By Cole Shelton
Canadian Baseball Network
When the Toronto Blue Jays signed veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson, many fans were angry.
Granderson was coming off a disastrous end to the 2017 season where the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired him for the playoffs but he hit so poorly that the Dodgers elected to leave him off the post-season roster.
Entering the off-season, Toronto needed to re-shape the outfield so general manager Ross Atkins and company decided to sign Granderson to a one-year deal. Since then, Granderson has been platooning in left field with Steve Pearce but is doing something he struggled with in Los Angeles, and that is making solid contact and getting on base.
Through April 20, Granderson is hitting .319 with a .439 on-base percentage, along with two home runs and nine RBIs. No one expected Granderson to hit this well, and how he is doing it is quite simple. Granderson is hitting the fastball. When kids start playing ball, coaches preach, you have to hit the fastball, and that is exactly what Granderson is doing. He is connecting on 59.5% of all fastballs thrown at him, according to Fangraphs.
That percentage may not look high, but something Granderson does is take the first pitch. So far Granderson has not swung at the first pitch at all in 2018. With Granderson making pitchers work, it has resulted in him getting into fastball counts or the pitcher missing a pitch which Granderson will hit.
With the new outfielder hitting fastballs and being patient at the plate, something else he has been doing is not swinging at balls. Granderson so far this season is swinging at just 18.8% of pitches outside of the strike zone. With Granderson not chasing pitches, it results in better contact as he can square his bat up, and it shows as his soft contact is down to just 15.2% while his medium and hard contact is 42.4%.
The Blue Jays' lineup has been more lethal with Granderson being effective at the plate to begin the season.
Yet, Granderson is making even more of an impact in the clubhouse according to Atkins. Atkins was recently on ESPN’S Baseball Tonight’s podcast about how much of an impact Granderson has made off the field as well.
“Every single person he interacts with, someone comes up to me at least once every three or four days and tells me what a remarkable human being he is,” said Atkins. “He’s consistent with every single human being he touches.”
“To have him contributing is extremely powerful,” added Atkins. “That type of person that is setting a standard and setting the bar and expectation for how to treat people in the game and performing is extremely powerful.”
Granderson has already proven his value to Toronto’s lineup on-the-field and has already exceeded expectations, and won over Blue Jays fans.
“Curtis Granderson is everything you could possibly hope for in a leader, in a human being and just the consistency that he creates,” Atkins told ESPN.
While he is making an impact with his bat and making an impact off-the-field, Granderson has also been an average defender in the outfield, which is exactly what Toronto needed him to be. After the error on opening day, Granderson has not committed an error since and has also added an outfield assist.
Ultimately Granderson has been a huge bonus to the Blue Jays who have been on a hot streak to the start season, along with Granderson on a hot streak of his own.