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Giancarlo Stanton's 2014 season in Marlins historical context

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Giancarlo Stanton just finished one of the best seasons in Miami Marlins history. Where does his year stand in the annals of the team's history, and is it the most deserving of an MVP award?

Rich Schultz

Thanks to a gruesome injury at the hands of a Mike Fiers fastball in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Giancarlo Stanton's 2014 season with the Miami Marlins is essentially over. Stanton still has his sights on returning in 2014, but the Marlins may have very little reason to risk him further in the final games of 2014. But even if they do, it likely will not be for very long this year, meaning that his season is essentially wrapped up.

Stanton had been an MVP candidate for much of the second half of the year, so it is worthwhile to ask the question of just how good this season has been compared to other Marlins seasons in the past. Stanton has been an amazing hitter all year long, he still paces the National League in home runs, and he has fully bounced back from a disappointing 2013 year. But when you compare his power-laden offensive season, how does it stack up to other Marlins years of the past? Let's rank Stanton's year in some categories of interest.

Offense

There are few Marlins seasons that were as powerful, both in terms of home run and overall output, than Stanton this year. Here are the top five Marlins seasons with at least 500 plate appearances by wRC+, which is a measure of the complete offensive statistic wOBA with park and league adjustments. The amount over 100 signifies that the batting line was that percentage better than the league average.

Player, Year PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Gary Sheffield, 1996 677 .314 .465 .614 .456 185
Giancarlo Stanton, 2014 638 .288 .395 .555 .403 158
Giancaro Stanton, 2012 501 .290 .361 .608 .405 156
Miguel Cabrera, 2006 676 .339 .430 .568 .415 153
Carlos Delgado, 2005 616 .301 .399 .582 .407 152

No shame losing to Gary Sheffield's 1996 season. That batting line was one of the top 20 best hitting lines in all of baseball since 1993, ranking at 15th overall. Nineteen of those 20 batting lines happened during the Steroid Era; only Miguel Cabrera's 2013 campaign cracked the list. Asking Stanton to do something that significant defies all logic.

Did you know that in 1996, Sheffield walked almost 2.3 times more than he struck out? That's absurd.

But second place is no shabby feat, and that is especially true when you beat your own record. Stanton's 2012 season used to be the old pace next to Sheffield, but his 2014 stands to beat it out by just a smidgen. Both seasons were equally fantastic, but while 2012 was mostly about the home runs (37 in 501 plate appearances), this year's season was about Stanton's improving plate discipline. Because teams were more and more wary of pitching to him, his on-base percentage skyrocketed, and even after discounting his intentional walks, this is Stanton's second-best walk rate in his career. He has upped his game in a new but entirely successful way.

Wins Above Replacement

The same can be said of Stanton's game in terms of Wins Above Replacement. This is one of the best seasons in Marlins position player history.

Player, Year PA fWAR bWAR Avg WAR
Hanley Ramirez, 2009 652 7.1 7.3 7.2
Hanley Ramirez, 2008 693 7.1 6.7 6.9
Cliff Floyd, 2001 629 6.5 6.6 6.5
Gary Sheffield, 1996 677 6.5 5.9 6.2
Giancarlo Stanton. 2014 638 5.8 6.4 6.1
Miguel Cabrera, 2006 676 6.4 5.8 6.1

The company Stanton holds here is also nothing to scoff at. The most likely forgotten season in this list is probably Cliff Floyd's somehow anonymous 2001 season, during which he hit a career-best .317/.390/.578 (.400 wOBA) with 31 home runs. It was also one of Floyd's only fully healthy seasons during his prime with the Marlins.

The other four seasons listed here are well-remembered. Hanley Ramirez's back-to-back MVP-caliber campaigns were spectacular and dotted with an amazing balance at the plate along with acceptable shortstop play. Sheffield's season was all about the bat.

Stanton's year was somewhere in between. He was better at the plate than all of these players except for Sheffield, though not by a whole lot. He was good defensively, but graded at right about average for a right fielder so far this year. Still, his health has helped him defensively in much the same way it helped the chronically injured Floyd, as it gave him back the defensive value he lost in previous seasons.

MVP Consideration

The last interesting thing to note is how well each of these seasons did in the final MVP voting. Some of these campaigns did not occur during years in which the Marlins were competitive, which put a damper on MVP talk. Only one player had a better batting line in either league than Sheffield in 1996, but he finished behind five players in the National League MVP voting. Similarly, Miguel Cabrera finished fifth in the MVP voting in 2005 and 2006 despite having a team in the race and having contending numbers.

Ramirez had three trips in the MVP voting with Miami, and he remains the player with the single highest finish in Marlins history. In 2007 and 2008, he finished at or just outside the top 10, but his batting title victory in 2009 helped propel him to a second-place finish that year. Given that, on average, it appears to be perhaps the best Marlins season in history, it makes sense for that to receive the most consideration.

How will Stanton fair this year? Most sources had Stanton at second behind Clayton Kershaw (though some said otherwise), and you have to figure at this point that Stanton will end up a bridesmaid now that one of his major advantages over Kershaw, health and playing time, have been mitigated. With Miami likely to fall out of contention without Stanton around, the Fish will have a hard time making his case over the spectacular short season Kershaw offered.

Still, a second-place finish is not out of reach, even with Andrew McCutchen playing for a Wild Card Pittsburgh Pirates team right now. Either second- or third-place seem all but wrapped up, but Stanton still has an off chance of winning the award, which would be another record mark for a record-breaking Marlins career.