Over the last few days, many Yankees fans have expressed frustrations over Giancarlo Stanton. That’s fair. His recent stretch of play has left a lot to be desired. That said, a growing chorus of observers have questioned if acquiring the superstar was a good idea in the first place. Some latched on to a paper-thin rumor and advocated for trading him to the Dodgers at season’s end. Let’s pull back from the frenzy, take a breath of fresh air, and recognize how lucky the team is to have Stanton.
Contrary to popular belief, Stanton has hit very well this year. This fact somehow gets lost in discussions about him. Maybe it’s his season stats. Following Wednesday night’s game, the 28-year-old posted a .264/.339/.499 triple-slash with 33 home runs. His 124 wRC+, in particular, has become a talking point, as it situates him among the likes of Jose Martinez and Michael Brantley. They’re fine batters, but Stanton should be more impressive, right? Upon a closer examination, it turns out he is.
Instead of taking a holistic view of Stanton’s season, it’s more illuminating to break it down into its component segments. Doing this allows observers to have a better grasp at how impressive Stanton has been in the Yankees’ lineup. I separated the season to date into three categories. There’s his April slump, the summer success, and now a September drop-off.
Giancarlo Stanton’s 2018 Batting Stats
|3/29 - 4/30||128||.230||.313||.425||9.4||33.6||.195||99|
|5/1 - 8/31||469||.288||.360||.549||9.6||28.8||.261||141|
|9./1 - 9/12||43||.105||.186||.184||9.3||41.9||.079||-2|
These are admittedly rough and arbitrary endpoints. They illustrate a few trends, though. First, for the majority of the season, Stanton hit at close to his baseline levels. That 141 wRC+ from May through August fits in what one would consider typical Stanton production.
He proved a workhorse during this stretch, at one point making 81 consecutive starts. He carried the team offensively in the absence of Aaron Judge, even doing so while nursing a bad hamstring. Still, folks want to write him off as a streaky hitter, citing his performance in April and September to prove their point.
As Josh mentioned at the Pinstripe Alley headquarters recently, it takes time for players to adjust to a new league. The evidence corroborates this theory, as explained in a 2013 FanGraphs study. That makes it difficult to complain about the slow start. Stanton had to catch up to the junior circuit before he could take off. It’s not like he was terrible in April either, just a touch below league average. With that in mind, one could argue that September is the first time he’s slumped all season.
There’s another conversation running concurrent to the individual season breakdown worth mentioning, and of course it has to do with Boston. Any discussion of Stanton will inextricably be linked to the Red Sox signing of J.D. Martinez. Boston signed Martinez to a five-year, $109.95 million contact during spring training. The 31-year-old has rewarded them with an MVP-caliber .329/.400/.629 batting line with 40 home runs. His 170 wRC+ places him in Mike Trout and Mookie Betts territory. Accordingly, many fans believe the Yankees should have pursued him instead of Stanton. They think the Bombers would have received a better player for a fraction of the cost.
Except that’s not how that would have worked.
The Red Sox landed Martinez at that price because they were the market. No other team seriously pursued him, save for a late push by the Diamondbacks. Boston, however, was in control from the moment Martinez hit free agency.
If the Yankees had interest, agent Scott Boras would have turned the process into a high-stakes bidding war. He would have pit two of baseball’s financial giants against each other. Martinez probably would have been paid far more than his current deal, and there’s no way the 2018 Yankees would have gone for that. They avoided pricey free agents because of their commitment to clear the luxury tax threshold. Boston, under the guidance of Dave Dombrowski, had no such concerns.
Martinez has the advantage this year. He’s having an all-time great season. At the same time, he’s three years older than Stanton. Kento touched upon this earlier in the summer, when he explained that there are many reasons to prefer Stanton. They’re pretty darn convincing.
I get why people are frustrated. Stanton’s slumping right now, and the Red Sox are fielding a team unrivaled in recent memory. Let’s keep things in perspective, though. Stanton represents a generational talent, someone whose floor is a 124 wRC+ campaign. His ceiling? One of the greatest power hitters in the history of the game. The Yankees didn’t make a mistake by trading for him, and you bet they should hang on to him for the long haul.