No Yankee came into the 2020 season with more pressure than Giancarlo Stanton. After a good-but-not-great 2018, an injury-plagued 2019 and two underwhelming playoff performances, Stanton hadn’t lived up to his reputation in New York. Early on this year, it looks like Stanton is finally consistently performing at the level Yankees fans gushed over when they acquired him on that snowy weekend in December 2017.
Cooper evaluated Stanton’s excellent start last week, but Stanton has gone just 1-14 since. Blame the Pinstripe Alley jinx? Not quite. This mini “slump” is more about Stanton getting unlucky with his batted ball data than anything else. In fact, now that we have more games to stabilize Stanton’s raw data, it looks like 2020 could be the best version of Stanton the Yankees have ever had.
Stanton has only hit 22 balls so far this year entering Thursday, but just look at how his metrics compare to the rest of the league. He is consistently smacking the ball harder than just about anyone else in the bigs:
Stanton has always hit the ball extremely hard, but there are a few indicators here that he is more locked-in now than ever before. For one, his plate discipline has improved in the early going. Stanton has averaged a 27.8 chase rate over his career (MLB average is 28.2), but he has trimmed that figure to just 19.8 so far this year. His whiff rate has fallen as a result, down from his personal average of 34 percent to 27.8 this season.
Stanton is actually swinging less than he has before. So far this season, he’s only swinging at about one out of every three pitches. That seems like a pretty passive approach, but Stanton is actually only being thrown strikes on two out of every five pitches. When he is being thrown strikes, he’s capitalizing – he’s made contact on 82.9 percent of his strike zone swings, which is higher than his 76.7 percent average.
Basically, pitchers can’t win with Stanton right now. If they throw him strikes, he’ll pound them, but if they try to get him to chase, he’s not biting as much as he used to. Remember that fear that pitchers had facing Stanton back in 2017? It’s back in full effect in 2020.
What about that little slump recently, though? Over his 1-14 spell vs. Boston and Philadelphia, these positive outcomes in batted ball data and plate discipline haven’t changed. It would’ve been a minor cause for concern if Stanton’s whiffs dramatically increased, he was hitting the ball softer or was exhibiting poor plate discipline. However, none of those things have happened.
He has hit four balls more than 100 mph, but none of them were able to find grass for a base hit. He has struck out four times, but that’s within Stanton’s norms. His batting average over this stretch is just .071, but his expected batting average is .283. Now, expected results aren't the same as real results, but the takeaway here is that Stanton has just been a bit unlucky over this stretch. He’s still hitting like the same blistering line drive machine that he was during opening week, and is also working the count and generating walks.
Everyone knows that Stanton hits the ball hard; he’ll even do that when he is slumping. However, the fact that he’s doing it as a result of improved plate discipline – and not just brute strength and raw power – is an encouraging sign that Stanton is truly dialed in at the plate. If he’s not chasing pitches like he used to, the Yankees would be getting the best version of Giancarlo Stanton they’ve ever seen, and the rest of the league might not be able to handle it.