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Don’t look now, but here comes Giancarlo Stanton

The slugger is starting to heat up, just in time to help the Yankees.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

In the grand scheme of things, Giancarlo Stanton is having the worst season of his career. He has never been a below-average hitter by wRC+, but if the 2023 campaign ended today, he would be with his 94 wRC+. His previous career-worst is last year’s 115.

He is slashing .203/.277/.448 with 15 home runs in 235 plate appearances, having visited the injured list once again this year. He is also aging, just like the rest of us: he will turn 34 in November, so you could say he is a bit past his prime.

However, none of those things and realities mean that he can’t and won’t be an important part of what the Yankees achieve from this point until the end of the season. In fact, as dark as the picture might seem sometimes, he is actually starting to come around.

Since June 24, Stanton has a 116 wRC+ with a cool 21.1 K% and nine homers in 123 plate appearances, and that doesn’t even include last night’s game, which saw him go 2-for-4 and smash a crucial home run against the Rays. He is hitting .222/.309/.500 since that day, which still isn’t the shiniest slash line due to the deflated average and OBP figures, but you could say his .203 BABIP is driving that batting average down. His BABIP is .197 for the season, too, quite shocking for a man who hits the ball as hard as he does.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing about those numbers is his reduced strikeout rate. Even at his best, Stanton struck out at a rate around 23-24 percent, still a bit higher than league average. That was in 2017, his MVP season. Maybe that 21.1 K rate won’t last long, but the further away from 30 percent he is, the better. Fewer strikeouts from Stanton means more balls in play, and even if his BABIP is low now, more scorching line drives off the bat from Stanton should mean more production going forward.

Stanton probably won’t hit 59 home runs in a season again like he did in 2017, or even 40 for that matter. His days as a .300+ BABIP player are also over in all likelihood, which will cap his batting average potential. However, he is still good enough to be a comfortably above-average offensive player when healthy, and the Yankees need as many of those as possible.

Getting Stanton going is huge not only because he gives a middling lineup another productive bat, but also because his own success can help Aaron Judge see better pitches. Think of it as the 2022 version of Juan Soto when he was still with the Washington Nationals: he was virtually their only dangerous hitter, so opposing hurlers just pitched around him knowing that no other batter could beat them. We’ve also see it recently with Shohei Ohtani, with the two-way star being intentionally walked nine times in July, to go along with 22 more unintentional walks. A similar thing could happen to the Yankees batting order if nobody but Judge produces. Free trips to first base for Judge aren’t the end of the world, but they dilute his chances of doing significant damage, and the Yankees need Judge (and Stanton) to be providing as many big swings as possible right now.

Thankfully, Stanton seems to be finding his stride just in time. The season as a whole has been rough for him on many fronts, but there is still time for a turnaround. With two months to play, the Yankees sit 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. They could plausibly make up that ground, but doing so would require players like Stanton stepping up to support Judge. We might at last be seeing Stanton do just that.