Brewer Spotlight

Analyzing What Yasmani Grandal Adds To The 2019 Brewers

On Wednesday Night, The Milwaukee Brewers reportedly signed Yasmani Grandal to a one year, $18.25M contract! They clearly aimed to start the new year with a bang…

In BREW MATHs first article on Grandal, we analyze his progress since becoming a full-time catcher in 2014 all the way up to joining the good guys.

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Interestingly enough, Grandal is the second player The Brewers have acquired this offseason from the first round of the 2010 Draft. While Spangenberg (the #10 overall pick) will be vying for a bench spot, Grandal has been recruited as a difference maker. Brewers Fans must feel like their heads are spinning after taking such joy in his defensive meltdown during the 2018 Playoffs.

However, 2019 has Milwaukee riding high and thinking ‘October or Bust.’ Grandal’s signing is not typical for this small market team and in that spirit… the analyses here will be robust.


CAREER MARKS: 0.240 AVG / 0.341 OBP / 0.466 SLG

  • PLATE PRODUCTION (TOP L): Grandal’s lifetime wOBA is above league average and has stabilized around a solid career mark (0.340) / NOTE: MLB Average wOBA ~0.320
    • A player’s BABIP over a large sample size (more than 800 PAs) ends up being a baseline that is difficult to escape without fundamental changes (i.e. batting stance, swing mechanics, etc). It is reflective of one’s skill as a hitter and can contextualize the rest of a player’s data set.
      • Grandal’s lifetime BABIP of 0.280 is not far off from his typical annual mark. That type of consistency helps reassure us that the data we are analyzing is not just abberation.
  • POWER (TOP R): This is where Grandal made his money… a power hitting catcher is pretty rare. In fact, over the last three seasons he has averaged 24.3 HRs per season (24 last year).
    • All the power numbers are steadily rising since he became a starter in 2014.
    • HR/FB: 17.9% – This was good for 32nd in The MLB last year
      • It will be fourth best on The Brewers with only Yelich, Aguilar and Shaw ranking higher.
      • If Grandal gets the ball in the air, there is a good chance it is heading into two-fisted-slopper territory.
  • RATE STATS (LOW L): Here, Grandal is an enigma. He has BOTH a high K% rate and a high BB% rate. In other words, he is patient until he is not…
    • Grandal’s career marks:  K% – 23.8 / BB% – 13.1
      • MLB Averages – K%: 20.0 / BB%: 8.0%
  • PLATE DISCIPLINE (LOW R): Outside of the peak in 2017, his O-Swing% and SwStr% stay relatively constant throughout his career. They are both around league average.
    • O-Swing% = Percentage of times he swings at pitches OUTSIDE the zone
    • SWSTR% = Whiff% = Swing and Miss Percentage
    • The fact that Grandal whiffs at a normal rate but strikes out at a relatively higher one implies he is watching a lot of strikes go by. Thus, many of his ABs go deep as he waits for his pitch like an opportunisitc predator. He often will not swing until deep in counts and is constantly scanning for mistakes,
      • He is good at violently capitalizing on them.
    • While this focus leads to higher pitch counts for opponents, it also routinely gets him ‘behind’ before he has swung. His relatively high Whiff% reinforces that he ends up chasing (and missing) once backed into a corner:

Digging deeper into his contact and batted ball stats, some other trends arise:

  • Grandal uses a “coiled-snake” approach. He is good at hitting anything near the plate, epecially fastballs. Since he is susceptible to off-speed stuff, he waits to pounce on any mistake.
  • He struggles with the slider, the curve and pitchers who can consistently hit the edges…
    • Opposing pitchers know this and he has been pitched ‘low and in’ pretty consistently over his career:

Grandal is a ‘patient’ home-run hitter with a high strikeout rate. While it is not entirely logical, that is what his statistics suggest.

The good news is that when Grandal does make contact, it leads to production. In 2018 he was 46th in the entire league at barreling balls (7.3%). Shwarber and Ozuna follow him on the list which is impressive ‘slugger compancy’ to keep.

