Giancarlo Stanton had a disappointing season for the Yankees, considering the expectations tied to such a powerful hitter. Even though he managed 31 home runs in 452 plate appearances, he hit .211/.297/.462 with a 113 OPS+, compared to his career average is 141. He got hurt midseason, and then fell into an ugly slump near the end of the season after returning from the injured list.
In the last handful of games of the regular season, however, Stanton finally showed some signs of life that may mean he is about to return to form. If that happens, the Yankees offense could go from good but top-heavy to excellent in a hurry. He has that kind of potential, the kind that could change the texture of the Yankee lineup all on his own.
Let’s put it this way: Stanton is perhaps the wild card of the Yankees postseason run. Everybody knows what to anticipate from Aaron Judge, and other hitters such as Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres have a somewhat stable expectations for their offensive output. However, if Stanton catches fire like he has in past playoff runs, he can elevate the offense all on his own, lengthening the lineup and raising its ceiling immediately.
Having Stanton in a groove makes the Yankees lineup much, much more dangerous from every standpoint. Knowing how well he has performed in past postseasons, if he can instill that fear in opposing pitchers, the Yanks’ offense will be in good shape.
The slugger, despite a horrible second half that saw him post a .582 OPS, closed out the season strong with home runs in his last three games. His slump was so ugly that even despite that short outburst, he slashed .165/.266/.367 in his last 30 games, but it’s likely he was bothered by the Achilles injury he sustained to some extent.
In these last three games, he appeared to be more in control of the zone, making better swing decisions and hitting the ball with authority. The sample size is obviously not nearly big enough to declare him back to being in top form, but it’s a start, and a ray of hope for Yankees fans looking to watch the same imposing hitter that could dominate a playoff series like he did in 2020 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
As a reminder, Stanton – who is reportedly working toward outfield drills – has hit .297/.373/.734 with nine home runs, 17 RBI and a 1.108 OPS in 18 playoff games since 2018, all with the Yankees. Four of those home runs came in a five-game ALDS against the Rays in 2020, in which he slugged 1.000 and consistently punished top-tier playoff pitching.
The Cleveland Guardians, the Yankees’ foe in the ALDS, have a quality pitching staff headlined by an ace (Shane Bieber) a very good “1A” in Triston McKenzie, and a rock-solid bullpen that is as good as what the Yankees can boast at this point. If Stanton can get hot at the right time, though, he will make these pitchers’ lives much harder than if he hits like his entire second-half version. The problem with the current Yankee lineup is that it kind of runs out of threats after the top three or four. If Stanton can return near his peak, suddenly, the Yankees will have one of the most terrifying top four or five in the game.
Stanton is, in essence, the Yankees’ not-so-secret weapon. He is like a sleeping giant who, if he wakes up, can wreak havoc and decide a series in New York’s favor. Will he be able to do it? We’re about to find out, starting tonight.