How much of the offenses success is attributable to Granderson and Leyland

In a recent blog post for The Freep, Jamie Samuelson wondered about the impact that Jim Leyland’s tirade and Curtis Granderson’s return to the lineup had on the team’s recent success (this was written on Friday morning before the Twins games). In fact he said:

Look, the odds were that the bats would come around. But sorry, you just can’t ignore the tirade and the centerfielder as having some impact. I’ll leave it to the stat gurus to figure out the why (I’m sure detroittigersweblog.com is at it as we speak!) Maybe Polanco feels less pressure with Granderson in front of him, or with Granderson on base.

I wish I could deliver the stats like Jamie suggested I could. But there simply isn’t the data to prove or disprove the value of the rant or the cascade effect of Granderson on the rest of the lineup. But that won’t stop me from opining.

With regard to the rant, I’m sure that it had some effect. The team did look remarkably dead. I’m not sure that it even mattered what Leyland said, but more the fact that he said something. Given the play of the team at that time, not saying anything probably would have spoken volumes about Leyland’s interest in managing and what would and wouldn’t be condoned.

On the matter of Granderson the simple explanation is that the team is better with him in the lineup. Runs created (RC) is a model of individual run production that in it’s simplest form is Total Bases*OBP. Through Friday Granderson had 10 runs created. A measure built on that is RC/G which tells you what a lineup of 9 of the same player would average. Granderson’s RC/G was 7.9 last year and is 10.6 so far this year. By comparison Clete Thomas who was his primary replacement had 9 RC and a 5.3 RC/G. Granderson bettered Thomas in 2/3 of the plate appearances. So of course the lineup will see a boost.

As for the cascade effect, it most likely is coincidental. Polanco has a higher OBP and batting average throughout his career with men on base than when the bases are empty. With a few thousand plate appearances in each category there is probably a real effect here. And with Polanco’s style of slap hitting it makes some sense intuitively.

Granderson has been getting on base a lot which would help to boost Polanco’s numbers. Polanco has hit .382 since Granderson’s return to the lineup. But Granderson’s return also coincided with Polanco getting some medication to help with back pain. I think that health is the bigger driver in his bump in production. Plus that .382 is in 37 plate appearances which isn’t a statistically significant shift in production.

The rest of the lineup is also just starting to produce like they were expected to. (The last two games not withstanding).

So Granderson returning to the lineup helps because he’s good more so than any soft of cascade effect. Plus as Jamie also pointed out, there is a logical disconnect in Granderson’s ability to just make everyone better.

I just have always been baffled as to why he’d help guys like Placido Polanco or Magglio Ordonez hit any better. And to be fair, the bats were already starting to warm up.

Tirade, Granderson are reasons Tigers are better | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press

10 Comments

  1. Lee Panas

    May 3, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Bill, you are right that Granderson makes the team better because he’s substantially better than the guy he was replacing. That’s not a big mystery.

    As for the tirade, I think it might have helped a little, although there is absolutely no way that can be proven one way or the other. They were going to turn it around regardless but maybe Leyland got them going a little quicker. It’s not like they were going to play crappy all year if he hadn’t said anything though.

  2. Tony

    May 4, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Well, Polanco and Ordonez in particular are going to be more effective with a man on first who is a threat to steal. The first baseman has to hold the runner, and for a right-handed batter, the second baseman is assigned to cover the bag in case of a steal. That opens up a huge hole on the right side of the infield, which is where they like to punch the ball. I would think that teams are catching on to this and sending the SS to cover, thus inducing this maddening number of DP started at the 2nd baseman.

  3. Kathy

    May 4, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Ever since Leland got on Cabrera about focusing at every at-bat, he hasn’t done squat. So far, it’s backfired, but maybe it will come to fruition or maybe Leland should just concentrate on his horses that he’s having groomed to race.

  4. Chris

    May 4, 2008 at 11:26 am

    As a kind of good problem, Granderson has become too good of a power hitter to continue hitting leadoff for his career. I see him moving into the 3-spot in the years ahead.

  5. Eric Cioe

    May 4, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Chris – I agree. I see Granderson and Cabrera as the 3-4 hitters once Sheffield and Magglio are gone.

  6. Ken from Cincinnati

    May 4, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Kathy, I’m pretty sure that Cabrera has been hitting at a .300 clip since the “refocus” talk, or close to it. I would have to say that’s at least marginally better than squat. I would like to see him belting homers more regularly, especially today against the twins. I don’t want to be swept by those nerds.

  7. greg

    May 4, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    I can think of numerous ways Granderson makes the Polanco and Ordonez better, at least a dozen. Countless baseball players swear these things make a huge difference, but I hesitate to expound on them, as historically, stat people have knee-jerk reactions to such ideas that can’t be ‘proven’ or are difficult/impossible to quantify statistically.

    The assumption is, if you can’t prove it statistically, it doesn’t exist.

  8. Lee Panas

    May 4, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Greg, don’t hesitate to state your reasons. As a stat person, I would like to hear your reasons why you think Granderson might make Polanco and Ordonez better hitters. It could lead to a productive discussion. Some of your ideas might even be testable using the retrosheet databases.

  9. Andrew Spicer

    May 4, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Leyland said that in his tirade he focused on one particular thing the team was doing that was making him angry. I had the impression that it had to do with working their at bats instead of having weak first-pitch outs.

    Does the data show a marked increase in pitches per at bat after that game in Chicago? It still wouldn’t prove anything, but…

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