After three straight years of struggles at the start of the regular season, Giancarlo Stanton finally started off on the right foot for the Miami Marlins in 2014. He has had an impressive month with an impressive set of home runs, Stanton has not lacked for power so far, belting eight home runs and tacking on eight doubles for another in a long line of impressive months for a traditionally streaky hitter. How can you not enjoy things like this?
Even Tommy Hutton said it at the time: "the hottest hitter in baseball!"
But it turns out that there are many hotter hitters than Stanton so far this season. In fact, 40 qualified Major League players currently have a better batting line than Stanton's .269/.342/.565 (.377 wOBA). In fact, Stanton's batting line is nearly identical to his career line of .265/.353/.537 (.379 wOBA). Currently, Stanton's 2014 line is 41 percent better than the league average, while his career line is at 39 percent better than the average.
Based on what we had heard, you would think that Stanton was having a month akin to the May he had in 2012, but it turns out he has just performed about on part with his career performance. The perception of a hot start is just a mirage. The most apparent reason for fans to feel this way is because of Stanton's poor starts in April traditionally. Even with this line, Stanton owns a career .247/.332/.444 (.336 wOBA) in 365 career plate appearances. Given that he has never looked good in the month, any start better than before would appear hot.
It could very well be that Stanton's previous slow starts have been due to injuries that plagued him out of Spring Training. Each of the first three Aprils included injuries that occurred either in Spring Training or during the month of April, and those had always been rumored to be slowing down Stanton. This year, he has been healthy throughout the preseason and April and perhaps that is the reason why he has started off with his career norms.
But part of why I am not particularly excited about Stanton's start could very well be that I have been accustomed to excellence from him. As a star, I expect a red-hot start from a great player, and when you notice that he has "only" hit his career average, it feels like a disappointment. In light of talk about a streaky start, his career norms look less interesting, but when you consider that those averages are among the best in baseball, it puts his start into context. Since 2010, Stanton owns the 15th-best batting line in baseball by wRC+, right next to players like Paul Goldschmidt and Josh Hamilton. If an average start is still the 15th-best line in baseball over the last four-plus years, then who are we to complain as fans?
The Marlins got a better-than-usual April start from Giancarlo Stanton, but it was just average for his career. But average for Stanton is a whole lot better than anyone else on the Marlins' roster, and the Fish have to be happy to even receive that much offensive production on a club expected to be deficient in offensive talent. While I may not have found his start "hot" per se, I would take another five months of Stanton's Aprils without question.