There are 52 games remaining in the Miami Marlins’ likely unsuccessful quest to earn a Wild Card berth in October’s National League Playoffs, as they look to qualify for the postseason for the first time since their 2003 World Series victory over the heavily favored New York Yankees. The odds are against the young squad, to say the least.
With the Washington Nationals having run away with the NL East crown, and the Wild Card spots held by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies being as far away as the Nats (a 14-game deficit), 2017’s campaign will go down as yet another disappointing, underwhelming season in South Florida.
Except, that is, for the eye-popping numbers and consistency of a fan favorite, Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. As of Tuesday, nobody in Major League Baseball has blasted more home runs than the Miami starting left-fielder’s 37 long balls. With a third of the schedule still left to play, Stanton will not only tie and best his career high of 37 in 2014, but absolutely demolish it.
Stanton is on pace to hit 52 home runs, which would be the most since Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles whacked 53 in 2013. However, Marlins Park is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball with its place in the bottom-ten in ballpark runs per game and home runs per game. What Stanton is doing — consistently hitting the ball long and hard — in a ballpark that favors the pitcher, is nothing short of fascinating.
Which brings us to the point: Giancarlo Stanton is performing out of this world on a consistent basis, and seemingly no credit is given where it’s due. We as baseball fans and writers evidently expect this out of Stanton, as if a player who stands at 6-foot-6 and weighs in at 245 pounds of pure muscle should hit 50 home runs per season.
It’s like watching LeBron James, a legendary talent who has bounced between the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers in his career, in the NBA Finals every year: it’s a disheartening season when James fails to win. But, that’s a thoroughly unfair thing, right? It’s a tremendous accomplishment to win a league championship and no player — in any sport and at any level — should be expected to capture a crown of any sort each and every season.
This is especially true in baseball, as MLB has more parity between its star players than any of the five major North American sports sanctioning bodies (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS). With as many skilled position players as there are, it’s nearly impossible to rack up a streak of awards and accolades year after year.
These expectations are partly due to the extraordinary amount of money owed to the 27-year-old Stanton. Miami will be paying the power hitter an average annual value of $25,000,000 per year until he’s 38 in 2028, barring any opt-outs or trades. The bottom line is, Stanton is worth it; let’s put it in a statistical comparison sense.
With 245 home runs at 27 years old, Stanton has gone yard 37 fewer times than Albert Pujols did from his rookie year to his 27-year-old season. Counterbalance that with the fact that Pujols had sat out just 42 games over that span, compared to Stanton missing 243 games in the same duration, and there’s your difference.
Stanton has hit 245 home runs in just 934 games played. At that pace, the righty would have 275 career HRs if he had played as many games before his 27-year-old season as Pujols at his current pace (0.26 home runs per game); imagine being almost as good as a player who is widely regarded as being the best right-handed power hitter of all time and not being good enough.
Stanton has never played a single postseason game, only once a finalist for National League MVP, and is only on a national stage when it’s All-Star Weekend and the Home Run Derby (of which Stanton is the 2016 champ). With Miami continually being mired in the NL standings, Stanton isn’t publicized as much as right field contemporaries like Bryce Harper or Aaron Judge — but he should be.
Stanton is the best, most consistent, and strongest power hitter in baseball. At just 27 years old, there’s still time for people to come around to Stanton and the rebuilding Miami Marlins. Nevertheless, his constant eminence in the National League deserves to be appreciated regardless of what awful expectations anyone can have.