May 29th, 2006
For those of you who still aren’t sure what exactly Curtis Granderson brings to the leadoff spot, Monday was a good example. Without Granderson in the lineup, the only hitter in the Tigers lineup who was really making 42-year-old Randy Johnson work on a 92-degree day was Brandon Inge, whose 10-pitch walk in the third inning came after Johnson needed just 21 pitches to retire the other eight hitters in the lineup. Placido Polanco followed his lead and took a five-pitch walk, his first walk in 186 plate appearances since Scott Elarton walked him on Opening Day.
Part of it was Johnson, who was spotting his pitches much better than he supposedly was in previous outings and frequently moved ahead of hitters. But Jim Leyland wasn’t very happy with his team’s at-bats, and the relatively quick outs continued after Johnson left. Granderson’s strikeouts are more than you want to see out of a leadoff hitter, but he’s fourth among Major League leadoff hitters in pitches per plate appearance, and he’s one of just three Tigers above 4.00 in that category (Inge and Chris Shelton are the others). The next-highest regular is just above 3.5. And while Granderson leads the team in strikeouts, he leads in walks, too.
I’m not saying that Granderson should’ve played Monday, because the way Johnson was pitching, he would’ve been awfully tough on him. That said, a game like this shows what Granderson contributes to this team. He’s an underrated table-setter who knows how to make pitchers work surprisingly well for a rookie. Without him Monday, the Tigers looked more like last year’s lineup.
Could it be we all had the reverse logic when foreseeing the Yankees series as a test for the Tigers? The Bergen Record dedicated an entire story looking forward to the Tigers series, and Alex Rodriguez had this to say:
"It will be a good test for us," he said. "They’re kind of like the White Sox of this year."
To be fair, Rodriguez also said he wasn’t curious to see the Tigers. Joe Torre was, though. Here’s what Torre told reporters Monday morning:
"Anybody that says they aren’t surprised isn’t telling the truth. You knew they were so much better than their record last year, because when you look at
Robertson, Bonderman and some of the guys they bring out of the bullpen, you
understand that the only way to get better is to have somebody in the middle of
the field that can pitch on a regular basis. They seem to have guys who can go
out there and do it."