Giancarlo Stanton looks poised for a breakout in the ALCS

Two extended injured list stints kept Giancarlo Stanton on the sidelines for all but 18 regular season games this year. Even though his replacements did an incredible job in his stead, playing without Stanton almost all season was not ideal. It surely was a frustrating and disappointing campaign from the outfielder’s perspective too, but not all is lost just yet. Giancarlo is healthy at the most important juncture of 2019: the postseason.

Stanton returned for good on September 18th and closed the regular season on a high note: .286/.382/.571 in 34 plate appearances. He showed some power (a pair of doubles and homers) and took plenty of walks. His knee may not have been 100 percent when he came back, but Stanton certainly looked prepared for a strong ALDS against the Twins. Unfortunately, that didn’t come to fruition, though it wasn’t a bad offensive performance either. It seems like the 29 year-old slugger is close to unleashing fury on the Yankees’ forthcoming opponent.

At the outset, the ALDS got off to an inauspicious start for Stanton. In the first inning of Game 1, he came up against José Berríos with runners on second and third, two outs, and the Yankees down 1-0. Giancarlo was in a favorable 3-0 count, got the green light, but grounded out on this pitch:

He was too aggressive in that situation. The next night, Stanton bounced into an inning ending double play in the first inning with the Yanks up 1-0. Frustrating, but fortunately those two of results didn’t ruin his series. Granted, he wasn’t a major contributor offensively. He had one hit (a bloop single), four walks, and an RBI sac fly in Game 2 that gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead. It’s difficult to glean much from just 11 plate appearances all series, but it seemed like Stanton was on the verge of something big.

All of us want to see Stanton go off in one of these playoff series, and even though that didn’t happen in the ALDS, there were some positives that go deeper than reaching base in five of 11 chances.

Stanton appeared to see the ball very well against the Twins. He saw 4.54 pitches per plate appearances, which for the uninitiated, is a lot. Small sample caveats apply here of course, but it’s right on par with Rhys Hoskins’ league leading 4.57 in the regular season. And it’s not like he was too patient, either. Minnesota was very careful against him, and Stanton mostly obliged.

Stanton saw a lot of pitches because he wasn’t chasing often, which he is wont to do at times. His slumps can get ugly with strikeouts when he flails at breaking balls away. We didn’t see that last series. Twins’ hurlers threw 32 of 50 pitches outside of the zone. Here’s what Stanton did against them:

(Baseball Savant, 2019 ALDS out of zone pitches)

See all that blue? Stanton laid off 27 of 32 out of zone pitches. There was a clear plan of attack, down and away, but Stanton didn’t bite. There’s a reason the Twins pitched him in that fashion:

(Baseball Savant, 2018 regular season)

Last year, 24 percent of all pitches to Stanton were in the lower-right zone where he had a .215 xwOBA. It’s clearly an area of weakness. But, if he’s not chasing those pitches, look out. The only other spot to get him is up and in, which surprisingly the Twins only tried six times (they may have missed targets, too). Of those, Stanton whiffed on two, fouled off three, and took one for a ball. I’d bet that Stanton will see more pitches up-and-in next series, so he’ll need to adjust if that does occur.

If the Astros and Rays continue to pitch conservatively to Stanton, expect a bunch of walks again next series. Fine by me, though it’s not like things get easier after Stanton. Guys like Gleyber Torres loom behind him, you know. Pitchers will adjust at some point if Stanton keeps laying off the junk, which could be Giancarlo’s chance to start slugging. There’s only so much opponents can do if Stanton eliminates his biggest weakness. That’s why a huge ALCS seems within reach.

Now, Stanton is about to see an uptick in pitcher quality regardless of which team the Yankees face in the ALCS. No knock on the Twins, but both the Astros and Rays staffs are much better. Nonetheless, it’s great that Stanton took what Minnesota’s pitchers gave him last series. If Stanton can carry the same selective approach against Houston or Tampa Bay, he’s bound to have a productive series. And if he does break out, make sure to credit Bobby for the prediction.

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3 Comments

  1. Completely off topic but tonight was the first time I’ve ever seen Cole pitch and was truly impressed-I usually don’t think long term deals for pitchers in their late 20’s are a good idea but if I’m the Yankees there would be a Brinks truck in front of his house at the start of free agency and a virtual blank check in the front seat.

    Right now the Yankees are probably not the favorites to win the ALCS but put Cole on the Yankees it’s a double win and they would be prohibitive favorites.

  2. mikenyc2007

    while i would love to see this, i believe its Pollyanna…he looked late on the fastball, and the power rotation of the Astros is going to challenge him… and then we have seen that he, like most, will then be susceptible to the slider away. Ss much as i want to believe he will have a strong series…ill take the under

  3. bardos

    Not really convinced about this optimism of a Stanton breakout… but it’s all just crystal ball stuff at this point

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