Some more hitting trends to consider:

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No matter how we cut it, Grandal both benefits and suffers from a “high risk, high reward approach” at the plate. He is a classic feast or famine power hitter who acccepts streakiness and higher whiff rates as a symptom of hitting bombs.

Somewhat counterintuitive to our analysis, Grandal does a relatively good job of using the whole field when he hits. Being a powerful bat in the middle of the lineup does not limit him to pulling balls. His career ‘hit map’ makes that rather clear:

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A 2018 radial chart (below) further fleshes out how he spreads the ball around. It also shows how he can consistently distinguish ‘balls from strikes’ and put the barrel on the ball:

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  • In 2018, Yasmani Grandal:
    • Took 136ABs as a LEFTY:
      • 0.250AVG / 20HR
    • Took 111 ABs as a RIGHTY:
      • 0.200AVG / 4HR
    • Hit 0.462 with a 3-0 count
      • 0.231 wih the bases empty
      • 0.254 with men on
      • 0.238 with guys in scoring position
    • Played in 140 games
      • Pina played in 98, Kratz 67
    • Hit every spot in the lineup except #1 and #2 (his PAs were pretty evenly split between #3 & #8).
      • He performed best hitting cleanup (0.289AVG)
        • And next best in the 7th spot (0.259)
    • Saw the shift in 181 of his ABs
      • And no shift the in the remaining 111 ABs


Grandal’s Career Speed Score is 2.1 (3.1 last year).

  • Here are FanGraphs Speed guidelines for reference:
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In his eight year career, Grandal has stolen six bases.

We can see here that, yes!… Jesus Aguilar is faster than the 6’1″, 235# catcher:

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Moving on…


As Brewers Fans know, Yasmani Grandal comes with certain risks as a defender. While he is a talented catcher in many regards, he is just as bad in others. An extension of the ‘enigma theme’ we saw with his hitting, Yasmani likes drama-ni…

For instance, he led The MLB in range factor (RF/9INN) for a catcher in both 2016 and 2017. He is currently the #2 active catcher in this metric! Pretty impressive, right? Well, he also led the league in passed balls 2014, 2016 and 2017…


Further confusing the defensive picture:

  • Grandal’s career UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) is (-)9.9
    • The last two years it has been 16.3 & 12.1
  • Grandal has led the league in put outs for catchers the last two years
    • But has a poor “pop time” (time from glove ‘pop’ of catcher to glove ‘pop’ of the receiving middle infielder during a SB attempt)
      • 2018 Pop Time = 2.1 seconds, which ranked him #72/108 among MLB catchers (Manny Pina’s ‘pop time’ is 13th in The MLB at 1.94sec).
  • Despite the implied deficiencies behind the plate, Grandal has had league leading seasons throwing runners out. He also is usally on the leaderboard for “Fielding% as a Catcher.” Just when you think you have Yasmani figured out…


So, if you put the mixed bag that is Yasmani Grandal into a blender, good things come of it… In the end. You just have to be willing to suffer short-term lulls & lapses to get to the redeeming surges. Grandal is rangy and athletic yet unreliable as a defender – This will be a big change from Pina’s steady defense.

Yet, if we look at Grandal’s career values, they split like this – OFF: 27.0 / DEF: 36.1, and add up to a career WAR of 15.2. Over the last three years, Grandal has averaged a WAR of 3.0, as you can see, is not too shabby:


We should also note that Grandal has not performed well in the post-season, a trend we hope he, at the very least, gets to challenge…

In the end, The Milwaukee Brewers have added a powerful switch-hitting bat to the lineup and an All Star to their roster. Most importantly, at a position of need.

But let this be a warning!

We will have to deal with this:

To Get to this:


Make no mistake Milwaukee…

Our small-market team has made a huge statement!

Somewhere Cole Hamels may be rethinking rivalries.

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