As Dave Cameron notes, Curtis Granderson has now hit as many home runs (16) as Prince Fielder and Justin Morneau, and Granderson's now just seven homers off his career high. Is Granderson stronger this season? Maybe not. A lucky fluke? Maybe not this time. Granderson isn't hitting his fly balls farther; he's simply hitting more of them. Money quote: Granderson
- No, the interesting change with Granderson isn't in the distance of his fly balls, but instead the quantity. He's basically stopped hitting the ball on the ground, posting a 28.2% GB% that is the sixth lowest in baseball. The change in the loft of his swing has led to significantly more balls in the air.
It hasn't necessarily made him a better hitter overall, though. After posting a .374 wOBA last year, he's at .366 in 2009. The fly balls come with a trade-off - more outs. His batting average on balls in play has dropped from .317 last year (and .330 for his career) down to .271, and it's not just bad luck - extreme flyball hitters simply don't post high BABIPs, because fly balls turn into outs a lot more often than ground balls do.
The average BABIP for the ten guys with a FB% over 50% is .263. Among that group, Granderson's .271 BABIP actually ranks fourth, well ahead of guys like Dan Uggla, Jason Giambi, and Chris Young. As long as Granderson keeps hitting the ball in the air this often, we shouldn't expect regression from his BABIP. However, the Tigers will probably take a little bit of a drop in batting average if Granderson hits 30+ home runs this year. Either way, he's still a terrific player.
Granderson is a terrific player, but I can't help noticing that his OPS+ -- granted, not as sophisticated a measure as wOBA -- has dropped from 136 in 2007 (career season) to 124 in 2008 to 116 in 2009. No worries, though. Granderson's defense remains solid, he's running well, and the entire package ranks among the dozen or so most valuable in the American League. And I sure would like to know why he's (apparently) decided to hit the ball in the air more often this season.