Giancarlo Stanton’s Power Outage

It took 21 team games and 72 plate appearances, but Giancarlo Stanton finally hit his first home run of the the season this past weekend. He drove an 0-2 fastball from left-hander Mike Zagurski out to dead center field, a 425-foot three-run shot. It raised Stanton’s season line to .246/.288/.348 and was just his fifth extra-base hit, well below both projections and expectations. There are a number of reasons for the 22-year-old’s power outage in the early going, but the most obvious one is staring us right in the face: his new ballpark.

With some help from Hit Tracker Online, here’s a look at the new Marlins Park with an overlay of the Sun Life Stadium outfield dimensions…

Right away you can see how much bigger the new left field is compared to the old park, plus the straight-away center field wall is a little further away as well. Stanton has shown big time pull tendencies so far in his career, with a little more than three-quarters of his balls in play going out to left and center fields. Marlins Park has a 0.619 HR Park Factor according to ESPN, though we are obviously a very long way away from fully understanding how the new building plays with the roof open, with the roof closed, in midsummer heat and humidity, the whole nine.

Only 40 of Stanton’s 73 plate appearances this year have come at home (54.8%), so something else is going on here because he hasn’t been hitting the ball out of the park on the road either. Giancarlo has been playing through soreness in his left knee in 2012, dating back to Spring Training. There’s a chance he’ll have to deal with it all season according to Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post. As big and strong as he is, Stanton still needs his legs — specifically his left (front) leg as a right-handed hitter — to transfer weight during his swing to generate that massive power. If the sore knee is compromising his lower half and creating what amounts to a weak link in the chain, his power will inevitably suffer. To what extent? We don’t know the answer to that, exactly.

Through the magic of Texas Leaguers, we can take a look at Stanton’s spray chart to see where exactly he’s been hitting the ball this season…

The points on the chart are where the ball was fielded by the defender, not necessarily where it landed. Including the homer, I count just six balls hit within shouting distance of the warning track by Stanton this year. That’s out of 53 total balls in play. We’re talking about a guy who came into the season with a career 24.0% HR/FB, and now barely more than 10% of his balls in play are threatening the warning track (6.3% HR/FB this year).

Stanton’s ground ball (49.1%) and fly ball (30.2%) rates are well off his career norms (44.4 GB% and 39.3 FB% from 2010-2011) early this season, which certainly makes sense given the lack of power he’s shown. The knee could be forcing him to hit the ball into the ground more than usual, it could be a mechanical/swing issue, or it could be dumb luck at this point. The good news is that his plate discipline stats are relatively unchanged, so he hasn’t altered his approach in an effort to hit more homers as of yet.

The calendar has just flipped to May and it’s still a little early to freak out about underwhelming performances. In Stanton’s case though, there is some tangible evidence that suggests his power outage is something more than just an ill-timed slump or the regular ebbs and flows of the season. His new ballpark is a factor but at this point it’s unclear just how much. I’m more concerned about the left knee problem right now, especially since there’s a chance it will linger all summer long. The absolute last thing you want to see such a great young player do is fight a nagging injury and a) hurt himself even more, and/or b) compensate for the injury in other ways and throw a wrench into what make him so successful in the first place.

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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

41 Responses to “Giancarlo Stanton’s Power Outage”

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  1. Oliver says:

    He had wrist problems during spring training. Lingering problems there? Was he hitting the ball with authority in spring training?

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    • Mike Axisa says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I didn’t see him play much in camp, but a lingering wrist problem would impact a player’s power more than a knee problem.

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      • AA says:

        Don’t discount what knee problems can do to power. Take a look at what happened with Andre Ethier last year.

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  2. Nitpick says:

    Hate to break it to you, but a right-handed hitter’s back leg is his right leg, not his left.

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    • Rex Banner says:

      True, but when you swing a baseball bat all of your weight shifts to the front leg, e.g. Stanton’s left, at the end of the swing.

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  3. TKDC says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Has anyone seen a ball he hit in Marlins Park that they think would be a homer in the old park? Crowdsourcing!

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    • Luke M. says:

      Yeah, he hit a 380 foot sac fly yesterday vs. the D’Backs with two runners on base. Looked like he absolutely crushed it off the bat.

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  4. Ray says:

    Is there any way to isolate his spray chart from April of last season? He struggled early last year as well, I think it’d be interesting to see if the chart from last April was as depressing as what you’ve shown above.

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  5. Lee says:

    You’re overthinking this. He has a power outage because I have him on my fantasy team, pure and simple. My curse of death. He’s fortunate he’s not on the DL. That’s usually the route my players take. I’ve thought about hiring out. Sort of a fantasy hit man, if you will.

