Last Updated on October 25, 2023 at 9:52 am by Inna Zeyger
Following the conclusion of the regular season earlier this month, Giancarlo Stanton called his season “terrible,” and conveyed his eagerness to rediscover the hitting form he had exhibited just a few years ago. While it is impossible to trade him, Chris Kirschner has some vital suggestions for the player as well as the Yankees to get him ready for the upcoming year.
During his talk to the reporters, Giancarlo Stanton promised to make changes during the offseason. He acknowledged the challenging nature of the year and expressed his desire to focus on making significant adjustments in the lab during the off-season.
His misfortune was accompanied by a noticeable decline in his skills, particularly his struggles with making solid contact and catching up to fastballs, as well as a decline in his agility. For a player who primarily hits groundballs and has limited mobility, success becomes challenging. Giancarlo Stanton’s .329 xwOBA for this season marked his lowest since the stat was initially tracked in 2015.
Giancarlo Stanton is untochable
In 2023, the New York Yankees faced a multitude of challenges, but among the most significant was the noticeable absence of Giancarlo Stanton’s offensive contributions. He, once regarded as one of the most intimidating hitters in MLB, experienced a statistical decline that placed him below the performance of Aaron Hicks, who had been designated for assignment by the team just two months into the season.
Had it not been for the significant $98 million that the Yankees are obligated to pay Giancarlo Stanton over the course of the next four years, owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman might have contemplated the idea of designating Stanton for assignment.
However, trading Giancarlo Stanton remains an exceedingly challenging proposition, not solely due to the substantial financial commitment but also because he possesses a full no-trade clause. In a recent discussion on Foul Territory, a digital baseball show featuring former players Erik Kratz, Todd Frazier, and A.J. Pierzynski, the prospect of the Yankees trading Giancarlo Stanton was raised. Kratz suggested that 25 teams might be open to acquiring him. Yet, when asked about their interest in trading for Giancarlo Stanton, one rival MLB executive informed The Athletic that he “wouldn’t touch him.”
The way forward for Giancarlo Stanton
Kirschner suggests Giancarlo Stanton to try at Driveline, a renowned baseball training center located in Washington, known for its role in aiding MLB players in enhancing their skills. In the previous offseason, Los Angeles Dodgers’ standout Mookie Betts opted for Driveline’s services and observed a notable improvement in his wRC+, which rose from 145 in 2022 to 167 in 2023, propelling him into contention for the National League MVP award. During his time at Driveline, Betts engaged in an intensive bat speed training program, resulting in a boost in his average exit velocity, which increased from 90.5 mph in 2022 to 92.4 mph in 2023.
According to him, Giancarlo Stanton has never struggled with hitting the ball hard. In the 2023 season, Stanton’s performance ranked in the 96th percentile for average exit velocity and in the 94th percentile for barrel percentage. However, there were indications during the season that Stanton’s bat speed was on the decline.
As reported by Baseball America, Giancarlo Stanton’s average bat speed experienced a decline, dropping from 81.3 mph in 2021 to 77.2 mph in 2023. This data was obtained through access to MLB’s Hawk-Eye tracking system. While Giancarlo Stanton continues to hold the top spot for average bat speed in baseball, this decrease is a notable development. Prior research has demonstrated that even a 1 mph increase in bat speed corresponds to a 1.2 mph rise in exit velocity on average. Due to Giancarlo Stanton’s immense power, he still possesses the ability to frequently make contact with balls, resulting in home runs. For instance, in a particular home run, the expected batting average was a mere .050, and the exit velocity was 91.3 mph. However, owing to Giancarlo Stanton’s formidable strength, the ball cleared the park.
In contrast to many players, Giancarlo Stanton possesses the capability to offset his primary weakness, which is his challenge in consistently making good contact. His exceptional bat speed often allows him to compensate for mishits, but he struggles with less proficient bat-to-ball skills. It resembles the struggles Giancarlo Stanton encountered during the 2023 season.
According to Tanner Stokey, the Director of Hitting at Driveline, Giancarlo Stanton’s bat speed is rated at 77, while his bat-to-ball skills receive a grade of 40, and his swing decisions are assessed at 48. According to Stokey, the primary issue with Giancarlo Stanton’s performance lies not in the diminishing bat speed, but rather in the mechanics of his swing itself.
