It is no secret that Yasmani Grandal hasn’t had the strongest season of his career thus far. Between injuries and extended slumps, even Grandal himself has admitted that things aren’t going the way he wants them to. Grandal hasn’t found the spark that he had after ending the 2021 season on a strong note.
There are things we know are going on behind the scenes, such as knee issues after having another surgery over the winter. Grandal has mentioned it affected part of his swing early in the season. But are there deeper reasons for his struggles?
This may sound like the same old story told when Grandal was struggling to begin the 2021 campaign. This season is different, though; his 2021 and 2022 struggles are not nearly as similar as you may think. A deeper dive into the traditional stats and advanced metrics can help provide an understanding of just why Grandal has struggled this season, and how his struggles differ from those he experienced in 2021.
Taking a look at both Grandal’s 2021 and 2022 seasons, there are some similarities, but there are more differences. His slash line through 53 games in 2021 was .166/.385/.378, which gave Grandal an OPS of .762. That’s not necessarily good for someone making $18M, but it’s solid when struggling. Now through 53 games in 2022, he has a slash line of .196/.300/.245, which gives an OPS of .545 – one of the worst in the league among qualified hitters. An interesting thing to note here is that the batting averages are roughly the same, so what is the difference?
A big plus for Grandal in 2021 was that he was walking a lot, which gave a lot of fans a reason to defend his slow start, as he had 54 walks in his first 53 games. In 2022, he is only at 28 walks. This explains the OBP drop-off. The strikeout rate is still pretty similar, as Grandal had 54 in 2021 and 48 in 2022 through the first 53 games. He cut down the strikeouts a little, but it’s nothing eye-raising.
Here is where there are two interesting differences between his two seasons. Grandal hit 10 home runs through 53 games in 2021. In 2022, Grandal sits at only two home runs. This is where the SLG percentage drop-off comes from. At the same time, through 53 games in 2022, Grandal has 36 hits in 213 plate appearances; in 2021, he had 25 hits in 209 plate appearances.
Outside of that, there is not much more we can learn from traditional stats about exactly why Grandal is walking and homering fewer times, but increasing the number of hits he has. We’ve learned what has changed, but not exactly why it has changed. Let’s move on to the more analytical side of things, as this is where we might get a better idea as to what changed in just one season for the switch-hitting backstop.
Here is where things start to get interesting: through 53 games in 2021, Grandal put up a wRC+ of 121, while in 2022, he sits at a wRC+ of 63. He went from being 21 points above league average to being 37 points below league average. This trend has taken place on both sides of the plate, but more significantly from the left side of the plate for Yaz. Grandal has struggled against right-handed pitching more in 2022 than in 2021. In 2021, Grandal had a wRC+ of 105 vs. RHP. In 2022, his wRC+ is only at 40.
The question that keeps repeating itself is why? Well, Grandal’s wOBA dropped .091 from 2021 to 2022. Another intriguing thing is that Grandal’s average exit velocity has dropped 3.7 MPH between the two seasons, with his hard-hit rate dropping from 53% to just 38.7%.
Now we can see where part of Grandal’s struggle is coming from. He isn’t hitting the ball as hard, and as a result, he hasn’t barreled the ball as much through these first 53 games either. In his first 53 games of 2021, Grandal had a barrel rate of 13% with 13 barrels. This year, he has only eight barrels, which is a barrel rate of 5.8%. With that barrel percentage cut in half (and then some), it becomes easier to start figuring out why Grandal isn’t seeing results.
What could be causing this drop-off? For starters, it may be because Grandal doesn’t see as many fastballs as he did in 2021. So far, in 2022, he has seen fastballs 49.1% of the time, while in 2021, he saw 52.4% fastballs. Another part of the story could be the slight rise in sliders Grandal is seeing in his at-bats. In 2021, Grandal had a slider percentage of 14.1%. In 2022, 15.7% of the pitches he has seen have been sliders.
Walking fewer times and getting more hits sounds like a combination of a difference in Swing Percentages. In fact, Grandal is swinging at a lot more pitches, and this is likely another area where the struggles are coming from. Through 53 games in 2021, Grandal had a swing percentage of 28.5%, while currently, in 2022, he has a swing percentage of 39.9%. Since his swing percentage has jumped significantly, Grandal isn’t walking as much.
His O-Swing% (outside the strike zone) has seen another increase. In 2021, it was at 16.5% at this point in the season. In 2022, Grandal has an O-Swing% of 23.6%. This further backs up why Grandal isn’t walking as much. – he is pressing more in his at-bats and trying to get a base hit. During the 2021 season, he saw 40.3% of pitches in the zone for strikes. In 2022, Grandal has seen 43.5% of pitches in the zone for strikes. In short, pitchers are attacking Grandal more this year than they were last year, and with Grandal not locked in at the plate, they are taking advantage of him trying to hit his way out of a slump.
Continuing with this theme, Grandal is also seeing more first-pitch strikes; in 53 games in 2022, he has an F-Strike% (first-pitch strike) of 57.3%. In 2021, he had an F-Strike% of 46.4%. This represents another significant increase in a problematic statistic from 2021 to 2022. Now, Grandal is getting more first-pitch strikes, which has also brought up his first pitch swing percentage. In 2021, Grandal was swinging at first pitches 16.8% of the time; now, he is swinging at them 20.7% of the time. With all this information in mind, it is easier to see why his on-base percentage has dropped drastically – he’s simply seeing fewer pitches by swinging more at more pitches in the zone.
Hard-hit rate plays a big role in a player’s expected statistics, and since Grandal isn’t hitting the ball as hard, we wouldn’t necessarily expect that he’s getting any “bad luck” in his performance. However, let’s take a look at his expected stats.
Grandal currently has an xBA of .206, which is .010 higher than his actual batting average (.196). So, he has been getting a bit unlucky in terms of his batting average, which is a positive sign of things to come for Grandal. Taking a look at his xSLG, Grandal is at .311 compared to his slugging of .245; it is quite different. Granted, a .311 SLG isn’t something to write home about. However, it is a sign of hopefully more positive outcomes for Grandal down the line.
Overall, Yasmani Grandal, based on all his stats, should start to turn things around soon. One possible idea is for him to take the Cedric Mullins route and stop switch-hitting for a bit, which does hurt the White Sox lineup in terms of handedness in the batting order. However, it could lead to more successful outcomes for Grandal.
Ultimately though, I hope this article gives everyone a better idea of Grandal’s struggles and what may be the cause of them. Grandal definitely can turn things around, and hopefully, it will be soon.
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