The Miami Marlins are well on their way to their second 100-loss season in team history, and with the team's lone true bright spot in Jose Fernandez out for the rest of the year after a spectacular campaign, there is very little to be happy about with the Fish. Marlins fans would be happier if Giancarlo Stanton were having a prototypical Giancarlo Stanton season at the plate, but he has struggled this year and the Fish have been left without much in the way of offense.
But the misconception that Stanton's entire 2013 season has been bad is a reach. Don't look now, but Stanton is quietly bouncing back from a rough start and putting on a solid second half. Take a look at these numbers.
That season line may not compare to his spectacular one from last year, but Stanton has slowly climbed the ladder towards a good year at the plate. While only a hot streak of epic proportions could bring Stanton back up to close to his 2012 level of play, a few more home runs in the next two weeks could easily pull his line up to his career mark, and that would be a tremendous accomplishment given the first two months of the season.
Oddly enough, Stanton had the exact same issue last season, to a lesser degree. He missed more or less one month with an injury. In two of the months he did play, he struggled to look good, particularly in April. Then, in the other three months, he played fantastic baseball. The difference is that last year, Stanton batted .343/.439/.769 (.495 wOBA) in his best month of May and hit .299/.356/.701 (.435 wOBA) in the second half that primarily included his amazing August and September months.
This season, his best month was in July, with June landing close, but neither even approaching his ridiculous months from last year. This year looked much more like his 2011 season, in which he had three good months with wOBAs of .393 (May), .383 (July), .431 (August), and .389 (September / October), amid two poor months.
The difference between those seasons and Stanton's year this year is that teams are approaching him more cautiously and he is simply accepting what they are giving him. Pitchers have thrown Stanton strikes at the third-lowest rate among players with at least 450 plate appearances, ahead of only Pablo Sandoval and Josh Hamilton. But Stanton has clearly adapted to that approach over the months.
In April, it seemed Stanton was confused as to what it was he should have been swinging at. In June, perhaps he made a concerted effort to swing at more pitches, but he could not discern the differences between pitches in and out of the zone. But in July and August, he took the approach that he probably should adapt for the rest of the year. Pitchers were throwing more and more pitches out of the zone, and Stanton responded by taking more balls than ever before. Even though this month has been closer to April, it does seem as if Stanton has made improvements on his approach across the season.
As a result of his improvement, particularly in July and August, Stanton has now posted his highest career walk rate and his lowest career strikeout rate thus far in 2013. He has his best OBP of his career right now despite the worst batting average of any season for his thus far. In terms of managing his plate discipline, this has been a watershed campaign for Stanton. After his 2010 rookie season, it would be difficult to imagine that Stanton would one day be fourth in the league in walk rate, but that is where we stand this season.
The only problem for Stanton right now is that his power is still lagging behind the rest of his game. In that area, Stanton has definitely struggled, and it is difficult to see just why that is the case. In his three good months, he was able to match or best his career ISO, but the two other months still leave cause for alarm. The Marlins are hoping that power sticks around throughout the year, but it may very well be that Stanton is a streaky hitter and needs hotter streaks than what he has accomplished this season.
Still, to say that Stanton's 2013 year was all bad is not true, and he has made strides to be a better player. The Marlins will need more from him next season, but given his improvement in plate discipline, it would not be far-fetched to expect more.