It is no longer breaking news that the New York Yankees struggled mightily this season, with a lack of production from significant players at the heart of the matter. Chief among these underperformers has been Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton has run a nearly 30 percent strikeout rate, while hitting just .191 entering Thursday’s game.
In the winter before the 2018 season, then Miami Marlins co-owner Derek Jeter, of New York Yankees‘ lore, shocked the baseball world by sending the reigning MVP Stanton to the Yankees in exchange for Starlin Castro, Jose Devers, and Jorge Guzman. Stanton immediately made his impact on the Yankees, finishing in the top 20 of the MVP voting with 38 home runs and 34 doubles. Stanton missed a ton of time in 2019 and 2020, but returned to be an imposing force again in 2021, bashing 35 home runs in just 139 games. However, production plummeted in the two seasons since, with Stanton hovering around a .200 batting average in both seasons combined.
This season, Stanton was supposed to be part of a middle-of-the-order trio with Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo. While Judge has held up his end, Rizzo and Stanton have been far below what was expected. Rizzo’s struggles can be pointed to his May collision, while Stanton has seemingly fallen off a cliff the last two seasons. The hulking slugger has always been prone to swing and miss, never running a strikeout rate below 23.6 percent (which happens to be his MVP season). Stanton also walks at a solid clip, with just one season below 10 percent. Even this season, Stanton’s walk rate still sits at 10.0 percent entering Thursday.
Has he lost some pop? Judging off his Baseball Savant page, not in the slightest. Stanton still ranks towards the top of the league in both average exit velocity and maximum exit velocity. It could be as simple as Stanton hitting in to a string of bad luck. Stanton’s BABIP is an abysmal .206 this season, while the league average is usually around .300. This would make sense as BABIP is usually influenced by average and maximum exit velocity, where Stanton flourishes, and sprint speed, where Stanton flounders. While he has increased his average launch angle by almost two degrees this season, Stanton still hits ground balls at a near league average rate (not something you want to see from a slugger). By comparison, Judge hits a ground ball at a 30.5 percent rate, almost 15 percent below the league average.
So, in 2024, Stanton should (and will have to be thanks to his mega-contract) still be a large part of the Yankees’ lineup. Hindsight being 20/20, the Yankees would not have signed on to pay Stanton a large sum of money as he is seemingly in decline. Including the $10 million buyout before the 2028 season, Stanton is owed at least $118 million, although a portion will be paid by the Marlins. So, some better luck may jumpstart some production, and any bit of optimism is needed for an ornery Yankees’ fanbase.