While the entirety of the baseball world wants to know whether or not the Marlins are going to trade Stanton, the Man himself seems to be focused on one thing: hitting dingers. On Monday night against the Texas Rangers, Giancarlo Stanton peppered the yard at Globe Life Park, yacking a Martin Perez fastball over the left field fence in the 1st, and then taking a Jeremy Jeffress heater out to right-center in the 8th. Stanton’s performance against Texas would give him his 7th multi-home run game of the year, and would bring his home run total to 32 — the same number hit by the oft-compared, similarly statured Aaron Judge.
The big night brings the big man’s line for the season to .274/.360/.596. Stanton is sporting a weighted on base average of .393, and wRC+ of 142, meaning that after accounting for league and park factors, he is creating runs at a rate of 42% better than the league average. He’s accrued a modest WAR of 2.7 so far for the year, and has been worth 3.64 context neutral wins to the Fish. And while 2017 is not (yet) Stanton’s most valuable season, it has the potential to become something special.
If you can recall, Giancarlo endured a routine cold streak in the beginning of May. A small slump that coincided with a 7-22 losing skid for the Marlins, Stanton from May 9th to May 24th only amassed a wOBA of .314 and created runs at a rate 9% below average. The team’s early skid predicated the their current position as deadline sellers, and as Stanton and the boys scuttled, Judge-mania took over. While Judge on May 24th had only hit four more home runs than Stanton, he had nearly .100 points of WAR on him and was 69% better at creating runs. Nice.
In the last 30 days however, in addition to hitting the most home runs, Stanton possesses the top Isolated Power average at .478. In this span, he has slugged .756 and garnered a wRC+ of 180. He has been even better in the last week, hitting four home runs in seven days and sporting a .456 wOBA. As a result, despite having a head start in the wake of Stanton’s slow May, Aaron Judge now shares the lead in the home run race with Papa Giancarlo.
The secret to Stanton’s recent success is no secret at all — it is actually more like the middle space of the proverbial Giancarlo Stanton BINGO card. If you haven’t noticed it yourself or heard Todd Hollandsworth or Preston Wilson give their take, Giancarlo Stanton has made the adjustment of closing his stance. You don’t have to write the book on batting mechanics to understand the science — Giancarlo Stanton is a big man. Stanton doesn’t have to swing as hard as the average mortal man to make the ball fly out of the yard. With that being said, Stanton’s Achilles heel has been located in his front shoulder. In what I can only assume to be his steadfast attempt to hit a ball through the operable glass wall in the left field of Marlins Park, Giancarlo has historically had the tendency to over-swing, peeling his front shoulder out prematurely, and removing his bat barrel from the hitting zone in attempt to pull the baseball. When Giancarlo is peeling his shoulder out, he is prone to strike out on any given slider.
But having conspicuously moved his front foot in his batting stance closer to the plate than his back foot, Stanton has made his swing more compact without compromising any power. With his front shoulder locked into place, G is staying on the ball longer, and is squaring up both inside and outside pitches. Additionally, Stanton locking his feet in the closed position denies him the burden of a first step. In stark contrast to the leg-kick, closing his stance simplifies his swing, and allows him to just focus on getting the barrel to the ball. The results are clear as day — anything on the inner half simply doesn’t stand a chance at staying in the yard. The ability of Giancarlo to make such an adjustment to his stance without losing any power is one that not many other batters possess. But while Stanton has always excelled at yanking home runs to left, it was his home run against Jeremy Jeffress on Monday night that best illustrated his newfound swing efficiency; although Jeffress painted the inside half of the zone, Stanton was able to keep his hands back completely and inside-out the ball to right-center field. This is the essence of the perfect Giancarlo swing: by not peeling out with his left shoulder, he is benefiting from increased plate coverage, leading to more barrels and less soft contact. Compared to his aforementioned May skid, in the last 30 days, Giancarlo is making 8% less soft contact — 8% that is getting reallocated into medium and hard contact. Instead of guessing on fastballs, Giancarlo can now trust his hands, let the ball get deep, and let his superhuman strength take care of the pitch, whether that be volleying an inside fastball off of the scoreboard in left, or taking the middle-away heater out to right-center.
It’s almost common knowledge at this point that the Marlins are sellers. However, after just leaving the confines of Marlins Park, they have started their road trip 3-1. It’s a bittersweet feeling for the Fish Faithful; the integral cogs in the Marlins machine seem to be finally shaking off their rust. JT Realmuto has quietly been one of the best hitters in baseball in the last 30 days, (.355/.410/.513 .393 wOBA 142 wRC+), the bullpen is pitching well, and Jose Ureña and Dan Straily have been gritty innings eaters. Still, it may be “too little too late,” as the Marlins remain 10.5 games out of the Wild Card Game, and have already shed two members of their core for six prospects.
If nothing else, the Marlins will still have G. Despite the rumors, popular belief in Marlins Nation is that Mr. Loria will leave it up to new management to cross Stanton off the budget. But more importantly, this season, Giancarlo has just 11 home runs to go before becoming the single-season record holder for the Marlins franchise, and then seven more after that to become the Marlins first 50-home run hitter. Given Stanton’s enlightened hitting approach in the last month, and the fact that 46.4% of his fly balls are consequently landing over the fence (and assuming Stanton stays healthy), both benchmarks are not unreachable in the slightest.
Until then, Giancarlo’s name will be inextricably tied to Aaron Judge’s atop the leader boards in home runs. The showdown between the two sluggers alludes to the overused western movie ultimatum: “This league ain’t a big enough for the both of them.” In the end, someone will take the crown. Although the Marlins chances to win it all seem to be fading, they have their own legitimate claim to the Dinger Throne in King Stanton, and as long as pitchers test his ability to hit the inside fastball, they will do nothing but strengthen that claim.
All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs