To think the New York Yankees are better off without Giancarlo Stanton is a farce. The New York media and Yankees fans can combine to form a ruthless union, but the rumblings of Stanton being expendable due to his recent absence are laughable.
First and foremost, Stanton is on pace to become a Hall of Famer, with career seasonal averages of 43 home runs, 33 doubles, 109 RBI, and a .547 slugging and .905 OPS. A full season of fan favorite Brett Gardner, along with the surprising contributions of Cameron Maybin and Mike Tauchman, still don't equate to what Stanton brings to the table when he’s 100%.
There’s a reason why the Steinbrenners gave Brian Cashman the green light to acquire the 2017 NL MVP after a monstrous season where he hit 59 home runs and racked up 132 RBI while slashing .281/.376/.631. Numbers like that, accomplished in a lineup nowhere near as potent as the Yankees, are objectively terrifying.
Yankees fans have a knack for being die hard, savvy, and knowledgeable; those are the characteristics that personify the toughest and most demanding fanbase in baseball. But to say the Yankees are better off without Stanton is far from true. Alex Rodriguez, love him or hate him played a crucial role in the Yankees’ success for parts of two decades.
Just like Stanton, Rodriguez was acquired after an MVP season and saddled with enormous expectations. He failed in the postseason, a small sample size event in and of itself, and that earned him the unfair derision of fans. Remember that his contributions in the 2009 playoffs culminated in a World Series title.
Should the Yankees have won more when A-Rod occupied a roster spot? Sure, but there are so many other factors that produce a championship season. One player does not deliver a title in baseball, no matter their salary or acquisition cost.
As for Stanton, I think the deeper issue is his over-exaggerated stance. Although he’s mostly had a closed stance his entire career, it seems like coming to the Yankees with the temptation of the short porch and the expectation to put up numbers similar to his MVP campaign have caused him to chase a lot of pitches on the outside part of the zone, often striking out on sliders and breaking balls away because he commits too early. A glance at FanGraphs’ batted ball and plate discipline numbers reveals that Stanton’s chase rate increased in 2018, while his pull rate fell.
Even with a sub-optimal approach at the plate, in his first season with the Yankees Giancarlo, in a down year, put up 38 home runs and drove in 100 runs, an All-Star-caliber season for most around the majors. With key pieces from the lineup missing valuable time, Stanton came up big when the Yankees needed him, carrying the team during the absences of Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez.
Stanton, even in diminished form from his MVP season, still produced for the Yankees, and if he can make the adjustments necessary to get back closer to his peak, he could move the needle in the Yankees’ push for a World Series title. His poor October performance last year shouldn’t be held against him either. Look at Judge! Judge hit .050 in the ALDS in 2017, and struggled in the ALCS, but dominated in last October’s short run. Just as Judge bounced back from a bad playoff stretch, so too can Stanton.
Plus, this season we’ve seen Judge gradually improve his approach at the plate, cutting back slightly on chasing pitches and on his strikeout rate. Stanton has every opportunity to adjust as well, and given Stanton’s reputation as a tireless worker when it comes to his craft, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him tweak his game.
If Stanton returned to the Yankees as the player he was last year, he’d improve the team immediately. If he can return with a more refined approach, having examined his weaknesses from last season, he could more closely capture his peak form. Either way, this team is better with him than without him.