2011 Marlins Season Review: Right Field

The Marlins season review rolls on today with a discussion on the Marlins' offensive MVP of the season, Giacarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton, aka Mike Stanton. This review will be the shortest of the series, not because Stanton deserves limited praise, but because I already fawned over him all too much when I called for him to receive an extension from the Marlins. The bottom line is that as good as his rookie debut in 2010 was, his first full season in 2011 was even better, and bright things are ahead for the team's best young player.

2011 - Mike Stanton 150 601 .262 .356 .537 .378 138 4.5 5.7

The Good

Where can we start with Stanton? Just look at the home runs, for one thing. Stanton hit 34 home runs in 601 PA in 2011, which ranked ninth in all of baseball. And his other power numbers were not shabby at all; he ranked third in ISO behind Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson, and he also ranked fourth in extra bases per hit (XB / H) behind Mark Reynolds, Granderson, and Carlos Pena. By any measure, Mike Stanton was one of the most powerful men in all of baseball.

We all knew he had a lot of power coming into his 2010 debut, as he had been rated as a true 80 in the 20 to 80 scouting scale in that department.. But it is amazing to see just how well he fits in among the elite. Stanton led the league in home runs per fly ball (HR/FB) rate in 2011, hitting a round-tripper in 24.8 percent of his fly balls. Usually, one would think this number may be on the fluky side, but in his case it fit right in with his 2010 number (22.9 percent) and looks comfortable next to a myriad of power hitter names. Names just behind him include Reynolds, Bautista, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Howard. Essentially, we are talking about a player who, since his debut in 2010, has already displayed power prototypical of the best sluggers in baseball. That is an exciting thing to say.

But that is not all. Not only has he maintained a prodigious power output, but he has also brought with him increasing plate discipline in the form of a bump in walks. Stanton walked in 11.6 percent of plate appearances this season despite a minimal change in approach. He also dropped his strikeout rate to 27.6 percent, which is right around the rate at which he struck out at the tail end of last season.

Of course, Stanton's ability on defense is also noteworthy. From the post regarding a future extension, I mentioned these accolades:

In fact, various defensive statistics have Stanton contributing between three and 20 (!) runs above average this season on defense, with an average estimate of 11 runs saved over the average right fielder this year. In addition, Marlins have voted on Tom Tango's Fans Scouting Report, and they have placed Stanton as the fourth-best right fielder in baseball. Similarly, the Fielding Bible just completed their voting and claimed that Stanton was the third-best right fielder.

When so many sources, observational and statistical alike, agree on the talent of a player, this would be a positive sign. Stanton is the real deal in right field, and his ability there will yield significant additional value beyond his prodigious bat in the years to come. It certainly did in 2011.

The Bad

If there is one thing to continue to be concerned about with regards to Stanton, it remains his strikeouts. Part of the problem continues to be a mediocre approach at the plate

Stanton Swing% Contact% Zone Swing% Outside Swing% Zone Contact% Outside Contact$
2011 46 67 66 31 82 41
2010 44 70 59 30 81 51

In many ways, one can say that Stanton was actually less disciplined at the plate than he was in 2011. How, then, did he manage to secure a better walk rate and decrease his strikeouts? It all lies in the percentage of pitches teams threw in the zone for him. In 2010, teams threw around 49 percent of the pitches he saw within the strike zone; that number decreased down to 44 percent in 2011. The reason is obvious: pitchers were more afraid of Stanton last season as opposed to 2010. With that sort of fear, he could have induced even better numbers in terms of walks and strikeouts had his contact abilities improved, but he actually made less contact with the ball last season. As you can see, he did swing more once the pitches entered the zone for him, but he continued to whiff mercilessly on out-of-zone pitches. The Marlins may have to work on his approach in terms of selectivity, because fixing a swing this strong may work to decrease his effectiveness on contact.

The Rest

Not many other players manned right field on a regular basis. Stanton did a miss a games with a hamstring injury, among other assorted injuries. but other players started only 13 games in place of Stanton in the outfield. The Marlins secured their right field spot firmly in 2011.

What do you readers of Fish Stripes think? How did Stanton perform in your eyes in 2011? How was his defense? Let us know.

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