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The numbers speak well of Granderson

Curtis Granderson scores what turned out to be the winning run during the Yankees’ three-run sixth inning against Jon Lester. Curtis Granderson scores what turned out to be the winning run during the Yankees’ three-run sixth inning against Jon Lester. (Barry Chin/ Globe Staff)
By Bob Ryan
Globe Staff / August 6, 2011

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The numbers don’t lie. Or do they?

By all standard statistical measurement, Curtis Granderson is having a sensational year, perhaps even an MVP year. The 30-year-old Yankees center fielder entered last night’s game with the Red Sox first among American Leaguers in runs (98), tied for first in extra-base hits (55), first in triples (9), second in slugging percentage (.570), second in runs batted in (85), third in homers (28), and tied for second in total bases (232).

That would lead someone to ask if he’s ever swung the bat better.

“Actually, I’ve probably never swung it worse,’’ he claims. “I have not been as consistent as I’d like.’’

He went on to talk about his strikeouts, and let the record show that he began the night fourth in that category with 118. But neither he, nor Mark Reynolds (121), nor Austin Jackson (120), who replaced him as the Tiger center fielder, has any reason to fear leading in that category, not as long as Adam Dunn (139) is around.

The AL MVP award is shaping up as a Boston-New York battle, with Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, and, if his August and September rival his July, Dustin Pedroia all legit candidates, and Granderson very much in the hunt.

People who favor pitchers are also throwing in the name of CC Sabathia, who will take the mound this afternoon with a 13-2 record in his last 15 decisions, not to mention having surrendered just seven earned runs in his last 62 2/3 innings.

Along those lines, you can bet Tiger boosters are putting forth the candidacy of Justin Verlander. But that’s not going to happen. The 2011 AL MVP was at Fenway Park last night.

The argument for Granderson begins with his appearance at the top of so many offensive categories (and let’s not forget his 20 stolen bases). But dig deeper and you’ll find that he was clearly the best Yankee player at a time when many other regulars were off to bad starts.

The word “valuable,’’ as opposed to “outstanding,’’ is a completely subjective affair, but it would be hard to argue that Curtis Granderson, who contributed an RBI single in last night’s 3-2 New York win, has not been the most “valuable’’ Yankee, in addition to the most statistically proficient.

Granderson got rolling in April with 6 homers, 14 RBIs, and an OPS of .908. He was even better in May, with 10 homers, 26 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.016.

He did not perform at quite that level in June (.845 OPS) and July (.876 OPS), but he has picked it up of late, arriving here on a roll of 12 for 31, 4 doubles, 8 RBIs, and 7 runs in the previous seven games.

He shrugs all this off as simply being a product of his environment - i.e. Yankee batting order, including all the aforementioned, plus the ever-dangerous Robinson Cano and the speedy Brett Gardner. That’s nice and noble of him to say, but any man with 49 percent of his hits (55 of 113) going for extra bases is no accident of a lineup. He’s a tremendous hitter.

So the Yankees are getting exactly what they wanted when they went after Granderson as a replacement for Johnny Damon following the 2009 season. There were mixed reviews last year, when he battled through injury and took a while to get acclimated, finishing with 24 homers, 67 ribbies, and an OPS of .792.

At first, Granderson could hardly believe he was a Yankee.

“I was definitely surprised to be traded, especially after signing the deal I had just signed with the Tigers,’’ he says. “I thought I was going to be a Tiger for life.’’

Granderson was actually bummed out because he had spent a lot of time and effort becoming a part of the city and state communities. But he is pleased to report that things have taken shape nicely in his new locale. He has, among other things, a partnership with Louisville Slugger that provides bats for baseball and softball teams in the Public School Athletic League. And a new version of his children’s book, “All You Can Be,’’ will soon be available in bookstores.

The book is an especially important project for Granderson.

“When I was with the Tigers,’’ he explains, “we had the book illustrated by schoolchildren from Michigan. Now the revised version will be illustrated by schoolchildren from the five boroughs.’’

By the way, Granderson isn’t kidding about his own performance review. “I’ve had some good phases and some bad phases,’’ he maintains. “People look at the home runs and think that’s all there is to it, but I need to be more consistent.’’

That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it, but consider one more stat, this one resurrected from the Old Math of baseball. Twenty-five years ago, before any of us heard of OBP, OPS, and Adjusted This and Adjusted That, good old-fashioned Runs Produced was all the rage. You added someone’s RBI total to his runs, then subtracted homers. This gave you an idea of true offensive worth to the team, or so we thought. With 155 runs produced going into last night, Curtis Granderson was leading the league.

Old Math, New Math, In-Between Math, the man is having a great season, even if he won’t say so himself.

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