Last winter, Curtis Granderson signed a 4-year, $60 million dollar contract with the Mets. The plan was for him to bat cleanup, and provide much-needed protection for David Wright. After 13 games of Granderson’s contract, things have not gone as planned.
So far, Granderson is batting .170, with one home run and four RBI. His OBP is .291. Some are suggesting that Granderson is not suited to be a cleanup hitter, is putting too much pressure on himself to hit for power, and is therefore failing. The remedy, according to some of the popular theories, is to move Granderson to the second spot in the order.
That may not be the panacea for Granderson’s offensive woes. In fact, it could exacerbate the current situation.
To date, Granderson has swung at 24% of the pitches he’s seen that are out of the strike zone. In addition, he has failed to make contact on 24% of his swings. Further, pitchers are recognizing that Granderson is struggling, and to date in 2014, only 34.5% of the pitches he has seen have been in the strike zone – by far the lowest percentage of his career.
Moving Granderson to the second spot would force him to take more pitches, if the speedy Eric Young, Jr were to be on base ahead of him (to give Young the opportunity to steal). This ultimately would make Granderson less selective at the plate, and likely put him in undesirable hitting counts. Then, pitchers could go even more out of the zone to him, and his propensity to swing at bad pitches would be amplified.
Putting Granderson ahead of David Wright could negate some of the above, as pitchers may prefer to challenge Granderson. However, the “patience” requirement of batting behind a base stealer will work against Granderson.
Granderson needs to be given the opportunity to get comfortable in the cleanup role, and that’s where the Mets need him to be. Let’s not forget that this is a player who hit 108 home runs in 3 full seasons with the Yankees.
Patience is never easy, especially with players who sign lucrative contracts. But let’s be patient with Granderson. His statistics suggest that he’ll get hot and begin hitting the ball out of the yard. Guys who do that are ones who generally belong in the cleanup spot.