Giancarlo Stanton is Trying to be Something He’s Not: An Opposite Field Hitter

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Giancarlo Stanton is fresh off being crowned the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player with the Miami Marlins. But, ten games into his first season with the New York Yankees, Stanton is hitting at no such level because he is trying to be something he’s not at the plate: an opposite field hitter.

So far this season, Stanton has been trying to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s right field porch — which is 314 feet — and rightfully so. When a player has the power that Stanton possesses, they’d be foolish not to keep the short porch in mind, especially when they’re playing 81 games a year in that ballpark. However, when doing so becomes an every at-bat approach, it becomes a bad obsession – one that’s quickly caught up to the All-Star outfielder.

Stanton has made a living just flat-out crushing home runs and the majority of those long balls have landed between left and left-center. In fact, 48 of Stanton’s 59 home runs last season left the park between left and center field. Playing in Yankee Stadium was supposed to be beneficial for Stanton because if he swings late and hits a flyball, there’s a solid chance it will end up being a souvenir.

On Opening Day, the right fielder hit two home runs: One to right-center, the other to straightaway center. The Opening Day heroics in Toronto were a sign that perhaps Stanton would be a more balanced power hitter in 2018. Ever since the power-hitting clinic north of the border, it has become an obsession for him to go the other way and the approach has severely affected his production in a negative way. Outside of his three home runs, Stanton is hitting just .167, has recorded 20 strikeouts, and been held hitless in six of their first 10 games. Sunday afternoon, he went 0-for-7 and struckout five times which was the second time this season he was punched out that many times; he’s as lost as Tom Hanks in Cast Away.

Giancarlo Stanton's opposite field approach at the plate is the reason for his early-season struggles.Click To Tweet

Now, has Stanton tried to return to swinging freely without the mindset of staying back and going the other way? Sure, but the road back to hitting at a high level is an immense struggle because now he’s second-guessing himself at the plate. Pitchers have realized and adjusted to the fact that he’s been looking to go the other way and, as a result, been making him chase pitches outside of the zone. Based on his plate approach, Stanton is swinging and missing bad, and when you go hitless, or strikeout five times, confidence and rhythm begin to deteriorate. He’s now faced with the challenge of returning to hitting like his old self — which hasn’t been going well.

Stanton is one of the more dangerous hitters in the game. He’s capable of going yard in any given at-bat and hitting home runs in excess of 460 feet with ease. But Stanton’s been such a threat when he plays to his strengths and doesn’t try to force himself to be successful in a different way at the plate.

At the end of the day, Stanton needs to be a prominent figure in the middle of first-year manager Aaron Boone‘s order if the Yankees are going to be a title contender. They weren’t in dire need of an outfielder this offseason with Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Clint Frazier in the organization. Nevertheless, Stanton was coming off an MLB-best 59-home run, 132-RBI season, so the insertion of his bat into the Yankees’ order made them, on paper, more lethal. In fact, despite the near-$30 million per season management is granting him for the next 10 years, the Yankees feel comfortable utilizing him, more often than not, as their designated hitter. Based on Stanton getting paid a boatload to, at times, be a one-dimensional player, it’s imperative that he makes a profound impact in the middle of their order.

It may be early, but Stanton’s plate approach from the get-go has put him in a predicament that is hurting his overall production and holding the Yankees’ lineup back. He doesn’t need to hit 50 home runs or even drive in 130 runs, but the reigning MVP needs to return to hitting for contact and not focusing on hitting to select parts of the field.

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2 Responses

  1. Tim Mahoney

    Giancarlo Stanton is slumping in a city that demands more of its stars than most and can be very unforgiving of failure. Last night, he had as bad a night as anyone could conceive…seven at bats, responsible for eight outs, five strikeouts, including the game ender, and walked off the field to a chorus of well earned boos! Welcome to NYC!

    Playing for the Yankees is often a dual edged sword. If you win, if you’re dominant, if you help bring home championships, you become immortal. If you don’t, you can quickly become the epicenter of fan abuse and not every player can handle that. Roger Maris was a brief hero when he won AL MVP in 1960 & 1961, culminating 1961 by breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record. But he never came close to that level of excellence again, was booed unmercifully by fans who never forgave him for not being Babe Ruth all the time and, by 1964, was playing for the St Louis Cardinals when they beat the Yankees in the last World Series the Yankees would see until the Steinbrenner era.

    Many Yankee legends began their Yankee careers slowly, survived early failures and rose to the challenges. Not everyone does and there are abundant examples of good players who absolutely crashed and burned wearing pinstripes, while playing well before and after their Yankee experiences Fact!

    Stanton has been saying all the right things, beginning in Spring Training, but he looks very uncomfortable at the plate and uncertain in the field. Of course, arguably, the Yankees have played mostly in cold, miserable conditions so far this season, conditions I guarantee he never saw in Miami. There have been some injuries that are beginning to mount and the bullpen has not been the strength it was supposed to be this year so far and has cost the team several victories.

    That makes Stanton’s poor performance much more visible. If the Yankees were 7-3 instead of 5-5, his failures might not seem to be that important. But it’s still early. We can only hope that Stanton will figure it out as the weather warms and the wins pile up. Right now, it’s a character test for Stanton. When assigned to a difficult, often unpleasant duty station, the military likes to describe the job as an “opportunity to excel”! A test of character!

    Stanton right now is staring at “an opportunity to excel”! It will be up to him to keep his focus and confidence, swallow the humility of the boos, acknowledging that he’s earned them, work through the slump and become the star everyone expects him to be. Or NYC will beat him down very quickly and he’ll join the large list of good players that couldn’t handle the pressure of pinstripes. He’ll be gone! Time will tell!

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    • Tim Mahoney

      Minor modification. Maris wasn’t on the 1964 Cardinals. He was on the 1967-68 Cardinals.

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