How Big a Year is This for Giancarlo Stanton?

The Marlins and the Twins are playing a doubleheader on Tuesday. In the first inning of the first game, Giancarlo Stanton faced Kevin Correia with a man on, and Correia threw a first-pitch fastball at 89 miles per hour down the heart. Stanton swung and grounded into a double play, and one of the Marlins’ broadcasters remarked that it was probably Stanton’s best swing in a week, since returning from injury. Stanton finished the first game 0-for-3, dropping his average to .176. He has the worst average in the Marlins’ lineup, and the Marlins’ lineup sucks.

Let’s now go back a few months. Several months, I guess, depending on where you draw the line between “few” and “several”. After the Marlins swung the big trade with the Blue Jays, Stanton tweeted that he was pissed off. Now, I’ve been pissed off at lots of things I love and am loyal to to this day. I do, after all, still watch the Mariners. But that was a tweet of particular interest, because it helped to fan the trade-rumor flames. Already, the Marlins were probably eventually going to have to trade Stanton. Then the Marlins made Stanton upset, and who wants a surly ballplayer?

This is not an ordinary situation in which the Marlins find themselves in the present day. I mean, they’re extraordinarily terrible, but that’s not what I’m getting at. Reports keep saying the Marlins won’t trade Stanton. But it feels almost inevitable that, this coming offseason, a trade’s going down, and it’s going to be a blockbuster. Stanton’s about to start costing actual money, the Marlins aren’t going anywhere soon, and, yeah, I guess that’s all you need to know. Stanton, next year, is going to make millions. Which means Stanton, next year, is probably going to make millions on another team.

Maybe the Marlins don’t feel that way. Maybe they’re preparing the biggest contract-extension offer of all time, and maybe they are going to go about things in a different way henceforth. Baseball is unpredictable both on and off the field, and I can’t guarantee you that Stanton is going to get moved. But it definitely feels like it’s in the cards, and every other team in baseball would be right to check in to see where things stand. The Marlins will be able to hold a massive auction, and they wouldn’t be the Marlins if they didn’t.

So the question is less about whether Stanton gets traded, and more about what goes in exchange. And I guess where he might go, but for our purposes here I’m thinking less about trade destination and more about trade-return value. Stanton, right now, is one of the very most valuable assets in the league entire, not far below Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. But Stanton isn’t getting traded right now, and he’s still going to have to play some more months. Which leaves me deeply curious about how Stanton’s trade value could change on account of his 2013, if at all.

How a player performs in Year X will have an effect on his trade value immediately afterward. This much should be obvious, because the best indicator of future performance is most recent performance. I wonder if Stanton’s trade value will come with smaller error bars, on account of the team context. Let’s think about this, and let’s recall that Stanton has badly struggled through the first few weeks.

If Stanton were to have a normal 2013 season, his value would be through the roof. He’d be a 24-year-old outfielder under club control with a career wRC+ around 140. The Marlins wouldn’t be looking for one blue-chipper back; they’d be looking for two or three or four, and they’d be justified in doing so. Stanton would be a young, reasonably healthy MVP candidate. He’d be a franchise player, for any other franchise.

But what if Stanton were to have a mediocre 2013 season, or even a dreadful one? His OPS right now is barely .500, and while that won’t continue, he could badly under-perform, or he could get hurt. Though a baseball player should always be motivated to do his best on the field, you could kind of understand if Stanton put forth less than 100% as a member of this year’s Marlins. It’s possible he could have a very un-Stanton-like year, and then at the end he’d still be looking at a massive, seven-figure raise. So there’d still be plenty of trade talk.

We can’t reach any conclusions with this — this is really more of a thought exercise, a hypothetical. But in terms of his trade value down the road, I genuinely wonder how much Stanton’s 2013 performance matters. There are so many excuses, so many ways to explain away why Stanton might’ve had a down year, should that come to pass. The talent is known to be within the body, and teams would just have to believe that Stanton needs a change of scenery.

Think about how things would look. Right now the Marlins have a lower team wRC+ than Chone Figgins had a season ago. They’re already out of the race, and Stanton has to know he’s a probable goner. He could, in theory, not dedicate himself fully to the Marlins. Alternatively, he could try to do too much, putting a lot of pressure on himself since he doesn’t have any support. Stanton is entirely unprotected, and he’s not seeing very many pitches in the strike zone, because teams don’t have reason to throw him strikes. Stanton is having to make do with what he’s being given, and he isn’t being given much. Stanton can’t have a normal season if he doesn’t get hittable pitches. On no other team would Stanton be left so alone. As recently as 2012, Stanton was a six-win player, in three-quarters of a season.

