Buzz Lightyear Curtis Granderson Yankees NoMaas

Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, Ryan Howard, Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs, Curtis Granderson.

Shouldn’t be too difficult of a list to decipher — these are the six players in Major League history who have struck out 190 times or more in a single season. Granderson is the newest member of the club, having K’d a Yankee-record 195 times in 2012…but thanks to Dunn, he was saved the dubious distinction of leading the American League (by a margin of 27!!!) Still, it’s worthwhile to see what, if anything, this means for Granderson in 2013.

Howard is the best comparable, for a few reasons. He’s a lefty hitter in a lefty hitter’s ballpark, and had registered a standout offensive season the year before breaking through the 190-strikeout glass ceiling. In 2006, Howard slashed .313/.425/.659 with 58 HRs and 383 total bases, an almost superhuman season. He followed that up with a Major League-record 199 strikeouts in 2007, but still walked 107 times, hit 47 home runs, and OPS’d .976 in 56 fewer PAs. His ISO dropped off by 30 points (.346 to .316) and his BABIP, by .28 (.356 to .328). His walk rate increased by 1.2 percentage points.

Granderson’s 2011 was not nearly as majestic as Howard’s 2006, but it’s a good parallel. From 2011 to 2012, Granderson’s ISO also decreased by 30 points, .290 to .260, and his BABIP dropped by .25, .295 to .260. The drops don’t quite match up percentage-wise because Howard’s raw numbers were so much higher to begin with, but the similarities are interesting. What is slightly troubling is that Granderson’s walk rate went downward, from 12.3 percent to 11 flat, but both numbers are still above his career rate of 10.1 and well above league average.

What we want to know, though, is what Howard’s 2008 season (after crossing the 190-strikeout rubicon) might say about Grandy’s 2013. In 2008, Howard’s ISO of .292 settled back into the range of his 2005 Rookie of the Year season, and he repeated that number in 2009 before beginning a long and painful decline. He hit 48 homers in 2008 as opposed to 47 in 2007. Howard maintained the same number of strikeouts, 199, in 52 more PAs, but he posted the lowest full-season batting average and BABIP of his career. His unlucky streak on balls in play was probably attributable to his selectivity, or lack thereof — his walk rate decreased nearly five percentage points, an extremely significant dropoff.

For 2013, Bill James projects the Grandy Man to maintain his recent base-on-ball skills, up a tick to 11.1 percent. That’s a good sign. If Granderson does that, he’ll likely see the same number of hittable pitches this year as he did last year. James also thinks Granderson’s strikeout rate will decrease two points; because of the extra PAs, Howard’s decreased 2.3 points from 2007 to 2008. Another good sign. (By the way, as I write this paragraph, I’m reading it out loud in my best Brian Kenny voice.) Finally, the Bill James projection has Granderson’s ISO going from .260 to .236, the same 24-point margin by which Howard’s went down in 2008. Clearly, Bill’s done his homework.

So maintaining a selective eye is the key. Ryan Howard’s declining walk skills led to a then-career-worst season in 2008. If Curtis Granderson keeps his percentage of drawing base on balls fairly steady and swings for the fences a few less times a year, history says the strikeouts should go down and productivity should go up.