Keepin' up with the Stanton

With Mike Stanton‘s grand slam in last night’s exciting 7-3 victory over the New York Mets, word of his magnificence continued to spread throughout the league. The Mets’ Mike Pelfrey had these words (H/T Marlins Diehards) to say on Stanton (presumably said with a quivering lip and a timid expression):

“I think Major League Baseball might want to find a way to get him out of the game, because he’s going to hurt somebody.”

Truer words could not have been said. Stanton’s clutch blast added 26.7 percent of the Marlins’ chances of winning, all but shutting down the Mets for the evening and causing the Stantongasm meter to explode in righteous ecstasy. And as Mike Pelfrey mentioned, this is only the beginning of Stanton’s likely career run of baseball obliteration. It may be worth taking a look at just how good he has been since his debut last season.

The nunbers, at a glance

Stanton PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2010 396 .259 .326 .507 .355
2011 418 .259 .333 .535 .370
Career 814 .259 .329 .521 .363

The first thing that is striking in visualizing Stanton’s numbers is their remarkable consistency so far in his career. His 2010 and 2011 numbers look very similar, with the only major change of course being in his increase in prodigious power. The batting average is identical at this stage, and his OBP has seen a slight increase due to an increase in walk rate. He is belting more homers, but he could just be having a nice home run hot streak at the moment, as he was right on his 2010 pace up until a recent July surge that has spilled over a little into August.

When we take a look at some peripheral numbers, we see where his improvements have been that have brought upon his better performance.

Stanton K% BB% ISO XB / H BABIP
2010 31.1 8.6 .248 0.957 .330
2011 27.7 9.1 .276 1.063 .302
Career 29.2 8.8 .262 1.011 .316

The two improvements that you like to see from Stanton are in his strikeout and walk rate. When removing intentional walks, Stanton has drawn 35 walks this season as opposed to 28 last year in just 20 more PA. He also has struck out eight fewer times in 20 more PA, which is a pretty significant improvement. The changes have allowed Stanton to manage the same batting average and a slightly better OBP despite some regression in his batting average on balls in play.

Plate discipline

The strange thing about these trends is that they do not necessarily mesh with his plate discipline stats very well.

Stanton P/PA Swing% Whiff% Called Strike%
2010 4.03 43.6 30.0 32.0
2011 3.84 48.5 34.0 25.2

That increase in aggressiveness at the plate, combined with Stanton’s inability to make consistent contact (among qualified players, his contact rate is higher than only Miguel Olivo‘s), should lead to an increase in strikeouts rather than a decrease. Instead, his strikeout rate has actually decreased pretty drastically, with his called strike rate being the only indicator pointing to such a change. As I mentioned earlier this year, this means that two things are likely happening:

1) He is making more contact with pitches in the zone.

2) He is receiving fewer pitches in the zone.

And once again, both would be good things for Stanton and for Marlins fans. And once again, if you trust the numbers seen on FanGraphs or StatCorner regarding plate discipline (and I do not necessarily), you could see evidence of both things happening. Both sites have Stanton seeing fewer pitches in the zone. Both sites also have him swinging at more pitches and making slightly more contact within the strike zone than last season.

Remarkable consistency

I checked in with Stanton 86 PA and now at 418 PA into the season and saw these numbers:

Stanton Pitches/PA Swing% Whiff% Called Strike%
2011, 86 PA 3.87 45.8 33.8 25.7
2011, 418 PA 3.84 48.6 34.0 25.2

The consistency of this new approach by both Stanton and the pitchers he has been facing is staggering. Both back then and now, we see the same approach by both parties; it seems like a combination of Stanton swinging more often and making contact on pitches within the zone has led to fewer called strikes. His new aggressiveness has led to fewer pitches per plate appearance but more contacted fair balls (he has hit in one percent more foul balls in his latter PA than he did in his first 86) which are cutting into his strikeouts. His increase in walks is also likely due to a lack of called strikes, as pitchers are perhaps being more careful around Stanton and throwing him more balls out of the zone.

As for his power, Stanton’s rate of doubles and triples are essentially the same at 5.5 percent in both 2010 and 2011. The fact that he has hit more triples can be easily eliminated by looking at his adjusted ISO, changing the value of the triple to be equal to the value of the double; Stanton still edges his 2010 version with a .264 adjusted ISO in 2011 versus a .245 mark in 2010. He has hit a few more home runs despite an increase in ground balls this season, which means his HR/FB rate has gone up this year. However, this change has not been dramatic and indeed his 2011 HR/FB rate was pretty much static with his 2010 mark until this recent week’s worth of #monsterdongs. As for Stanton’s career HR/FB rate of 23.9 percent, it does not scream “regression” to me. Given his pedigree as an 80 power prospect and the presence of multiple other premium power hitters around that level, the Marlins should expect nothing but further consistent power from Stanton.

In all, Stanton has been what many of us expected him to be. PECOTA projected him to hit 34 homers in 625 PA at his 50th percentile projection, and he is currently on pace to hit 37. ZiPS projects 12 more homers in 213 PA, putting him at 37 in 631 PA. PECOTA sees 11 more homers in 204 more PA, leading to a season-ending figure of 36 homers in 622 PA. And yes, Stanton is still a decent to great defender in the corners and is bound to rack up some runs in that department as well. By the end of the season, we may be looking at a four-win or so player at age 21 in the majors. The future looks bright, Marlins fans. Get ready for more Stantongasms.

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Tags: Miami Marlins Mike Stanton

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