There aren’t really many examples of young superstar talents getting traded after down years. There aren’t many examples of young superstar talents getting traded after good years, either, because these are the game’s most valuable players, but we might consider Justin Upton. Upton was elite in 2011, and he was average in 2012. He was dealt when he was 25, and he seemed to drive a hell of a market. There was talk of a blockbuster trade to Seattle, and Upton ultimately got dealt to Atlanta for a solid return even though it was late in the offseason and Upton had left Arizona with limited options. The Diamondbacks managed to do all right, despite Upton’s slide.

And Upton’s beating the crap out of the ball in the early going in 2013. While we can’t confirm whether or not Upton needed to change teams to tap back into his ability, he’s playing like a superstar again, after being removed from the old context. Certainly, if Stanton were to struggle, teams would consider the Upton case and see a player who could be a great player again if he were dealt and re-energized. Upton on the rebound would make it seem more likely that Stanton could rebound.

In order for the Marlins to turn Stanton into a jaw-dropping return package, they don’t necessarily need him to play like a superstar. They just need him to convince other teams that he could be a superstar in 2014 and on down the road. And Stanton’s pretty much already done that, given his big-league track record. If he has a rough go of it in 2013, well, he probably won’t see many pitches. And let’s face it: who could get up for playing for these Marlins, especially when you’re already established and when you’re already basically on your way out? Stanton could be forgiven for being a little lax and preoccupied.

Let’s call Giancarlo Stanton’s realistic trade value X. If he has a mediocre 2013, then we’re dealing with what percent of X? If he has an outright bad 2013, then we’re dealing with what percent of X? Certainly, in the latter cases, we wouldn’t be looking at 100%(X), but it seems to me it wouldn’t be far off. There are already excuses for why Stanton might not be very good this year, and so teams will be able to look at him and still see a future Hall-of-Famer. Who wouldn’t trade the moon for a young, controlled future Hall-of-Famer?

In so many ways, Giancarlo Stanton’s 2013 season stands to be fascinating. This is one of the ways.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Jeff Loria
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Jeff Loria
3 years 4 months ago

heh heh heh heh heh……

Dave Truman
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Dave Truman
3 years 4 months ago

Should I drop Stanton for Matt Adams?

Kogoruhn
Member
Kogoruhn
3 years 4 months ago

Only if I have top waiver priority in your league.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 4 months ago

In one of my leagues, I have Stanton, my second round pick… sitting on the bench. He’s healthy, and hitting… but at this point in the season, I feel I have better options. My current outfielders: Justin Upton, Matt Holliday, Carlos Gomez, Coco Crisp, Alex Gordon, with Jayson Worth in my utility slot. I’m currently sitting Stanton and Brett Gardner, waiting for either of them to remember how to hit (or steal bases, in Gardner’s case).

Beaneater
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Beaneater
3 years 4 months ago

is this a 4 team league?

hmk
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hmk
3 years 4 months ago

rofl exactly what i was thinking

Will
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Will
3 years 4 months ago

No, 12 teams, but his infield is Justin Smoak, Jeff Keppinger, Brendan Ryan and Mark DeRosa, and his pitching staff is the Miami Marlins.

J Zduriencik
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J Zduriencik
3 years 4 months ago

Well you can’t have too many ‘corner OF/1B/DH-type’ bangers!

(for some reason spoken in Big Stein’s voice from Seinfeld)

tz
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tz
3 years 4 months ago

Jeff,

If Tim McCarver used taxpayer bailout money to buy FanGraphs, gave everyone but you a nice severance package to leave, and the only thing left was you and a series of Dusty Baker guest blogs, how motivated would you be to put up the best possible GIF files of slo-mo baseball action? Or would your sense of humor be just a bit less sharp?

Brandon Warne
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

What

The Typical Idiot Fan
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

It’s an analogy. A bad one.

Also, Jeff already went through that with LL for years.

SKob
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

There may never be a day where I don’t wonder what the hell a Dusty Baker guest blog is… fascinating.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 4 months ago

It really must suck to be Stanton. I think that while some of his doing bad might be Marlins frustration, a lot has to do with pressing and the rest of the lineup: He is getting pitched around a ton and it would not surprise me if he is swinging at more bad pitches because that is almost all he gets.

