Weekend Coffee with James Krueger: Yasmani Grandal’s Swing Change


Jun 23, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Diego Padres right fielder Seth Smith (12) greets catcher Yasmani Grandal (8) after he scored in the fourth inning of their MLB baseball game with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Sunday, I hope your “Freedom Hangovers” are treating you well.

As I was browsing through twitter, something I spend way too much time doing, an interesting tweet by the @PadresProspects handle caught my eye. Said tweet below:

Actual research and a post? Hey, I can do at least half of that!

This is a pretty noticeable change. Yasmani Grandal has moved his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and even eye angle. The change came after the 2012 season, where over 226 plate appearances he was worth 2.4 fWAR and had a wRC+ of 144. Since the change, Grandal has been worth 0.8 fWAR in 299 plate appearances, with his wRC+ going from 100 in 2013 to a below average 86 this season. Neither sample size is enough to draw a concrete conclusion, but the differences are so vast that it’s more than interesting.

Grandal’s changes have messed with his production, and he’s been a shell of the former top prospect acquired for Mat Latos. Grandal was praised for his contact earlier in his career, striking out just 17.3% of the time. After the changes, he’s seen that number increase to 23% over the past two seasons.

He said during Spring Training how he’s become more upright in an effort to take some pressure off his previously injured knee, which explains the reasoning behind the change.

Before we dive deeper into the numbers, let’s compare the differences in the swing paths:



The first thing to notice is he dropped the leg kick. He opted for less raw strength and more control over his bat path, and went instead with the heel tap. He also doesn’t flare his hips as well, another key power generator. He tries to compensate by getting more use out of his legs, which seems somewhat backwards as he made this switch to use his legs less. His bat bath is more jerky now than before, thanks to the more upright start point and stiff front leg.

Before people want to blame his lack of performance on a swing change, his PED suspension will get pointed out. Grandal did in fact test positive for PED use, and was suspended the required 50 games. But the issues with him go much deeper than just a loss of power, and much of the power outage is explained by his new mechanics. His contact looks worse, as made evident by his increasing strikeouts, and he’s simply been a less effective hitter overall.

Grandal’s new swing takes away the power from his old one, resulting in him striking the ball less hard. He puts too much effort on a leg that’s been injured, as well as legs that spend hundreds of innings a year squatting behind the plate. His contact% this year has dropped over six points, down to just 74.9%. Even the most optimistic of projection systems have him at just over 10% better than league average for the rest of the season, and they can’t even factor in the swing change that’s driving his prolonged slump.

There are a ton of issues with the Padres’ offense this year, although Yasmani Grandal has been way down on their list of worries. He’s still been a great pitch framer, seventh best in Runs Above Average. But no matter how great he is at stealing strikes, earning hits has become a thing of the past for the 25 year old backstop. If his injury really does prevent him from going back to his old stance, he may never quite see himself perform at the level he flashed earlier in his career.

What you see is what you get with Grandal, a great framer but a mediocre hitter. He’s going to carry around a bunch of untapped potential for a few more years, up until people realize that his injury sapped it all up.