So I ran across this tweet from Mark Simon of ESPN questioning what happened to Giancarlo Stanton’s power stroke:
What the heck happened to Giancarlo Stanton’s power? pic.twitter.com/IHMnLPbZPM
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) August 30, 2013
Stanton’s Isolated Power (ISO) is down from .318 in 2012 to .225 this season. My immediate reaction is to think, “Well, of course, this is happening. He is just not getting any pitches to hit.” I mean, honestly, what pitcher would let Stanton beat him on a fat pitch when even if they give up a walk the Marlins are bound to strand him at first base or hit into a double play. It came as no surprise when I look it up that the Marlins really do lead the league in both Grounding into Double Play Rate at 13% and have the lowest Baserunners Scored Rate at 12%.
As far as not getting any pitches to hit, well it is kind of true. It would be more accurate to say he is getting less pitches to hit according to this very thorough piece over at Fish Stripes. As you would expect, opposing pitchers are pounding the down and away area out of the strike zone. About 24% of the pitches Stanton sees would be balls down and away, so about 1 in 4. Last season the number was just below 20% or 1 in 5. Stanton has done a good job of laying off the bad pitches , though, and his walk rate is up from 9.2% in 2012 to a career high 14.6% this season.
However, what the graphic above shows is that he still crushing pitches middle in, but he is not doing anything with pitches middle middle, middle down and middle up where last year he was crushing those too. Again my immediate reaction is to think he is just not seeing any pitches in the middle of the plate. Surprisingly though, Stanton is actually getting more pitches in that middle zone this season percentage wise, 13.1% versus 12.4% last season. So is he just missing fat pitches?
We are talking about ISO here, so that means extra base hits only. In looking at Stanton’s stats for this season, I see he has 22 doubles which means he is hitting them in about 6.8% of his at bats. Last season he had 30 doubles which accounted for about 6.7%% of plate appearances, so there’s been no change there.
The issue is due purely to a lack of home runs then and a quick look reveals he has hit home runs in 5% of at bats this season versus 8% last year. So let’s look at where in the strike zone Stanton’s home runs are coming from. To do this we’ll look at the 2012 vs 2013 HR/Ball In Play Zone Profile:
Stanton mercilessly punished pitchers when they made a mistake middle middle. 10 of his 37 home runs came on those pitches and 24% of the balls he put in play left the yard. He hit another 10 homers from pitches either middle up or middle down in the zone.
The middle of the zone that accounted for 20 of Stanton’s 37 home runs in 2012 has resulted in only 2 home runs this season. That middle middle zone where he was so successful in 2012 has only resulted in 1 home run this season of 22 balls he has put in play. Stanton has had the most success this season on pitches middle in where he has hit 4 of his 17 home runs.
So why so little success on those pitchers’ mistakes right down the middle of the plate? Has he become more conscious of pitches on the inside part of the plate or could he be standing further away from the plate and not getting quite the same plate coverage? Maybe it is just a season long slump on pitches in that particular zone?
I do not know the answer and apparently neither do the Marlins or Stanton himself. Whatever the cause, the Marlins can only hope that he is able to make the adjustment necessary to once again punish that pitch down the middle if he is to regain the prodigious power and home run totals of 2012.
Editors Note: Marlin Maniac’s crazy conspiracy theory is that owner Jeffery Loria has stopped paying Stanton’s power bill in order to save money to keep the lights on at Marlins Park.