Mike
Guest
Mike
3 years 4 months ago

It really would suck to be a ripped 6’5″ 245 lb frame with tremendous athleticism, have millions in my bank account, be fairly famous, and play baseball for a living for only 15 more years until I can retire with hundreds of millions in my retirement account and live however the hell I want for the rest of my awesome life.

But then again, I’m Mike F****** Trout.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 4 months ago

Okay, how about this: It must really suck compared to other baseball players.

Travis L
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Travis L
3 years 4 months ago

Stanton has made 1.433 million dollars in his career, counting through the end of 2013. At current, he has made under 1 million dollars. Unlikely he has “millions in his account”.

2011 – 416k
2012 – 480k
2013 – 537k

Nathan
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Nathan
3 years 4 months ago

And then there’s the matter of the income and payroll taxes that easily cut $1.433 million to under a single million, let alone millions.

Also, insert cliches about how money cannot buy happiness.

Eminor3rd
Member
Eminor3rd
3 years 4 months ago

How much do you guys make? How can Stanton be unhappy? He’s living the motherf***ing dream! Looks at those base salaries! And right now he’s paying his dues! And he’s playing baseball!

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 4 months ago

Damn taxes! A guy works his ass off playing a game and can’t even make a million! That’s what’s wrong with this country.

StatGenius
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StatGenius
3 years 4 months ago

Line up protection, seriously, may as well mention his lack of RBIs

StatGenius
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StatGenius
3 years 4 months ago

And from the guy who wrote this just last fall
http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/what-would-lineup-protection-look-like/
I’d expect this line up protection malarkey from Tim McCarver, Harold Reynolds or Joe Morgan but not an informed writer at fangraphs.

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter
3 years 4 months ago

How is it malarkey? Have there been studies that show there’s no impact when you put one superstar in a lineup with 8 scrubs? This isn’t a typical situation with a league average team. This is a situation where he’s the only hitter that teams are worried about, and it’s silly to throw the “lineup protection is a myth!” card.

Stat Genius
Guest
Stat Genius
3 years 4 months ago

Who were the studs protecting Stanton in the past, Logan Morrison, Carlos Lee, John Buck, Chris Coughlan, Gaby Sanchez, Greg Dobbs? Not really an intimidating bunch

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 4 months ago

Carlos Lee had a reputation as a fairly strong hitter who was having a down year. 2011 Logan Morrison, his only full year, had a 116 wRC+: The Marlins collective wRC+ right now is 53. Gaby Sanchez, in a SSS, crushed lefties enough that even factoring in regression he would provide lineup protection vs. lefties. From 2009-2011, he put up wRC+ of 113, 111, 114 respectively. Compare this to the Marlins, who have ONE player who has been given significant playing time and has good offensive numbers, Justin Ruggiano…and IIRC, he is not batting behind Giancarlo.

So yes, compared to the current Marlins, Giancarlo has had a good deal more protection in the past.

derp
Guest
derp
3 years 4 months ago

And yet still better hitters than the scrap the Marlins are fielding right now.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 4 months ago

For clarification: Gaby’s 2009-2011 wRC+ numbers are overall, not just vs. lefties.

Travis L
Guest
Travis L
3 years 4 months ago

The onus of proof is on the concept that lineup protection exists.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 4 months ago

I don’t have definitive proof, but my suggestion on it existing, without having delved into every AB/walk and whatnot, but just a quick and dirty one: Giancarlo has seen a massive spike in his walk rate, which suggests either he is seeing the ball a lot better, luck/noise or the fact that players are pitching around him more, which would cause more balls and thus more walks. It follows that, unless similiar players are seeing similiar rises OR some peripheral shows a change in approach, this could be caused by the fact that there is nobody behind him, with an additional possibility of increased K-rate due to just how bad the Marlins lineup is.

Another possible example: Miguel Cabrera’s walk rate plummets from the previous 2 years when Prince Fielder arrives in the city. Cabrera’s walk rate reached it’s height during 2010-2011, when his wRC+ was 51 points higher than Ryan Raburn (Ordonez had a higher wRC+, but only played in 84 games, and Inge barely played in any). The next year similiarly had a large disparity between his production (177 wRC+) and people under him (Alex Avila’s 141 wRC+ is quite high, but IIRC he did not bat behind Cabrera, V-Mart’s 131 wRC+ did…and in addition, neither hit big HRs, something old school managers probably look at).

