By and large, Yankees fans are among the most sophisticated in major league baseball. Accordingly, the display of ill will toward Giancarlo Stanton ten games into the season is bewildering and misplaced. Or is there something else that matters more?
Giancarlo Stanton did not forget how to hit a baseball over the first ten games of the Yankees 2018 season. He did, however, make the mistake of hitting a home in his debut as a New York Yankee back on March 29, with teammates standing in awe on the top step of the dugout.
Since then, his stats speak for themselves. In a word, Stanton has been horrible. It’s not seen so much in the power department and his three home runs to date, which if projected out over the course of the season, would reach about where the Yankees need him to be (48).
We see the same with Stanton’s RBI total (7) projecting out to 102 for the season. But what seems to bother a small contingent of Yankees fans are the strikeouts (20), which again if projected out would reach the phenomenal territory of more than 300 for the season. More glaring, perhaps, is that Stanton seems to be getting strikeouts in bunches, with five in one game twice.
Giancarlo Stanton is in a funk, and he’d be the first to tell anyone the same thing. He’s consistently swinging at sliders purposively thrown a foot off the plate, and he can’t stop himself from repeating the exercise of walking back to the dugout shaking his head.
While no one should expect a player to be applauded for a strikeout, knowing fans of baseball understand the strikeout has taken hold of baseball in direct proportion to the home run.
Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will strike out a disproportionate share of their at-bats this season. Why are we surprised when it happens? And while we’re thinking about it, Judge’s 13 strikeouts are on pace to reach 180 for the season, or almost one-third of his at-bats.
The difference, though, between the two hitters is that Judge has drawn nine walks and is hitting a respectable .289, while Stanton sports an on-base percentage of only .271. So what? Brett Gardner has amassed thirteen strikeouts as the Yankees lead-off hitter, and we don’t hear anyone ranting about that, do we?
What is of concern as it appears a small group of fans and writers are reaching far into the distance to proclaim Giancarlo Stanton as the second coming of A.J. Burnett, who Yankees fans will remember being tarred and feathered at Columbus Square because he couldn’t “cope with New York.” That was immature on the part of some Yankees fans, and so is this with regards to Stanton.
But let’s leave the fickleness of these fans behind to drill deeper into a problem the Yankees (potentially) could have this season.
A caveat in baseball states that a team living by the home run is also likely to die by the home run, or at least its derivative – the strikeout. And nowhere is that argument made better than in a piece published today in The Atlantic, appropriately titled, “The Yankees Biggest Strength May Be Their Greatest Weakness.”
In the article, Robert O’Connell, the author, uses Jeff Luhnow, the GM of the wildly successful Houston Astros to make a couple of relevant points. According to Luhnow,
That is at least food for thought when you consider the makeup of the Yankees lineup this year, especially when you throw the slumping Gary Sanchez into the mix.
I’m not saying by any means the Yankees are doomed because of their reliance on the home run. But the season is going to depend on the timing of the downturns from their power hitters. God forbid, for example, they all look like Giancarlo Stanton does at the plate now in October.
It’s a gamble on the part of the Yankees it won’t happen that way. But it’s also part of the reason why I still believe Giancarlo Stanton is nothing more than a one-year rental by the Yankees for the simple reason they know it isn’t wise to have one-third of their lineup (Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez) stacked toward power. Accordingly, he will be dealt to the Dodgers, who will happily take him on, salary and all, because that’s where he wanted to be in the first place.
Time will tell as the season moves along. But the red flag at this point shouldn’t be Giancarlo Stanton. Instead, it needs to be placed in the Yankees lineup as a whole. And the question should be, do we need more players of the variety of Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Ronald Torreyes, and Miguel Andujar to put the team over the hump?
Because if not, there’s a whole lot riding on Stanton’s ability to lay off that slider, sooner rather than later.