Hey, did you hear that Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton hit another home run last night? Yeah, he did.
That home run by Stanton, measured at a true distance of 371 feet, was one of two relatively cheap shots that have come in short ballparks as of late, though this one was more of the towering variety at least. Nevertheless, Stanton muscled up another one and tied his career best of 34 homers in a year set last season.
At this stage, home runs should come as no surprise to readers here at Fish Stripes. Giancarlo Stanton hits a lot of them, indeed. And part of the reason why he is hitting so many of them is because he is knocking balls on the ground a lot less than he was before. Before the 2012 season, he had hit balls on the ground in 43.0 and 45.2 percent of his batted balls in 2010 and 2011 respectively. That percentage has dipped to 36.7 percent in 2012, and that has been replaced with more fly balls and more home runs, both yielding him opportunities to get out of the park.
But even despite the increase in home runs, Stanton's power display has been extra impressive. In this season, he has hit a bomb in 29.6 percent of his fly balls hit, and that it seems puts him in rarefied company when it comes to player-seasons since 2002.Homer-Laden Seasons
Here are the top 20 home run seasons in terms of home run per fly ball (HR/FB) rate since 2002 according to FanGraphs. Alongside those numbers are the home run rates per ball in air, which includes line drives.
These are some of the best home run seasons in the past decade, and Stanton's name fits quite nicely alongside them. Stanton's HR/FB rate ranks tied for 12th among these player-seasons, along with Barry Bonds's 2003 season. Just think about that: in one of Bonds's best seasons, he hit 45 homers when he was given the opportunity, and Stanton is matching Bonds's prowess in terms of power. When you add line drives to the equation, Stanton's status stands tied for 10th among these players.
Here is what interests me about this season. For a couple of players on this list, their appearance was rather fluky. Shawn Green had two seasons in which he was as power-laden as the players listed. Travis Hafner had one. Jack Cust faded away after two years. Only Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez, and Jim Thome appear on this list as names with a strong track record for power success. Thome and Howard are particularly interesting because they appear on this list the most and have been some of the most powerful hitters in baseball in the last few years according to HR/FB rate. Stanton's name has also been alongside those two, so comparing him to the most prominent power hitters of the decade seems entirely prudent given Stanton's success thus far in his career.
This is especially true given the fact that, of all the players listed, Stanton is the youngest. No player other than Stanton on this list was younger than Ryan Howard's 26 years of age in his MVP season of 2006. Stanton is just 22 years old in 2012, meaning that he still has much of his career to go. There is a very good chance that this season, as absurdly good as it has been, is not necessarily a career-year fluke but one of many good seasons that are at least close to this caliber.
Finally, you will note that only two of these seasons, Dunn's and Stanton's 2012 years, have occurred since 2009, when the run-scoring environment began to fall. Only two more player-seasons occurred in that time period in the top 30 of this list. Since 2009, players have begun to fall in terms of power, and fewer monster home run seasons have been witnessed. Home run power is becoming rarer or more difficult, and yet Stanton is succeeding in a time in which the odds are more stacked against him than his predecessors. That means that, if he can continue this kind of production, his power may be more valuable than the stuff shown in the past.
Yes, Giancarlo Stanton still has flaws in his game, as we pointed out yesterday. But you know what? His power has reached an echelon which few baseball players can reach. He has a true gift in power, and it is going to be a blast to watch in the years to come.