Where does Granderson best fit?

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
10:00
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Curtis GrandersonAP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCurtis Granderson's Mets cap fit fine on Tuesday. How will he fit in the Mets' lineup?
The key to the Mets signing of Curtis Granderson may come down to how they position him, both at bat and in the field.

What do we mean?

At the plate: Where to hit him?
There will be a variety of ideas on where Granderson hits in the Mets lineup and there will likely be a strong push for him to bat in the No. 4 or No. 5 spots.

But it might be worth giving consideration to Granderson batting second, which could mean David Wright protecting him instead of the other way around.

The chart on the right provides Granderson's numbers when hitting second versus when he hits elsewhere in his two best seasons with the Yankees (he only hit second in one game in 2013). He thrived hitting in front of Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez in 2011, and Mark Teixeira in 2012.

In sum, Granderson's slashline (Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage) was .261/.356/.540 in nearly 800 at-bats when hitting second and .217/.313/.483 in about 400 at-bats when hitting elsewhere over those two seasons.

Three points with that:

1) Granderson fared better against both left and right-handed pitching in the No. 2 spot in that stretch (he was .257/.340/.533 in 257 at-bats as a No. 2 hitter against lefties), so pitcher-handedness would not be a deterrent to hitting him there.

2) It's worth noting that Granderson's line-drive rate was 20.5 percent as a No. 2 hitter, about four percentage points higher than in the other lineup spots.

3) Granderson does not hit into double plays often. He hit into a double play in about seven percent of at-bats in the No. 2 spot in double-play situations in 2011 and 2012 (situations in which first base was occupied with less than two outs). The average No. 2 hitter hits into one in about 11 percent of his at-bats in double play situations.

I'll admit: The sample is modest in size and the differential could be attributable to any number of things.

But it's food for thought given that the Mets want to make Granderson as comfortable as possible in his start with the team.

In the field: Where to position him?
When talking about where the Mets will position Granderson defensively, it's a two-fold question:

At what position do you play him? And how do you play him at that position?

Though it seems likely that the Mets would put Granderson in left field, Juan Lagares in center field and Chris Young in right field, don't set that in stone just yet.

Per advanced metrics Lagares has the best range and arm ratings of the three. Young rates way ahead of Granderson in range (at least when it comes to center field), but a little behind him in terms of throwing arm ability.

So the Mets have a couple of decisions to ponder heading into spring training. They could play Granderson in left and Young in right if they want to prioritize Young's ability to cover ground, which seems logical. Or they could play Young in left and Granderson in right if they feel Granderson can make up the difference from Young in range with his arm.

Or they could put Young in center, if they feel that playing him in center and Lagares in right is a better combo than the other way around.

The other thing to remember with Granderson with regards to his defense is that he had a history of playing a very shallow centerfield with the Yankees. The component of Defensive Runs Saved that measures the ability to turn batted balls into outs rated Granderson consistently poor at fielding balls hit to the deepest parts of the ballpark.

The Mets positioned their outfielders deep last season, particularly Eric Young Jr. in left field, figuring it was easier for him to use his speed coming in on a ball than going back for one. The payoff was that Young's defensive metrics changed from negative with the Rockies to positive with the Mets and Young wound up a Gold Glove finalist.

It will be worth watching to see if the Mets take the same approach with Granderson.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.295 9 54 75
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 27
RBIL. Duda 83
RD. Murphy 75
OPSL. Duda .827
WB. Colon 14
ERAJ. Niese 3.55
SOZ. Wheeler 173