Contrary to popular belief, Steven Matz isn’t the only player who is red hot swinging the bat right now for the Mets. Curtis Granderson, who has been criticized since he put on a Mets uniform in 2014 for his inability to live up to his contract, is slowly putting together one of the best seasons of his career.
Granderson has been seeing the ball very well lately, over his last ten games he's batting .359/.457/.744 with four home runs, eight RBI, and a very impressive eight walks. He had a monstrous June, where he hit .291/.371/.439 with seven home runs. Granderson’s average is up to .254, and his on-base percentage is nearly 100 points higher at .349. Granderson himself talked about what he thinks has happened recently.
"It doesn’t really feel too different, the big thing is you’re going up there trying to just get balls you can handle. Hopefully you get something around the plate that you can put a good swing on. You put a good swing on it; that’s all you can do. And right now I’m able to do that."
While Granderson may believe that his recent success is due merely to a change in luck, going deeper into the numbers you’ll see that luck isn’t the only reason the veteran right fielder has been deadly at the plate recently.
Granderson has been making contact with the ball this season far more than he did last year (81.2 percent in 2015, compared to 71.9 percent in 2014). Also, the exit velocity on Granderson’s balls have gone up since his very slow start to the season. Before May 9, his exit velocity was at 87.51 mph, since then it’s shot up to 90.64 mph.
This can mostly be attributed to Granderson’s new approach at the plate, where he has been more aggressive, working with hitting coach Kevin Long to go after pitches early in the count. He’s swinging at 7.3 percent of first-pitch strikes, compared to the 4.7 percent he was swinging at before May 9. Granderson is a career .365/.369/.632 hitter when swinging at the first pitch; he hits just .222/.278/.396 when the count goes to 0-1.
By seeing better pitches earlier in the count, it has helped Granderson hit to his strength which is pulling the ball. 227 of Granderson's 250 career home runs have gone to right or center field. According to data from Fangraphs, Granderson is hitting the ball hard 39.9 percent of the time, up seven percent from last year when he hit the ball hard only 32.5 percent of the time. Granderson is clearly more aggressive at the plate, and it is helping him get back to being the offensive threat he was before signing with the Mets.
Nobody is expecting Granderson to hit 40 home runs again like he did in his days across town with the Yankees. However, what Granderson has been able to do—working with Long to change the type of hitter he is this season—is finally paying off, and if this is a sign of more to come, the Mets should be in good shape knowing they have somebody to rely on at the top of the lineup.