New York Mets News

Curtis Granderson: Leadoff Hitter?

By Will DeBoer

Curtis Granderson hit from the 5-spot in the Mets’ 1-0 win last night in Miami. The day before that, he was back in the cleanup spot after spending the three days prior leading off. In those three games, Granderson hit .333 with a .462 OBP, including a leadoff home run against the Padres on Fathers’ Day.

Jun 17, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; New York Mets center fielder Curtis Granderson (3) hits a double off of St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha (not pictured) during the fifth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets are still struggling to put runs on the board consistently. With no definitive leadoff hitter on roster, Terry Collins should be willing to try anything. He was open to leading off with Granderson earlier this week, so should he keep penciling in Grandy at the top of the order going forward?

At this point it’s safe to say that, after learning his new team and shaking off his injury cobwebs, Curtis Granderson has turned it around. Since the beginning of May, Curtis has hit .282 with an OBP over .400 and OPS over .900, eight home runs, and 25 RBIs. That pace would give Grandy 30 dingers and over 90 RBIs in a full season, which is certainly what New York was hopeful for when they signed him over the offseason.

Those kinds of numbers are more prototypical of a cleanup hitter, not a leadoff man. Players who sock 30+ homers a season usually hit where their power can produce the most runs. Put someone like that at the top of the order and he may only produce a single run.

The Mets, however, are at a point in which even one more run a game could mean the difference between contention and the NL East basement.

Even after consecutive one-run wins on Wednesday and Thursday, New York is just 10-17 in one-run games in 2014. Seventeen times the team has been just one run out of reach. At least a few times, perhaps, the Mets would have been able to extend and even win those games if Curtis Granderson had one extra plate appearance.

Jun 15, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson (3) dives back to first base during the game against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

With his power, Granderson has the ability to put a run on the board instantly, as evidenced by Sunday afternoon against San Diego. But even when he’s not sending souvenirs to the Pepsi Porch, Curtis creates offensive potential more effectively than almost any other Met. His .351 OBP ranks second on the team behind Daniel Murphy, and despite his low stolen base totals it’s not like he’s Bartolo Colon on the basepaths.

The bottom line is Granderson gets on base, whether he’s at the top of the order or in the middle. If he hits in the middle of the order, he gets fewer chances to come around and score with the likes of Lucas Duda and Chris Young hitting behind him. If he hits at the top of the order, though, he will have set the table for Daniel Murphy and David Wright, who have a much better chance of sending Grandy home on a double to the gap. The Mets get an additional run at the beginning of the game, maybe another if the top of the order leads off another inning, and it could be the difference between a 2-1 loss and a 3-2 win.

Curtis Granderson has been a middle-of-the-order hitter for most of his career. The Mets signed him thinking he would be the big cleanup bat they desperately need. While the last month and a half reassures us that he can still be that slugger, right now Grandy is needed more at the top of the order. Terry Collins should resume penciling in #3 as the Mets’ #1 hitter.