Giancarlo Stanton has often dealt with critics in his first couple seasons with the Yankees. Despite what those people may have said regarding striking out too much, whatever else, he never really should’ve gotten boos for his performance. When healthy from 2018-20, he put up a 132 OPS+. That not quite as good as his MVP heyday with the Marlins, but he was still very, very effective at the plate.
His problem so far in his Yankees career has mostly been health. After playing basically all of the 2018 season, he played just 18 regular season games in 2019 and appeared in less than half of the already shortened 2020 campaign. Even with that, he still produced, and played an especially important role in the Yankees’ 2020 playoff run.
In 2021, the quality of Stanton’s season didn’t need any qualifiers. He was just straight up good.
2021 Statistics: 139 games, 579 PA, .273/.354/.516, 136 OPS+, 137 wRC+, -2 OAA, 2.6 fWAR
2022 Contract Status: Entering eighth year of 13-year contract
The Yankees have dealt with injury problems that went well beyond Stanton in recent years, and as a result, they made changes with the training and health regimens, bringing in Eric Cressey. Whether or not it was solely down to that is unknown, but Stanton did stay healthy all season. As mentioned, when he’s healthy, he produces. As a result, Stanton put up a very good season at the plate.
Stanton’s 2021 was highlighted by a couple ridiculous hot streaks. From April 23rd to May 6th, he hit .481/.509/.904, with six home runs and five different games where he recorded at least three hits. He hit a home run in all of the final four games of the Yankees’ 13-game win streak, including this monster shot in Oakland:
Then of course, there was the crucial September series in Fenway where he went 7-for-12 with three home runs, powering the Yankees to a sweep. He was also one of the few bright spots in the Wild Card Game loss, going 3-for-4 with a home run and a couple shots that might’ve been in other stadiums.
Unsurprisingly, he topped or finished quite high up on all the various Statcast hard hit stats. Sure he had some slumps, but in general everything averaged out to a very good 2021 for Stanton. The big negatives against him this year also probably didn’t have as much to do with him as they did with the organization.
Perhaps in an effort to keep him healthy, the Yankees seemed pretty focused on two things with Stanton: keeping him at DH and giving him lots of rest days. As a result, he only actually appeared in 139 games on the season despite only a brief injury in an otherwise healthy year.
The DH thing in particular became an issue late in the season. After the acquisition of Anthony Rizzo, it seemed like the Yankees’ best possible offense included Luke Voit at DH and Stanton in right field, where he was rated a bit below average, but was far from some sort of mess. The Yankees ran that out a few times, but probably not enough. In general, it took them far to long to try Stanton in the outfield. Not that they necessarily had to play him for 150 games there, but tethering him to DH affected the versatility of them considering the roster makeup. That’s somewhat evidenced in his final FanGraphs WAR total, which was just 2.6 despite his impressive season at the plate.
The 2021 season was a proof of concept for Stanton for a couple things: he stayed healthy, he can play the outfield, and he is still one of the most fearsome hitters in baseball. Hopefully he can do all that and more next season.