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  6. Jack says:

    Its the home run display’s fault obviously. As long as that satanic monstrosity remains in that park, the Marlins will not be successful.

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    • Clemsonuee says:

      That’s why the Onion reported that he was practicing hitting line drives to avoid activating the stupid thing.

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  7. ed says:

    In Stanton’s case though, there is some tangible evidence that suggests his power outage is something more than just an ill-timed slump or the regular ebbs and flows of the season.

    What evidence is this, exactly? The knee thing? Because his April this year looks pretty much like his April last year, which is pretty much ebb and flow of the season, etc.

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    • jlr04 says:

      Its not the park, only one of those flies would have been out of Sun Life. He’s just a slow starter. Plus his knee his now OK, Sunday’s homer is a sign he’s pulling out of it.

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  8. Walter says:

    As Jack Moore pointed out in today’s chat, Stanton had exactly one more home run last year at this time.

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  9. I think people are missing the obvious: Giancarlo Stanton is not a homerun hitter; Mike Stanton is.

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    • Johnny Come Lately says:

      Seems like an easy fix, no?

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    • Jon L. says:

      I totally agree. Using Mike Stanton’s slugging to project Giancarlo Stanton just doesn’t make sense.

      There’s precedent for guys named Mike to slug (some former third baseman, for instance), whereas even this weak-hitting start marks Stanton as the greatest-hitting Giancarlo in Major League history.

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  10. Oscar says:

    Did that first chart with the two stadiums thoroughly confuse anyone else?

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  11. papasmurf says:

    The thin gray line is the old stadium and the red line is the new stadium? If that’s the case, the park isn’t that much bigger.

    I worry more about his health than the park. He has said he feels a lil better lately… so hopefully he snaps out of it.

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  12. Greg Rybarczyk says:

    The red line is the overlay park (Sun Life, in this case), and everything else is Marlins Park. The thin gray line is the warning track at Marlins Park, the thick black line is the fence (13 feet tall or higher, remember), the green lines are the upper deck or upper area in left field, dark blue lines are the lower deck areas.

    Lots more overlays available here:

    Or you can overlay a park for any home run diagram on the site.

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    • papasmurf says:

      Ok gotcha. Thanks.

      I didn’t keep track of the different names of the new/old Marlin park. I still know the old stadium as Joe Robbie Stadium and dunno the different names it had taken since.

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  13. Jon L. says:

    I don’t know if I’m buying the left knee issue as an explanation for Stanton’s power outage. The left leg is just not that crucial to a right-handed batter (presuming he’s well enough to get to the batter’s box). And I say this as a right-handed batter experiencing a left foot problem (albeit at a dramatically lower level of play).

    I certainly could believe a wrist problem would sap his power, or the chart in the comments above (of his hitting last April) suggests it could just be a bad month.

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    • philosofool says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Extending the left knee (for a right hander) accelerates hip rotation which is party of transfering momentum from the lower body to the upper body. You are completely wrong.

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    • AA says:

      Seriously – ask Andre Ethier about what happened when his right knee (left handed batter) went bad on him last year. Now compare after knee surgery this year.

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  14. Thondique says:

    I blame the name change. Go back to Mike Stanton.

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  15. jesse orosco says:

    seriously? i say wait a few more ab’s to really question stanton’s “power outage.” the man is a beast and IMHO has the most power of anyone playing the game of baseball.

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    • Undocorkscrew says:

      So three more plate appearances is going to shed some insight?

      They write these articles hoping that the readers understand the SSS factor. Don’t take what’s being said as gospel. Just a short analysis of his first month of the season, chill.

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  16. Shaun Catron says:

    He’s scared of the dolphin machine in CF.

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  17. AA says:

    The weird thing about considering park factors is that Stanton is supposed to be a guy who transcends park size, because of how much power he has. He’s not a Jason Bay-type who clearly benefits from a certain kind of park.

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  18. Dan says:

    It’s now May 13th and Stanton hit a walk-off grand slam for the win today. It was his 6th home run this month. I think it’s safe to say that Giancarlo is gonna be alright.

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  19. brian says:

    So now he’s up to 8….I don’t think he remembers April at all. Seems like he’s just a slow starter. I remember last year in spring it was a bum quad that hindered his start and he had a crap April and then an explosive May.

    One of these years he will start out hot and threaten 50 bombs. Now it seems as anything less than 33 this year is a disappointment.

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  20. John Cruz says:

    We need a new article talking about Giancarlo Stanton’s Power Innage, so that this link isnt the first we see on his player page anymore.

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  21. ed says:

    Ah, overanalyzing small samples. Will we never learn?

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