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Curtis Granderson and his strike outs

Don’t know if you’ve been following the news out of Lakeland, but it appears that Curtis Granderson struck out a lot last year. It also appears that a goal of the organization is that he strike out less this year. Essentially he just needs to make better contact. And changes in his

There has been a ton of interesting discourse about this over the last few days. Jason Beck notes Granderson comes in with a retooled swing that cuts down on extra movement. John Lowe points out that striking out a lot isn’t necessarily bad, just look at Grady Sizemore.

Leyland made a whole lot of sense when meeting with reporters on Thursday on the subject:

I think he (Granderson) will cut down some (on strikeouts) because he’s going to be a more mature player. But I don’t want to turn him into some get-a-walk, Punch-and-Judy type of guy.”

“I’ve never known how to figure it out. We tell our hitters to be aggressive all the time, and at the same time we tell them, ‘Work the pitcher.’ “

Lowe also quotes Granderson identifying that a more aggressive approach may actually lead to fewer strikeouts

“The simple approach is that if I stay aggressive, I’ll hit less often with two strikes in the count,” he said. “I’ve been aggressive, but I’ve missed pitches. If I can put them in play earlier in the count, I eliminate the two-strike approach.”

I really agree with this. We’ve seen that hitting with 2 strikes is no picnic, and once the at-bat reaches 2 strikes it was over pretty quick for Granderson.

So there is some good stuff on the theory front, but what do the stats say? Detroit Tiger Tales looked at K/BB ratios for the whole team, and Granderson’s K’s out weight his decent walk total and push him into the bottom half of the league. But let’s look a little deeper still…

Good Eye

It certainly seems that a possible reason for a high strikeout total is poor strike zone judgement. One way to perhaps look at this is the number of balls and strikes that hitter sees. In Granderson’s case he saw 4.08 pitches per plate appearance. Those were divided 1.56 balls and 2.51 strikes so that 38.2% of the pitches Granderson saw were balls. The norm for the league was 1.39 balls and 2.36 strikes making 37.1% of the pitches thrown were balls. Granderson is slightly better in this regard. It’s also worth noting that Granderson sees significantly more pitches per plate appearance than your typical big leaguer.

Now this stat isn’t all that telling in terms of judging someone’s eye. For one thing, big and scary hitters are going to see more balls because pitchers are being careful. Another factor is that it doesn’t really tell you how many of those strike should have been balls but guys were chasing them.

Enter David Appelman of Fangraphs and OSwing %. Appelman has done considerable analysis around the area of plate discipline and has generated some new statistics. One of which is OSwing % (outside swing percentage) which is:

The percentage of pitches a batter swings at that are outside the strike zone. Correlates with walk rate (BB%). This year, OSwing will be represented as OSwing above the MLB average.

As for Granderson, he was 2.79% above league average in 2006. So he was above average in this regard. Combined with his ball % this would seem to indicate that plate discipline isn’t really the problem with Granderson’s strike out rate.

Contact

With strike zone judgement out of the picture, it really does come down to contact rates. Appelman defined it as:

Contact (Contact Percentage) – The percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when he swings the bat. Correlates with strikeout rate (K%) and home runs per fly ball (HR/FB).

So this includes foul balls as making contact. I’m not sure if Appelman included foul tips or not. In my calculations I considered a miss since the result was the same as a swing and a miss.

Granderson’s contact rate in 2006 was 71%. To provide some context, it was the worst rate amongst the Detroit Tigers hitters. And the league average was 80%. Granderson was markedly below average in this regard. And if we look at how it fluctuated over the course of the season, it’s pretty easy to see that it was the source of his struggles.
Granderson’s Plate Discipline in 2006
The above graph shows the 10 game moving average for plate-discipliney type measures for Granderson last year. There were times late in the season where his contact rate plummeted, his walk rate plummeted, and his strike out rate surged.

My theory is that because he was struggling so much making contact, pitchers saw less reason to shy away from the strike zone. The result was a propensity of hittable pitches over the plate that he simply missed.