The years prior to that, when Cabrera put up similiar walk numbers to today, his numbers were much closer to the second best or so: 2009 Cabrera had a 143 wRC+, while Raburn had a 129 wRC+ and Ordonez had a 113 wRC+. And in 2008, his wRC+ was almost tied with Ordonez and Granderson’s.

When Fielder came to town, his walk rate dropped to the same as when his lineup was close to his numbers, while Fielder put up similiar numbers to Cabrera (Cabrera 2012: 166 wRC+, Fielder: 153 wRC+). Cabrera’s walk rate appears to be stabilizing right around what his new career level is, 10.5%, which is very close to his “protected” days and significantly lower than his “unprotected” days.

This also is why trying to “prove” lineup protection is very difficult: There is really no metric to do so, so while I can type that all up, it still cannot be proven because it is circumstantial. I would love to see an analysis on the pitchers thrown to Cabrera over those years to see if he was pitched around more in 2010-2011 compared to 2008-2009 and 2012.

Hank
Guest
Hank
3 years 4 months ago

Not to mention the “protection is a myth” studies have generally relied on large aggregates; which people confuse with “at all times it is true”. On average it might not be measurable, but that is not proof that it doesn’t exist at any time.

It’s like when people think they are SABR inclined because they can look at a run expectancy table and say “stupid move” and not consider the quality of the hitter, pitcher, handedness and a host of other variables. Well on aggregate it’s dumb…. why would you need to actually consider the specific situation, right?

Former major league pitchers have said they considered the on deck hitter when pitching to someone in a tight spot… guys like Schilling and Hersheiser have mentioned it. While I suppose they can be just making it up, I’m more inclined to believe someone who has actually played the game at a high level than someone who compounds large aggregates which may wash out individual circumstances.

Are people seriously suggesting that if Stanton had say Albert Pujols hitting behind him, he would be pitched in the same fashion as Greg Dobbs behind him?

Non-existence of proof is not proof of non-existence.

Frosted Tips
Guest
Frosted Tips
3 years 4 months ago

He does only have 1 RBI this year…

ShadesofGrey
Guest
ShadesofGrey
3 years 4 months ago

Yeah, because there is no such thing as being pitched around, right? It’s true that his chase rate and percentage of breaking balls seen compared to previous years would be a way of providing evidence (or not) for this hypothesis, but instead of mentioning that we should just insult people and dismiss them immediately. Because that’s what really smart people do.

Well done! You’re a member of the cool kids club. Love your name.

StatGenius
Guest
StatGenius
3 years 4 months ago

He is seeing same amount of fastballs and his first pitch strike percentage is higher than its ever been, who’s being pitched around again?

corrections
Guest
corrections
3 years 4 months ago

I would recommend taking a closer look at this before you get all condescending (of course small sample size caveat applies)

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=4949&position=OF#platediscipline

The one big difference I notice there is he’s seeing a whole lot fewer pitches in the strike zone (something consistent with pitching around). Yeah his first strike percentage is higher than ever but that doesn’t really say anything because it doesn’t tell you whether the strikes are in or out of the zone. Indeed as he’s hit by far a career high on pitches in the zone it seems to indicate that he’s definitely getting more pitches out of the zone and chasing them more. He’s had a slight uptick in the % of pitches he chases outside the strikezone (which has a big effect given that he’s getting a lot more of them). His contact on balls outside the strikezone is relatively unchanged.

So two things are clear. One he’s getting way less pitches in the zone (consistent with being pitched around) and two he’s swinging at substantially fewer pitches in the zone (although the two metrics disagree on how much). So he could just be taking more pitches and getting behind in counts generating a lot of stuff outside the zone. This would still be pretty odd. Or he could be getting pitched around. We’ll have to see more games to know.

Stat Genius
Guest
Stat Genius
3 years 4 months ago

Exactly, he’s getting behind more than he ever has and then he’s swinging at dramatically less strikes, top 10 in taking strikes/Zone Swing %, than he ever has. So his approach seems to be get behind and then not swing at the strikes he does get.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
3 years 4 months ago

There are 29 other clubs. Some GM’s may try to use a bad year to drive the price down, but not all have proven to be that smart. Some indeterminate number greater than one will be willing to believe he is bad because he is trying to hard, not trying hard enough or whatever. It only takes two to start a bidding war. It will hurt his value very little. Maybe 95% of X.

