Mets’ Curtis Granderson quietly having effective postseason
By Brian Farrell
The Mets’ 2015 postseason has belonged to Daniel Murphy — and rightfully so — but Curtis Granderson is flying under the radar, having a very nice postseason of his own.
Granderson’s 2015 postseason numbers don’t jump off the page like Murphy‘s do, but they do tell a compelling story about a veteran player quietly and effectively adjusting his game to the playoff stage.
When the Mets gave Granderson a four-year, $60 million contract before the 2014 season, they believed they were buying the power that the lineup sorely lacked in 2013 when the team ranked 27th in baseball in home runs. Granderson batted anywhere from cleanup to sixth to begin the 2014 season, but ultimately ended up batting first in a third of his games. This was largely viewed as a disappointment since it was not what he was brought in to do. However, in 2015, Granderson became the Mets’ permanent leadoff hitter, and settled nicely into his new role.
Granderson is not a traditional leadoff hitter by any stretch, but he is an effective one in a lineup that relies on balance and depth. He batted only .259 in 2015, hitting twice as many fly balls than ground balls, and he was not much of a stolen base threat, netting 11 steals on 17 attempts. However, he did hit 26 home runs, including seven to lead off a game, and scored 98 runs to go with 70 RBI.
In the postseason, Granderson has made even more adjustments to his game, and they have paid off for the Mets. According to ESPN.com, Granderson saw a healthy 4.37 pitches per plate appearance in the regular season, but he’s been even more patient in the playoffs, and ranks second only to Alex Gordon at 4.74 pitches per plate appearance. His on-base percentage has gone from .364 to .385, and he’s walked five times against five strikeouts compared with 91 BB and 151 SO in the regular season.
As a power hitter batting in the leadoff spot, Granderson hit twice as many fly balls as ground balls in 2015. In the postseason, he’s almost dead-even (15/14). Curtis is clearly making a concerted effort to put the ball in play and force defenders to make plays, a solid approach given the tough pitching the Mets have been facing.
Granderson has suddenly regained his base-stealing game as well. He has attempted five steals and only been caught once in the playoffs. The one time he was thrown out by Miguel Montero in Game 4 of the NLCS, he was caught because he slid headfirst and Javier Baez blocked the bag.
Illustrating Granderson’s veteran savvy, the very next night in Game 5, he stole second sliding feet first, negating Starlin Castro‘s attempt to use the same tactics. Granderson even made sure to unnecessarily apologize to Castro for any incidental contact. Granderson, the anti-Chase Utley.
Granderson has not suddenly regained the speed of his youth, but has intelligently picked his spots. In the third inning of Game 2 against the Cubs, Granderson worked a walk against Jake Arrieta. Knowing that the Cy Young candidate struggles to hold runners, he then proceeded to steal both second and third, eventually scoring on a Yoenis Cespedes ground ball into the hole behind short.
Amidst the Murphy barrage and Lucas Duda explosion, Granderson has effectively been playing old school small ball.
This cerebral approach shows up in the first inning as much as anywhere. The Mets have benefited from fast starts throughout the playoffs, especially against the Cubs. Granderson has been a huge part of that. He’s gone 4-for-9 in the opening frame, scoring three runs. He also reached on an error in Game 3 of the NLCS when he slapped a ground ball away from the shift and forced Baez to hurry the play by busting it down the line.
Even Granderson’s defense has been solid. While he did make one throwing error in Game 3 of the NLDS, he also made a leaping grab to rob Chris Coghlan of a home run in Game 2 of the NLCS.
Watching Curtis Granderson laugh and smile on the field in the midst of the pressure of playoff baseball speaks to his confidence in his all-around game right now.
Granderson knows what he has to do to help his team, and it doesn’t require trying to launch moon shots into the upper deck.
If he does that in the World Series, it will because the opportunity presents itself, not because he set out to do it. Granderson is taking exactly what the game is giving him right now, much the same way his teammates are seizing their opportunity to become world champions.
Next: Familia deserves just as much credit as Murphy