Giancarlo Stanton is widely known to have the power of the gods, true 80 power on the 20-80 scouting scale. I’m a skeptic, so I went searching for confirmation of Stanton’s power. The first place I went was Twitter, the source of all truth. Here’s a sampling of what I found:
Twitter settles it. It is Giancarlo’s destiny to hit 50 homers in a season and hit them all to the moon, while being surrounded by his mother’s love.
Yeah, but can Giancarlo Stanton REALLY hit 50 home runs in a single season? I mean, REALLY?
It’s both more complicated, yet simpler than you might think. Let’s look at what would need to happen step-by-step:
STEP 1: He Stays on the Field
More specifically, he makes a lot of appearances at the plate (PA). This may seem grade school level, but you can’t hit a ton of homers if you don’t have a ton of opportunity. Stanton stayed healthy in 2011, but that’s been the only year he’s been on the field for 150 or more games. He doesn’t exactly get a gold star for his health.
Additionally, he hits 4th in what is a horrible Marlins lineup, so they won’t exactly cycle through the lineup multiple times, giving him more trips to the plate.
But let’s be generous. He had 601 plate appearances in that 2011 season (by far a career high). Let’s give him at least that, plus gift him 40 additional PAs because he will need to log close to that to approach 50 homers.
STEP 2: He Keeps Cutting Down the Strikeouts
You didn’t hit a home run if you are walking back to the dugout after getting rung up. Giancarlo struck out in 27.8% of his at bats in 2013, which isn’t good, but is right in line with his career best. Even in smaller sample sizes in the minors he hasn’t been able to take that number as low much lower, but he’s young yet.
His O-Contact% and Z-Contact% (click here for a saber-glossary) has not really improved in his young career, but if he can get his Contact% returns to even 70%, he might have a couple dozen less strikeouts on the season.
So Stanton certainly isn’t among the league best at putting the bat on the ball, but history has shown a player of his age can still improve his plate discipline. I think 27.0% represents about the best out of him, but I’m feeling optimistic and generous. Let’s say he has a heck of a season and cuts it to 25%, striking out only once every 4 at bats. Gifting him that 25% number makes Stanton another step closer to 50 more bombs.
STEP 3: He Takes a Walk, But Not Too Many Walks
This step is brought to you by Joey Votto. In order to hit so many homers, it’s beneficial to minimize the amount of walks as well. While I love a good OBP guy, every time he’s standing on first is one less plate appearance he didn’t knock one over the fence. Giancarlo walked in 14.7% of his plate appearances in 2013, a career high.
He’s had 8.6% and 9.2% before, so let’s split the difference and say he walks 13% of the time in 2014.
For sake of argument, let’s use some reasonable example numbers to show how the stars are starting to line up.
641 PA in 2014. Hypothetically, we’re projecting just above his 2011 career high of 601.
25% K% meaning that 160 of the above PA end in a strikeout.
13% BB% meaning that 83 of the above PA end up in a walk to first base.
So far all projections for 2014 are perfectly reasonable (if not a tad bit generous) and he still has 398 plate appearances with which to hit a homer. Stanton’s hypothetical 50 home run season is looking good so far.
STEP 4: He Doesn’t See a Significant Change in the Way Pitchers Approach Him
Pitchers are a wily sort and Giancarlo is hardly sneaking up on anyone these days. Pitchers aren’t going to pitch to him if they don’t have to, particularly because he’ll likely have a batter on the calibre of Bill Murray hitting behind him.
For Giancarlo to hit 50 we have to recognize that a lot is out of his control. Pitchers are going to adjust to him, trying to pound on his weaknesses, or simply pitch around him. If the league gets him out of rhythm or simply refuses to give him anything at all to hit, he may not be able to approach 50.
I just felt like this was important to point out.
STEP 5: He Needs to Hit the Ball in The Air With a High Frequency
Line drives are great for a player’s BABIP. A grounder is nice for a speedster looking for infield hits, but a chopper in the dirt does not a home run make. Only fly balls turn into home runs.
In 2013 Stanton hit 38.5% of his balls in play as fly balls (he also popped up a lot of balls – 15.5%, to be exact). Let’s say that Stanton has his fly ball total climb to 41.7%, which is hardly unreasonable, given that 41.7% was his 2012 career high.
We established above that he has 398 balls in play and we’re optimistically projecting that 41.7% of those will be fly balls. That’s around 166 fly balls that have a chance to leave the yard.
STEP 6: Make Sure Those Fly Balls Leave the Yard
In order for Giancarlo to hit 50 homers, he would have to hit 30.1% of those 163 fly balls out of Marlins Park.
In 2013 his HR/FB was 21.8%, well below his career high and well below Chris Davis‘ 29.6%, the number that led the Majors. Marlins Park is not forgiving park, but lets be optimistic and say that Staton can match his career high, a 28.9% HR/FB rate in 2012.
163 fly balls x 28.9% HR/FB = 47 Home Runs in 2014
Projecting Giancarlo Stanton’s 2014 with career high numbers (or in some places better than his career high) and we get 47 home runs.
Hitting 50 home runs is hard.
It’s not astronomical to think that Stanton will get 50 in 2014, but you can see that if you project to him some reasonably fair numbers he comes up just shy. But us fantasy baseball players are optimists, so let’s just dream about the moonshot, and leave it at that.