When a team enters a specific season with clear postseason aspirations and barely finishes with a .500 record, lots of things surely went sideways along the way. Injuries, depth issues, trades, and prolonged slumps are some of them. For the 2023 Yankees, the fact that so many hitters underperformed really took a toll on the offense.
Now, when trying to discuss the team’s least valuable player in 2023, a few names are worthy of consideration. Luis Severino and Carlos Rodón both posted an ERA over 6.00 (6.65 and 6.85, respectively), but both were injured for much of the year and neither surpassed 100 innings.
On the position player side, Josh Donaldson was awful during his time on the field, but was out with injury for the vast majority of the 2023 campaign, and DJ LeMahieu was at least able to post a .718 OPS.
That leaves us with Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees should be extremely worried about his 2023 performance, Stanton cannot provide much on defense or on the bases; if he’s not hitting, he becomes a problem.
Well, this year, he was a major problem. The aging slugger did hit 24 home runs in 415 plate appearances, but they came along with a horrible .191/.275/.420 line and a career-worst .695 OPS.
His OPS, in fact, has been trending down for a while: it was .870 in 2021, .759 last year, and .695 in the season that just ended. He has surpassed 400 trips to the plate in those three campaigns, a better record of health than in 2019-2020, but Stanton has not produced like the slugger of old when on the field.
Stanton still can run a strong ISO (isolated power) figure at .229, and his walk rate wasn’t bad, at 9.9 percent. When he is at his best, both figures are usually a bit higher, but his real problem was that horrible batting average that brings down the rest of his stats.
For the first time in his long career, Stanton was a below-average hitter in MLB, as his 89 wRC+ suggests. This stems from a horrible 29.9 percent strikeout rate (40.1 percent in 162 plate appearances since August 7) and his career-worst .210 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
We know that Stanton hits the ball hard and that increases his chances of getting base hits, but with such a high strikeout rate and precious few line drives (career-low 12.5 percent line drive rate, per FanGraphs), he probably won’t sniff .250 from this point forward if he keeps trending that way.
Analyzing Stanton from a pitch type standpoint, Stanton was a disaster against breaking balls (.270 wOBA, .299 xwOBA) and offspeed pitches (.178 wOBA, .242 xwOBA) while hitting .201 off fastballs.
Stanton will turn 34 in November, and that, coupled with his recent history of lower-body injuries and declining performance, has to be worrying the Yankees. They knew what they were signing up for in late 2017, though.
The player hasn’t stopped working even when he was in his worst stretch of the season, and that’s important. “A lot of things I have to work and adjust on. But if you guys just think I’m just showing up there and going out and not working then I don’t know what to tell you,” he recently stated.
However, for a guy who was expected to be a middle-of-the-order presence, saying he was the Yankees’ “LVP” – expectations have to be included in the voting process – would be an understatement. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, for example, finished with a .646 OPS, but you didn’t really expect much more from him. Stanton is paid (handsomely) to hit, and he did the exact opposite this year.