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.