Think about your entire year. That’s a tough one, as most people have a tenuous relationship with time. A host of biases about the present, about our preexisting mental models, and preconceived notions about the conditions of the world shape how we visualize a year. It is more like an amorphous smattering of memories than a concrete representation of day 0 through 365 in sequential order.
Yet when you get to the following New Years’ Eve, and when you reflect on the past year, you can generally come up with a neat narrative on its trajectory in a way that makes sense. If you got promoted, for example—or, fired—the daily struggles of what led you to that moment are window dressing to the moment itself.
As circuitously as it seems, a human year is very much like a baseball schedule. Each day is a daily struggle—it’s the coworker you feuded with that may lead back to your supervisor, or the good job you did that will likewise make waves up the chain—and it all shakes out in whatever metric you use to assess your growth at work. In the working world it may be revenue or what-have-you, but baseball players use the back-of-the-baseball-card stats, and some advanced ones, to push forward their own career.
This brings us to Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton’s 2017 yearly review begins and ends with: “He won the National League MVP.” No one remembers the moments in between, except maybe his final push for 60 home runs. No, he did not have a month so far like this one at 98 wRC+, but he had some struggles, like a 111 wRC+ in high leverage situations, or a 73 wRC+ from June 17th to July 1st where he had .173 BA in 59 plate appearances.
He’s also had some horrid months in past years. Here is the number of months in each season where his wRC+ was worse than his current one:
- 2016: 3
- 2015: 1
- 2014: 0
- 2013: 0
- 2012: 1
- 2011: 0
- 2010: 2
So while I’m not going to say this is an above-average stretch, because it isn’t, I’m also not going to say this is some unforeseen event in Stanton’s career. Not to mention it’s only April 10th! If he swats a few home runs and hits at even a 120 wRC+ pace, it becomes “merely” a slightly-below-average stretch in what is likely to be a great season.
Sure, I understand the expectations. Yankees fans have been dying for a bona fide juggernaut for about 7 years or so, and with Stanton and Aaron Judge, they very well could have one. Right now, though, they’re going to deal with their struggles.
But as I mentioned, the biases we hold on to greatly inform of what we think of the year as a whole. It may be the first 10 games of the year, but them being the first is why people take note of it. When put this on a full-year calendar, much like how you structure your work year, 10 games out of 162, scaled to a 365-day year, would fall around January 23rd. I’m pretty sure if you’re a new hire, your boss isn’t booing you less than a month into the quarter.
This isn’t to say Stanton hasn’t actually struggled, or that this was a mere fluke. He has not looked good, and the reasons could be many: new opponents, a new and high-expectation city, cold weather, a closed stance that pitchers have adjusted to, or just pure randomness. I’m not going to excuse two five-strikeout games as an accident, though, because that would be foolish as well.
It’s a long work year for baseball players, too, and I’m not hitting the panic button until at least the All-Star Break. Even if we take into account his poor performance so far, here is how it has affected his pre-season to current Steamer projections:
- Pre-season: .286/.379/.653 (165 wRC+), 53 HR, 125 RBI, 5.7 WAR
- Updated: .274/.367/.631 (157 wRC+), 53 HR, 101 RBI, 5.7 WAR
Cool your jets, people. He’s going to be fine.