For six seasons -- five while Sabathia was with the Indians and one while with the Yankees -- the left-hander faced off against Granderson when the center fielder was with the Tigers. Now, Sabathia gets to sit in the Yankees' dugout and watch as Granderson has boosted his game against the same lefties that once plagued him.
"As far as hitting lefties, he stays on the ball, he covers everything pretty much in the strike zone," Sabathia said, "and I think that's the biggest adjustment he's made -- being able to cover pitches away, hit them to left field and left-center and begin able to turn on pitches in."
Granderson's splits against lefties used to be fodder for his loudest critics. In 2009, his last season with Detroit, Granderson hit .275/.358/.539 with 28 homers and 62 RBIs against right-handers and .183/.245/.239 with two homers and nine RBIs against lefties.
The next year, there was still a huge discrepancy in Granderson's homer numbers (20 against righties and four against lefties), but only a 19-point difference in his batting average. Last year, Granderson's batting average against lefties was higher than against righties (.272 and .258) and his homer numbers (16 against lefties, 25 against righties) followed. That trend has continued this year, as he has hit .286/.375/.587 against southpaws.
"Long, long ways," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Granderson's progress. "He's a guy that you don't move against left-handers. You leave him where he's at. You know you're going to get production, and he's going to hit the ball hard and give you great at-bats. He's come a long ways."
Granderson said part of the key is that Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, who throws lefty, tosses the slugger batting practice no matter which pitcher he'll face in a game. That way, he gets consistent work against a left-hander thrower.
"It was never about, 'Hey, we've got to increase the power numbers' or anything," Granderson said. "When we made the change, it was just to get consistent against them like we do against righties. And if the power comes, great. But that's definitely not the mindset."