There’s no dancing around it – the 2013 Mets offense was dismal; the club ranked second to last among the National League in both batting average (.237) and OPS (.672), and was spared the wooden spoon in those categories only by the anemic Marlins lineup. Thanks to a decent-ish pitching staff (led by the considerably better than decent-ish Matt Harvey – get well soon!), New York didn’t completely suck – eventually bungling their way to a 74-88 record – but with only two regulars providing above league average production (the eternally-excellent David Wright had an OPS+ of 155, while Daniel Murphy checked in with a mark of 107), upgrades were obviously needed if the offense were to provide any meaningful run support in 2014.
Continually running out a horrifically light-hitting trio of Eric Young, Juan Lagares, and after trading Marlon Bryd, Mike Baxter by the end of the season, improving the outfield was a glaring priority. Chris Young was added first, the 30-year-old inked to a one-year deal worth $7.25 million in the hope of him returning to the fine form that made him an All-Star in 2010 – a solid short-term, risk-reward gamble. The Mets’ other move to address their outfield woes however, was a little more puzzling; gambling he was over the injuries that plagued his 2013, and ignoring very blatant signs of decline on both sides of the ball, the team removed Curtis Granderson from the lefty-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, locking him up to a $60 million deal (and sacrificing their second-round draft pick) that would cover his age-33 to -36 seasons. At the time even, there were concerns around the deal. It harkened back to the last time the Mets splurged on a big free-agent outfielder – Jason Bay, back in 2009 – an unmitigated disaster of a contract. So far, it looks like history might be repeating itself.
In his 20 games in a Mets uniform, Granderson has come to the plate 84 times. He’s struck out in 25 of those appearances, and walked in 10; nothing new there – @cgrand3 established a career high 195 Ks in 2012 with a similar rate in his abbreviated 2013. More worryingly for fans of the Amazin’s though, is what has happened when Granderson has actually made contact.
With a ground ball percentage of 40.2% (high for his recent standards, but right around where it was earlier in his career), and a customary fly ball percentage of 44.7%, his batted ball profile doesn’t appear to have changed so radically – a case could be made that his horrific .125 average is just a bad-luck result of his .170 BABIP. However, we know that BABIP is not a completely independent figure; it does depend on certain factors the hitter has control over – such as line drive rate, or infield fly ball percentage. Granderson’s figures in those two marks (14.9% in LD%, and 19% in IFFB%) are far from the rates he put up during his heyday with the Tigers and Yankees (he has career averages of 20.6% and 8.0 % respectively). He’s hit 6 line drives so far as a Met. 6! This slow start then, is not just bad luck – the endless stream of strikeouts, weak grounders, and harmless pop-ups are the result of swinging at far too many pitches way outside the zone, a diminished contact rate, and fading power, a toxic formula which doesn’t exactly bode well for the rest of his contract.
Granderson hasn’t been the only Met off to a slow start*, and he did finally snap an 0-22 streak he had going yesterday, but already fas patience with him is wearing thin – as apparently, is manager Terry Collins‘; he relegated his big-money addition to the bench for today’s meet against the Cardinals in favor of playing 40-year-old Bobby Abreu – who couldn’t even latch on with the woeful Phillies this Spring**. Perhaps some time off in the batting cages with hitting coach Dave Hudgens will do him good. Mets fans best hope so, or as Dan Martin of the NY Post sarcastically said back on Tuesday night, “If Curtis Granderson keeps this up, the Jason Bay comparisons will stop. They’ll be too generous.” No one in Flushing wants that. Not another outfielder signed to big-money only to turn into a pumpkin.
* With Miami surprisingly raking (mainly thanks to Giancarlo Stanton), the club now has no prop to lift them from the bottom of the Senior Circuit’s offensive ranks; so far in 2014, they rank last in both BA (.216) and OPS (.602)
**Naturally considering the negativity of this piece, he singled when used in pinch-hitting duty for Bartolo Colon, raising his average to .137. Big whoop.