The Miami Marlins have to be happy to get back the readjusted and power-hitting Giancarlo Stanton once again into their lineup. He had a typically strong July, batting .305/.371/.621 (.413 wOBA) with seven home runs to his name. While the return of an effective Stanton has been good to see, I was interested in figuring out why something particular to his batting line happened. It appeared as though Stanton was attempting to run a more contact-friendly approach, as evidenced by his 27.6 percent strikeout rate with a 7.6 percent walk rate. A drop in both strikeouts and walks typically means that a player is perhaps swinging more often and putting the ball in play more frequently.
That definitely appears to be the case with Stanton.
As you can see, Stanton is on a current streak in which he is swinging at everything. In the last 15 games, he has swung at a whopping 80 percent of pitches in the strike zone and 40 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. That is a huge number of swings, particularly given the fact that the approach against Stanton is essentially unchanged. Pitchers have not really budged from that 41 percent rate of pitches in the strike zone, yet Stanton’s approach has swung towards its most extreme value in some time.
It should be noted though that Stanton is making more contact too. In the last 14 days, he has made contact on 46 percent of pitches out of the strike zone, which is a little higher than his career rates. This has been offset, however, by a decrease in contact in the zone, and overall Stanton’s contact rate of 66 percent in the last two weeks is about on par for what he has done all season long. It just so happens that, because he is swinging more, more balls are entering play.
So what is the problem? Well, one might be concerned that Stanton is swinging so frequently that he is making contact on bad balls in play and not hitting them hard enough to garner hits. After all, he has not exactly lit it up for the last two weeks, as he is hitting .214/.283/.429 (.294 wOBA). Maybe he is rolling over a large number of ground balls?
Well, it turns out that probably is not the case.
|Last 14 days||6||50||31||69|
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All signs point to Stanton hitting the ball harder in the last few weeks as he has upped his swing rate. This is an interesting dichotomy, especially given the fact that he is hitting just .233 on balls in play in that same time period. It is very likely that Stanton is just “hitting them where they are” and running into a run of bad luck rather than suffering from this approach. He is now putting more balls in play and hitting them harder, which should eventually lead to better results.
At the same time, it is likely that this is not an approach you want to have for the long haul. Stanton had success last season in large part because he put up an enormous .341 ISO despite the rising strikeout rate. The two years before that, he got away with a more patient approach that struck out less and walked more, and that is how he buoyed an ISO around his career mark. Back in 2012, when he struck out 28 percent of the time and walked just nine percent of the time, he once again had a monster power run to help carry his line.
Stanton spent most of July working like he did in 2012. He walked and struck out less but mashed homer after homer, and that may be one way to garner success for him. He is still hitting the ball harder than anyone else in the game, so maybe it is just a matter of putting the ball in play. At the same time, this is not necessarily the first time Stanton has gotten aggressive in the last two years.
This may be the highest peak Stanton has reached, but he has had runs where he swings more often and has come down from there in the past. In the last two years, the highest in-zone swing rate he has ever posted was around 77 percent, occurring in 2014 and again earlier this year. It seems likely that this run will come down and he will readjust, because he has done it before.
Stanton so far has been swinging at everything this past month, and while the results have been less stellar than we would like, there is reason to suggest that it should have been better and that he will begin tinkering with his approach again. It has been a long and arduous season for Stanton, but he has found several ways to dig himself out of the trenches, and the Marlins will need him to do it for the rest of the year if they are to compete.