Does he have to improve?

I don’t think it is a dire concern. Many successful hitters, and teams (see Cleveland Indians offense circa 2006) can exist with high strike out totals. However, because Granderson’s strike outs are so extreme he probably does need to cut them down by at least one a week. Brian points out that if Granderson maintains his BABIP of 338 and reduces his strike outs by 20 that means another 7 hits over the course of the season.

There’s kind of a good news-bad news element to all this. First is that Granderson is still fairly young and he has a reputation as very coachable and as a quick study. He’s also got a decent eye which is something that shouldn’t go away. The bad news is that Appelman found that contact rate correlates very highly year to year. From 2005 to 2006 it had a R-squared of .81. Essentially, it is pretty constant.

For detailed data over the course of the 2006 season, check out Curtis Granderson’s page at Fan Graphs. That was a source of much of the data I compiled, as was retrosheet.

Much of…The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at “www.retrosheet.org”.

Posted by on February 24, 2007.

Tags:

Categories: Offense, Players, Statistics

9 Responses

  1. Very nice research Billfer. The high repeatability of the contact and oswing stats is not surprising but still interesting. I’m probably not looking hard enough but where did you find Granderson’s OSWING and contact numbers?

    Lee

    by Lee Panas on Feb 24, 2007 at 3:58 pm

  2. Great stuff. Given that the three spikes in K/BB ratio all occurred in the second half of the season, maybe we can chalk some of this up to a guy in his first full major league season suffering from mental/physical fatigue as the season went on?

    Eyeballing things, it looks like his contact rate was around 75% through mid-July. I suspect that maintaining that rate for a full season would significantly improve his hitting numbers.

    by Kyle J on Feb 24, 2007 at 6:10 pm

  3. The contact numbers I derived from retrosheet data. The Oswing I got directly from David.

    by billfer on Feb 24, 2007 at 8:07 pm

  4. I’ve decided to throw my blogging hat into the Tigers pool by creating a separate blog just for Tigers and baseball related stuff – any interest in trading links? You can check it out here.

    by zorak163 on Feb 24, 2007 at 8:15 pm

  5. Great research to possibly pinpoint the area of coaching emphasis for Curtis. The question is, “why does he swing and miss more often,” when, obviously, he makes perfect contact at times? Is it concentration lapses? Does he pull the trigger too soon and not allow the ball to get deep enough in the zone that he’s fooled more often? Does he pull off the ball (often appearing to be the problem, particularly on breaking balls)? Is this something that will improve as he sees pitchers more often and gains experience/comfort? Granderson is still my candidate for “2007 most improved,” but it will be interesting to see, as his K total goes down, if his contact % improves.

    by Rings on Feb 25, 2007 at 1:38 am

  6. His K rate was pretty constant throughout the year. His bb rate dropped.

    Perhaps that had something to do with missing hittable pitches in the second half. I can certainly buy that pitchers were not afraid of pitching him over the plate in certain locations because his timing was off.

    I think his swing did have a lot to it which is why I am happy that they are working to simplify it. There were a few timing mechanisms if you go back and look at video. When there is that much to a swing there is more to go wrong.

    I would guess if you asked Granderson he was tired during July/August and that he lost the timing on his swing. I think we might see improvement. But this has to be the year.

    by Brian on Feb 25, 2007 at 2:02 pm

  7. Grandy did strike out in awful lot in the playoffs. Wow, all these graphs very impressive, I cant keep up. I just know that Granderson needs to stop taking two strikes and then hacking at the third.

    by Jojo SunDevil on Feb 25, 2007 at 10:39 pm

  8. Actually Granderson’s strikeout rate dropped by 10 percent in the playoffs and his K/BB improved to 2.0.

    by Brian on Feb 26, 2007 at 9:30 pm

  9. [...] While delving into Curtis Granderson’s strikeouts, I calculated many of the same stats for the rest of the team. Here they are: [...]

    by The Detroit Tiger Weblog » Blog Archive » Statistical Leftovers on Mar 3, 2007 at 8:58 am

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