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.