Detroit — Can we take just a few minutes here to appreciate what Robbie Grossman is doing at the plate so far this season? Baseball fans around here haven’t seen much of this in, well, maybe never.
On a team that strikes out more than any other (29.6%), chases pitches out of the strike zone more than any other (34.7%), swings and misses more than any other (13.9%) and ranks 25th in walks (7.9%), Grossman has been an antithesis, an outlier, a beacon of hope.
He owns the second-highest walk rate in baseball (18.4%, second only to the Dodgers’ Max Muncy) and the fourth-lowest chase rate (19%). His strikeout rate is up a bit from his standards (22%), but his swing-and-miss rate is 26th-lowest in baseball (6.7%).
“He’s a pro,” manager AJ Hinch said. “The way he goes about his business and prepares, the intensity he brings, the knowledge of the strike zone … There’s a lot to like about Robbie Grossman.”
You say, “Well, he’s only hitting .225.” And that just makes his overall production numbers that much more impressive. He has a113 OPS-plus and a wRC-plus of 116. His on-base average in .383 and an OPS of .734.
Do you how many Tigers hitters in the modern era have had an on-base average 150 points higher and an OPS 500 points higher than their batting average? One. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Mickey Tettleton in 1994 is the only other Tiger to do that, hitting .248 with an on-base average of .419 and an OPS of .882.
Grossman is one of only three players in the major leagues currently whose on-base and OPS are 150 and 500 points higher, respectively, than their batting average: Muncy and the Rangers’ Joey Gallo.
He showed the whole package Saturday in the Tigers’ 7-3 win over the Twins. He was on base five times. He set the tone with a lead-off home run in the first inning. He doubled, singled, walked and got hit by a pitch. He also made a key, run-saving catch to end the top of the seventh inning when the game was still tied.
“It’s easy to like him on a day like (Saturday),” Hinch said. “But there are days when things aren’t perfect and we like him on those days, too, because of what he brings to the club.”
There was a whole stretch of imperfect days for Grossman. He was as mired and scuffling as any of the Tigers for a two-week stretch in April. From April 18 to May 2, he hit .159 with a .296 on-base average with 14 strikeouts.
“You just keep showing up, staying positive and keep working and keep trying to get better,” Grossman said in the middle of that stretch. “I’ve been fighting with my swing, trying to get to a point where I feel balanced in my legs. Just continue to work.”
In his last six games, he slashed .304/.467/.552. Not surprisingly, as he picked it up, so did the Tigers’ offense. Over the last five games the club averaged seven runs, 10.8 hits and 4.8 walks.
“We’re just trying to put together good at-bats,” Grossman said. “Get guys on and good things will happen. Putting the ball in play more gives us more options to score runs. We did that, we’re putting together some games with that and we’re looking to continue to build on that.”
This is why the Tigers did for Grossman what they hadn’t done since 2016 — gave him a multi-year deal. They signed the 31-year-old this January for two years at $10 million to be the type of offensive catalyst and role model he’s been.
And it looks like he’s just starting to heat up. Grossman has been a notoriously slow starter, hitting .201 for his career in March and April. But as the weather heats us, so has Grossman throughout his career.
On deck: Royals
► Series: Three games at Comerica Park, Detroit
► First pitch: Tuesday-Wednesday — 7:10 p.m.; Thursday — 1:10 p.m.
► TV/radio: All games on BSD/97.1 FM
► Probables: Tuesday — TBA vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (2-3, 2.27); Wednesday — TBA vs. RHP Casey Mize (1-3, 4.41); Thursday — TBA vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (1-2. 4.74).
► Royals: They have not yet announced their pitching plans for the Tigers series.
► Boyd, Tigers: It will be 11 days between starts for Boyd, who left his last start on April 29 in the second inning with left knee tendinitis. This will be uncharted water for him. He’s only made one other start with this much rest, but he fared well, throwing 4.2 scoreless innings.