Stokey explained that the primary concern relates to his bat-to-ball skills and, more specifically, issues with his bat path. Giancarlo Stanton’s bat path has a tendency to be both steep and flat, leading to low launch angles when he makes solid contact with the ball, resulting in frequent high pop-ups. Therefore, it’s evident that significant changes to his bat path are necessary.
The issue with Giancarlo Stanton’s bat path also manifests in his groundball rate. Throughout his career, he has consistently been a high groundball hitter, a trend that was present even during his MVP season in 2017. However, during that season, Giancarlo Stanton was one of the faster players in the league, ranking in the 70th percentile for sprint speed. In contrast, in the current year, his sprint speed ranking plummeted to the fourth percentile, meaning that hitting infield groundballs typically led to outs. On all the groundballs he hit in the 2023 season, Stanton ended with a disappointing .202 xwOBA (calculated using exit velocity, launch angle, and, in specific cases of batted balls, sprint speed). Giancarlo Stanton’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) for the season was .210, a considerable drop compared to the major league average of .307. When focusing solely on his BABIP, it becomes evident that Stanton had an exceptionally unlucky season when making contact with the ball.
Can Stanton revive his career in the Bronx?
To enhance his bat path in the future, Giancarlo Stanton should consider incorporating more loft into his swing. While his exit velocity remains impressive, and his mobility has diminished, adopting a swing tailored for a higher launch angle should be a viable option moving forward.
One potential concern with Giancarlo Stanton shifting his focus toward hitting more fly balls is his high whiff rate. In the current season, he ranked in the seventh percentile for whiff percentage. Modifying his swing path to prioritize fly balls might intensify this problem.
According to Stokey, hitters often tend to overemphasize creating a loft in their swing, which can lead to various mechanical breakdowns. In Giancarlo Stanton’s case, he already faces challenges related to whiffing, especially against fastballs. Adjusting his swing to generate more lift can further exacerbate his issues, as it may result in a higher attack angle, leading to misalignments with the pitch planes, especially when dealing with flatter fastballs. For a player with elevated fastball whiff rates, taking an extreme approach to the attack angle spectrum can compound problems with making contact. Stokey recommended increasing the number of balls hit in the air but emphasized the importance of adopting the right approach to achieve this goal.
Stokey also recommends that Giancarlo Stanton directs his hits more toward the pull side when making contact in the air. A significant portion of Stanton’s pull-side contact usually results in groundballs, where he has limited success. Out of the at-bats that concluded with pull-side contact, 21.4 percent resulted in groundballs, with a low .197 xwOBA and .230 xSLG. However, when Giancarlo Stanton pulls fly balls or line drives, those numbers increase significantly to an impressive .932 xwOBA and 1.653 xSLG. Out of the 43 at-bats that ended in a pulled fly ball or line drive, 13 resulted in home runs.
Giancarlo Stanton’s closed-off stance may pose a challenge for him to efficiently and consistently pull the ball in the air. When reflecting on his season, Yankees hitting coach Sean Casey suggested that Stanton might have been overly cautious with his wide stance, resulting in a more careful swing. Casey expressed his belief that there was more athleticism within Giancarlo Stanton that he did not fully showcase with his swing in the past season.
It’s also plausible that Giancarlo Stanton may not have been entirely healthy after he strained his hamstring in early April. Before the injury, he had a .854 OPS with four home runs, three doubles, and only 11 strikeouts in 54 plate appearances over 13 games, although this constitutes a relatively small sample size. Upon his return from injury, Giancarlo Stanton’s OPS dropped to .670, with 20 home runs, 10 doubles, and 113 strikeouts in 361 plate appearances. He exhibited caution when running the bases, and there’s a possibility he was compensating in the batter’s box as well, not swinging as aggressively as he did before the injury.
Counting on a fully healthy Giancarlo Stanton at this stage is unlikely. He has been on the injured list at least once in every season for the past five years and has suffered seven lower-body injuries during that span. In addition to addressing his bat path issue, Giancarlo Stanton’s focus this offseason should include improving his mobility and flexibility.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone expressed his belief that Giancarlo Stanton still has the potential to be a significant contributor in the middle of their lineup. Boone emphasized that Stanton would need to have a productive offseason, and they have already discussed their plans for the upcoming months. Boone is confident that Stanton is committed to becoming the impact player the team requires for the next season.
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