Giancarlo Stanton Is Finally Living Up to His Elite Power Potential
Since debuting for the Miami Marlins in 2010, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton hasn't allowed us to forget that his massive frame is awfully good at hitting monster home runs. While he entered this year with three 30-plus homer campaigns under his belt, we've been waiting to see what happens when he puts it all together.
He's only played in more than 140 games twice during this period, but the closest we've come to seeing Stanton and put his elite power on display for an entire year was in 2012, when he launched a career-high 37 bombs to go along with an Isolated Power (ISO) of .318 in just 501 plate appearances (123 games played). After somewhat of a slow start in the first half of this year -- along with being overshadowed by a ridiculous three-and-a-half month stretch from New York Yankees rookie and fellow behemoth, Aaron Judge -- Stanton has finally shown us what he's capable of.
He did have 26 homers and a .295 ISO prior to the All-Star break, but he's completely gone off in just 121 plate appearances since the midsummer classic, slugging 16 taters while compiling an eye-popping .539 ISO. And if it feels like he's hitting a homer just about every night, that's because he is -- Stanton has collected 9 homers in his last 10 games and 21 over his last 33.
The slugging outfielder now has 42 bombs on the year, which has tied a franchise record and is already a new career high, while his .354 ISO is also on pace to be his best ever.
The Changes You Can Easily See
Stanton doesn't exactly stand out like a sore thumb among power hitters with regard to plate discipline -- he entered this year with an 11.7% walk rate and 28.5% strikeout rate for his career. When that's paired with 141 wRC+, .380 wOBA, and .273 ISO, that's not too shabby. However, after posting a career bests in walk rate (14.7%) and strikeout rate (26.6%) for a single season in 2014, he started heading back in the wrong direction.
Between 2015 and 2016, his collective walk rate (10.7%) and strikeout rate (29.8%) were the worst they've been since his rookie campaign. Through 490 plate appearances this year, though, he's taken a step back in the right direction. While he is walking more often (11.4%), the bigger difference has come in his strikeout rate, which is currently 23.9%, on pace to be a new career best.
And when we compare his chase rate (O-Swing%), swings inside the strike zone (Z-Swing%), the corresponding contact rates, and swinging-strike rate (SwStr%) since 2015, it's clear to see why he's having success in this particular department.
So, we have a trend going on here -- he's chasing fewer bad pitches and has transferred that into going after more in the strike zone. As a result, he's making more contact than he has in recent memory. And for someone like Stanton, who is among the best in the league with regard to hard-hit rate -- his 42.1% mark from 2010-16 was tied for second among qualified hitters -- this kind of situation is ripe for a lot of damage to be done.
Which is exactly what he's done.
The Changes You Can't See as Easily
What Stanton has done with regard to his actual approach at the plate is apparent, but it doesn't look so black-and-white upon peeking at his batted-ball profile. If we take a look at his numbers since 2015, the outfielder's current 42.1% ground-ball rate, 40.8% fly-ball rate, and 38.9% hard-hit rate this year are all on pace to get worse for the third consecutive season.
Meanwhile, he's still managed a 33.1% home-run-to-fly-ball ratio, which is on pace to be a career high and only the second time it's been above 30.0%.
Those overall numbers don't look very favorable, but it looks a whole lot different when broken down by month. The below table shows how his ground-ball rate (GB%), fly-ball rate (FB%), soft-hit rate (Soft%), and hard-hit rate (Hard%) have progressed since April.
Whew, this month has been insane in the membrane so far.
As we can see, there was a two-month stretch between May and June that are dragging down Stanton's batted-ball profile. Outside of that, he's been his usual self, and it shouldn't be surprising that he's mashed 21 homers with a .522 ISO over his last 163 plate appearances. Having a 48.0% fly-ball rate and 46.0% hard-hit rate during this time makes it a lot easier, ya know.
It remains to be seen just how far this hot streak will carry Stanton through the end of this season. Marcell Ozuna seems convinced his teammate can somehow hit 70 homers, which is, um, insane in the membrane. However, now with 250 career homers, he is setting himself up nicely moving forward in that particular department. All he needs to do is stay relatively healthy.
We've been waiting for Stanton to put together a season like this since debuting in 2010. It's take a little longer to happen that many might have thought, but that doesn't take away from how jaw-dropping his performance has been.