Curtis Granderson couldn’t have been much worse for the 2014 New York Mets out of the leadoff spot. In 52 starts and 235 plate appearances, Granderson batted .210/.289/.348. It was what you might expect from your defensive-first catcher you hide in the number eight spot and sometimes debate about swapping with your pitcher in the nine-hole.
Not all of these at-bats came to lead off the game. However, in those first trips to the plate, he batted only .170/.250/.426. An amazing four of his eight hits would become leadoff home runs with the other half going for singles. He walked just four times all season to lead off the game and had a total of just 23 in the role compared to the 32 he had in 202 plate appearances when batting cleanup; the spot he appeared in the second most.
The year itself wasn’t so great. He managed to stay healthy but hit only .227/.326/.388 with 20 home runs and 66 RBI. Compared to the two 40+ home run and 100+ RBI seasons he had in back-to-back seasons with the New York Yankees in 2011 and 2012, he came up well short of expectations.
The Mets lineup construction changed in 2015 and Curtis Granderson shined
Not a fabulous OBP guy in his career, something clicked for the Grandy Man in 2015. He was their leadoff hitter to open the season.
Granderson got off to a slow start in 2015. You would never know it by looking at season statistics right now. He’d go on to finish the season with a .259/.364/.457 slash line, 26 home runs, and 70 RBI. Working primarily out of the leadoff spot also gave Granderson a chance to score 98 runs for the 2015 Mets.
Most of his plate appearances came when batting first. In fact, of his 144 starts, only six of them happened with Granderson batting anywhere else. All six came from the number two spot. Terry Collins obviously had a preference for not changing things too often to start the game.
Out of the leadoff spot itself, Granderson would hit .260/.360/.463 with only a few numbers tacked up from other spots in the order. Leading off the game, Granderson saw a huge improvement. He batted .238/.304/.444 and added seven dingers. He was quite exceptional leading off an inning even when it wasn’t the first at-bat of the game. In those 284 opportunities he had, Granderson was a .252/.342/.440 hitter.
By the time he got to queens, Granderson was a much different player than he was in his early days with the Detroit Tigers or even those middle seasons with the Yankees. His speed and power were on the decline. Looking at what he did with the Yankees and what happened in 2014, the ideal spot for him in 2015 might have been to bat fifth or lower to get the most out of his bat still capable of popping 20 home runs.
This wasn’t the case. An unexpected thing happened. Granderson became an atypical leadoff hitter for the Mets. He did it with a ton of success thanks to a little extra patience and some faith from the lineup card. While a lack of choices surely played a role as well (he did lead the team with 11 stolen bases and had the highest OBP of anyone that started regularly), the Mets stuck with him and for at least one season, reaped the benefits all the way to the World Series.