Thursday, September 3, 2015

Curtis Granderson's Resurgence Keeps the Naysayers at Bay

Curtis Granderson is rarely without a smile.  His 2015 production is making everybody smile.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus) 

Curtis Granderson did not have a good year offensively in 2014 - the first of four campaigns he was under contract with the Mets.  In his first season in Flushing, Granderson posted a .227/.326/.388 slash line.  The right fielder failed to record 50 extra-base hits and did not reach double-digit stolen bases after having seven straight seasons with 50+ XBH and six consecutive campaigns with 10+ SB through 2012, averaging 66 XBH and 18 SB per season.  (Granderson played just 61 games in 2013, notching 22 extra-base hits and eight steals.)  Granderson did lead the team in one offensive category in his first year, striking out 141 times in 564 at-bats.

But unlike the other free agent outfielder signed to a long-term deal by the Mets in the post-Shea Stadium era (Jason Bay), Granderson has turned things around quite nicely in his second season at Citi Field.  Through the team's first 133 games in 2015, Granderson has produced a .258/.351/.457 slash line, racking up 52 extra-base hits (28 doubles, one triple, 23 homers) and stealing 11 bases.  He has also scored 77 runs, has 59 RBI - a high number for a leadoff hitter - and has drawn 69 walks.

A year after he had fans wishing the team had never signed him to a four-year deal, Granderson is now leading the team in hits, walks, runs scored, home runs, RBI and stolen bases.  And that's not something that has happened much in team history.  Here are the players who have led the Mets in all six categories over a full season, with Granderson's numbers included in the mix.

Lee Mazzilli
Howard Johnson
Curtis Granderson

In addition to Mazzilli, HoJo and Granderson, only two other players have led the team in five of the six categories in one season.  Darryl Strawberry's 1987 campaign saw him lead the Mets in walks (97), runs (108), home runs (39), RBI (104) and stolen bases (36).  However, the Straw Man finished third on team in hits behind Keith Hernandez and Kevin McReynolds.  David Wright has twice led the team in five of the six categories in a season.  The team's all-time leader in several offensive categories led the club in everything but home runs in 2009, finishing two taters behind unlikely team leader Daniel Murphy.  Three years later, Wright once again led the Mets in hits, walks, runs scored, RBI and stolen bases, but finished second to Ike Davis in home runs.

Should Granderson remain the team leader in the six offensive categories over the final month of the 2015 campaign, he would become just the third Met in franchise history to finish first in all six over a full season.  And he'd accomplish something never accomplished by Strawberry, Wright, Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones and other five-tool players that have worn a Mets uniform over the years.

Last year was widely considered to be a subpar season for Granderson, even though he hit 20 HR and drew 77 walks - the two categories coveted by Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.  The next time Granderson takes ball four in 2015, he will have his second consecutive 20 HR/70 BB campaign, which would make him just the tenth Met to have multiple seasons reaching both totals, joining Strawberry (1984-88, 1990), Johnson (1987-89, 1991), Todd Hundley (1996-97), John Olerud (1997-98), Edgardo Alfonzo (1999-2000), Robin Ventura (1999-2001), Wright (2005, 2007-08, 2012), Carlos Beltran (2006, 2008) and Carlos Delgado (2006, 2008).  You may know some of those players as among the best offensive stars in team history.

Granderson has two years left on the four-year, $60 million contract he signed prior to the 2014 season.  His first year left a lot to be desired.  But his second season has seen him lead the team's offensive charge in ways that have rarely been seen in club annals.  It remains to be seen how the rest of his tenure in Flushing will unfold.  But one thing is for sure.  Curtis Granderson is earning every penny of his contract this season.  He's regularly reaching base with hits and walks.  He's driving the ball out of the park.  He's running the bases with aplomb.  And he's hitting in the clutch, driving in his teammates from a spot in the batting order not usually known for its run-production.

The Mets owe their resurgence to a player whose renaissance couldn't have come at a better time.

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