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Giancarlo Stanton is having trouble timing up the heat

The slugger has not looked the same since his return, what’s behind the struggles?

MLB: New York Yankees at Milwaukee Brewers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that Giancarlo Stanton has struggled mightily since his return from the injured list in late August. He has looked visibly lost in the box at times, and hasn’t been close to the hitter he was prior to this stretch. As it stands now, Stanton would be in the midst of the worst (still a 110 wRC+) offensive season of any length he’s put up over the course of his major league career. Fastballs in particular* have been giving him fits, really for most of this season, and has looked especially lost against them in this recent slump.

*Note that the walk-off slam last night, while incredible, came on a changeup.

Up until his injury trouble, Stanton was one of the most important parts of this lineup, and was producing like a middle of the order bat. That production was not maintained once he came off the shelf last month however, and he just hasn’t looked the same.

Until July 23: 328 PA, .228/.309/.498, 24 HR, 127 wRC+

August 25-present: 78 PA, .130/.231/.232, 2 HR, 37 wRC+

His performance against fastballs has shown much of the same for the slugger. Prior to his trip to the IL, he had a .332 wOBA against heaters — still not great, but the point here is that since his return that number has been a paltry .205. It wasn’t great to begin with, for reference he had a .420 wOBA against fastballs last season, but it has been a visible problem for Stanton since he’s come back. Even just watching live it can be seen that the he’s getting beat pretty bad by the heater more often than you’d like, and the numbers vindicate that.

Stanton produces unique results when he hits the ball, as we’ve seen throughout his career, and thus has some unique mechanics to produce them. He naturally has a big swing, one that’s prone to some swing-and-miss, and the occasional slump that might look worse than others. This recent stretch has been no exception.

Here a couple of good swings Stanton had on fastballs from May, the best month he’s had this season:

And here a few from more recently, amid his struggles with the heater:

In the first two swings, ones that produced hard-hit extra-base hits, Stanton’s feet seemed to be in sync with his upper body, producing a swing that was one fluid motion. In the other two, it seems that his front foot gets down a tick later, which could be a big part of the reason he seems to be getting beat so often. And the motion as a whole looks choppier and disconnected.

There is also his back foot, and the eventual finish of his swings. Particularly on the first of the bad swings shown above, his back foot flies away from the plate on his swing. He always has some movement there, as do a lot of players, but that much likely can’t do anything other than throw off timing and balance. And the end result of many of his recent whiffs see him almost falling away from the plate, something much different from when he’s at his best.

Any time Stanton has been on the field in his major league career, he has been an excellent hitter, capable of doing things almost no one else is. If anything, he is a hitter prone to some extraordinary highs, and some real lows. Talent like that doesn’t just disappear, but as a Yankee team with their fair shar of holes in the lineup approaches the postseason, getting the sometimes otherworldly Stanton back at the right time would be a huge boost.

All cited statistics were accurate as of the beginning of play on September 20th.