ARLINGTON -- Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson feels like he has room for improvement with his two-strike approach. He isn't happy with his strikeout totals, at least not in his recent stretch. Still, with two triples on full counts Monday night against the Rangers, he's showing some hits.
Though Granderson's statistics are a little smaller thanks to his season-opening stint on the disabled list, his outside chance at avoiding 100 strikeouts for the season is a relative feat for someone who racked up 315 over the last two seasons. He finished Tuesday with 77 strikeouts in 105 games. He was actually on a pace to avoid the century mark before 18 strikeouts in 18 games played so far this month. By comparison, he fanned just 18 times for the entire month of July.
"They seem to come in bunches," Granderson said. "If we were to look at this month compared with the rest of the season, I'm probably on pace for another 30-strikeout month."
Nonetheless, the secondary stats back up his cutback. His ratio of walks to strikeouts has risen this year to .57, by far the best in his big league career, and it improved further with two more walks and no strikeouts Tuesday. His swings and misses are down to the point where they account for just 14 percent of the strikes thrown against him, down from 16 percent last year and 20 percent in 2006, according to baseball-reference.com.
He's doing it at the same time that his plate appearances are actually getting longer. He's swinging at the first pitch in just under 10 percent of his plate appearances this year, a big drop from 15 percent last year and 25 percent two seasons ago. His average of 4.19 pitches per plate appearances also marks a career best and ranks fifth among American League hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title.
Those numbers all suggest he's making more consistent contact in two-strike situations, normally a sign of a hitter cutting down on his swing. However, he says he doesn't feel much different in those situations.
"Definitely not any more comfortable than I have been in the past," Granderson said.
Still, beyond the cutdown, he also has done more with those swings than simply putting the ball in play. After batting under .200 with two strikes in each of the last two seasons, he's up to .236 in those situations this year. Meanwhile, his .389 two-strike slugging percentage and .704 OPS are also career highs.
That includes Monday's triples, line drives into either outfield gap off of fastballs. The first of them, a seventh-inning three-bagger that put the Tigers in front for good, came on his only swing of the at-bat. An inning later, he recovered from a swing and miss at a Jamey Wright curveball to slap a fastball into left-center.
Granderson isn't going to celebrate avoiding 100 strikeouts if it happens, because he missed those games at the start. Still, he won't frown upon those at-bats, either.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.