Giancarlo Stanton was supposed to carry this meager Miami Marlins offense in 2013, but like the rest of the franchise, he was unable to get a good grip on the offensive side of the ball. After a stellar 2012 season in which he hit .290/.361/.608 (.405 wOBA), fans were expecting big things from Stanton, as well as expecting a full season of his work.
The Marlins instead got none of those things. Stanton had the worst season since his rookie year in 2010, and it brought up a number of questions about his long-term future with the team.
For a typical player, Stanton did not have a bad year. His .249/.365/.480 line was 35 percent better than the league average. When corrected for park effects, it was equivalent to the lines of players like Adrian Beltre and Allen Craig this season. For any player, that would be a good season, especially for an offensively-starved team like the Marlins. No other Marlins player with more than 200 plate appearances managed better a .341 wOBA, and that hitter was a 21-year-old rookie who has important questions to answer for next season.
So why are we complaining and calling Stanton's season one of the things that went wrong. Well, Stanton failed to meet expectations in a serious fashion. Most projection systems had him doing big things in 2013. Before the year began, the FanGraphs fans projected Stanton would hit .279/.363/.579 (.394 wOBA) and expected a full season and 6.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), putting him among the best players in baseball. In reality, only eight players reached a mark higher than that projection, but Stanton was definitely not one of them. In that respect, his season was a major disappointment because he did not play at his expected star level.
Stanton, instead, was Adrian Beltre or Allen Craig, except he was injured and a liability elsewhere on the field. Stanton missed another month of playing time thanks to a hamstring injury, and that piled on to an already April start to form two bad months to begin the 2013 season. The injury may or may not have taken a toll on his play on the field, but the implications of a second straight season with a month of missed time have to concern the Fish about being "injury-prone."
When Stanton returned from the injury, he dominated for a stretch, but his offensive play never fully recovered. Unlike in seasons past, Stanton failed to generate the sort of power he was expected to pull off. His .231 ISO is the lowest of his career, with his previous low being in the 2010 rookie season. That year, he had a .248 ISO and we marveled that it took him just under 400 plate appearances to hit 22 home runs. In 2013, it took Stanton just over 500 plate appearances to notch 24 homers, which shows the drastic change in power that occurred this season.
The loss of power may have been due to a lack of adjustment from the way pitchers threw at him. Stanton received the fourth-fewest number of strikes among qualified players, only fewer than known mad hackers Pablo Sandoval and Josh Hamilton and the suddenly frightening Chris Davis. The Marlins right fielder rarely received juicy strikes this season, and this was a drastic change to the mostly average approach pitchers took the last few years. With no one else threatening in the lineup, Stanton saw very little in hittable pitches.
It is difficult to tell if that hurt him, but it certainly helped to make his batting line look better in the face of a falling BABIP and home run power. Stanton's 14.7 percent walk rate was fourth-highest in baseball, behind only Mike Trout, Shin-Soo Choo, and Joey Votto. Stanton's selectivity did improve, as he swung at a career-best 28 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone this year, down from his career 31 percent average. However, he made similar amounts of low contact this year, meaning he once again suffered from high strikeouts despite the decrease in swings.
Still, Stanton's offensive year would have been good for most positions. The problem was that he tacked on poor defensive performance along with disappointing offensive work. Stanton struggled at the start of the year defensively, and according to the metrics, those struggles continued when he returned from the hamstring injury. After being rated an elite option in right field by UZR and DRS, both systems had him seven or eight runs below league average. By the eye test, he made significant defensive missteps all throughout the year, from missing the cutoff man to misreading and taking bad routes to balls to falling short and letting balls squib past him. Many of those errors were mental in nature and could be fixed, but they were a scourge to his play this season.
This was a mostly forgettable year for Stanton, even though he was the team's best position player by a country mile. When the rest of your teammates are as terrible as the remaining Marlins position players, you tend to get graded on a curve, but Stanton was supposed to be at a higher plane than the others and he simply did not make the grade.