger fans on is this. Dave Dombrowski had better be right about all of this. If I’m wrong about Granderson’s decline and Jackson’s potential…big deal. But if Dave is wrong, he is probably going to be out of a job.

In the meantime, put the torches and pitchforks away, people. Quit comparing this to Smoltz for Alexander or Jurrjens for Renteria. If we’re lucky, maybe this time we’re the ones that are getting a rising star for a fading one.

4 comments:

John Parent said...

Good stuff Rogo. Granderson is a wonderful human being and an excellent platoon player. Maybe he takes off in NY, he's still young enbough to have several productive years, but if his performance continues its decline, there is no way DD could have gotten even half of what he did in return for him next season or beyond.

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Aren Michael said...

Interesting that during his career year of 2007, he wasn't really any better against RHP than this last year...he must have just not seen many of them. Could be that Magglio was just that much scarier, so they always trotted out a righty.

Aren Michael said...

Interesting that during his career year of 2007, he wasn't really any better against RHP than this last year...he must have just not seen many of them. Could be that Magglio was just that much scarier, so they always trotted out a righty.