DBA
Guest
DBA
3 years 4 months ago

I think the most likely explanation is that the shoulder is bothering him worse than we know. More infield pop ups, more ground balls, fewer line drives, less power.

(Actually, the most likely explanation is sample size: last year through April 28, Stanton was .246/.290/.308 – and 2012 turned out just fine. But uninformed medical speculation on the internet is more fun than that answer. At least that’s what Will Carroll led me to believe in years gone by.)

steve-o
Guest
steve-o
3 years 4 months ago

15 paragraphs just to beg the question. I <3 fangraphs

Inquiring Mind
Guest
Inquiring Mind
3 years 4 months ago

What’s his value in a fantasy keeper league at the moment?

Paul Wilson
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Paul Wilson
3 years 4 months ago

Arizona has a strange obsession with OF, I wonder if they will be in on Stanton when the rumors start churning.

Jason B
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Jason B
3 years 4 months ago

And then they could label him a malcontent, bad-mouth him every chance they got, and trade him for 70 cents on the dollar!

Paul
Guest
Paul
3 years 4 months ago

Not sure he’s gritty enough for Arizona

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 4 months ago

I’m not going to pretend like Stanton is like every other player on the Marlins, but it seems odd to preemptively give him a pass for playing like dog shit. Maybe he has no incentive to crash into a wall or take an extra base, especially when the Marlins are down several runs, but if he is just unwilling to try because the Marlins suck, that is a huge red flag in my opinion; and he already has the one people seem to ignore which is that he is hurt all the time.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 4 months ago

“if he is just unwilling to try because the Marlins suck, that is a huge red flag in my opinion”

You’re basing this on what exactly? Careful tossing around this totally baseless speculation.

chuck
Guest
chuck
3 years 4 months ago

Im not quite understanding the theory of not getting pitches to hit. Isnt it the job of every pitcher to get the hitter out, or at the very least, limit the damage the batter can do? If Stanton isnt getting any pitches to hit, then why isnt he walking more, walking every time up, if again as they say, not getting any pitches to hit.If you watch Stanton, hes swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. Pressing no doubt. Dont blame the opposing pitchers, blame Stanton, for not taking what theyre giving. Dont expect any pitchers to lob the ball underhanded, or throw batting practice 88 mph strikes. Theyre job is to get Stanton out,and if that means throwing outside the zone because they know Stanton will chase, thats great pitching. Unfortunately what we’re seeing is not great hitting. Something Id be real concerned about as a GM going forward, looking at long term big bucks. You have to be able to adjust in this game, and clearly Stanton is not!

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 4 months ago

Scientists have recently discovered that one good apple in the barrel can turn all the rotten ones good (actually true, not facetious). Perhaps chuck’s comment will do the same.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 4 months ago

Pitching around/not getting pitches to hit =/= walking every time, if for no other reason than every time a pitch is thrown it is not going to hit it’s spots, in addition to the fact that a pitcher will not want to never throw a pitch in the zone on the basis of trying to make Giancarlo chase: pitching around means giving less to hit and being willing to give up walks over coming in to hit, rather than “walk every time”.

Also, his walk rate is 15th in the Majors and 6% higher than last year(15.2% vs. 9.2%), so I would say he is walking more for sure.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
3 years 4 months ago

Agreed. Pitching around can mean aiming for the low outside corner. If you hit your spot, it’s a very tough pitch to hit. If you miss it, who cares? Worst case scenario, you walk him and pitch to an awful hitter with a runner on first.

mr33
Guest
mr33
3 years 4 months ago

Perhaps a bad year would cause GMs to downgrade future production estimates, but a bad year would also save the future team many millions in arbitration savings. Maybe it’s possible a down year would actually increase his value.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
3 years 4 months ago

Personally, I think GMs would give him a free pass rather than downgrading future production estimates. He’s in a unique situations, and most GMs would assume that he’d get back to speed in a normal lineup.

Heck, Pujols averaged 8 WAR from 2004-2010, and his lowest was 7 WAR. In 2011 he posted his worst batting average, worst walk rate, worst OBP, and was within 0.001 of his worst ISO. He dropped to 4.3 WAR, and look at the contract he got. GMs are too willing to ignore one down year.

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