The Miami Marlins wrapped up an 11-game California road trip on Sunday. The team finished the stretch 4-7 after playing four game sets at the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants, with a three-game visit to Dodger Stadium sandwiched in between. Yes, they lost Jose Fernandez for the season and their young starting rotation scuffled at times, but the Marlins (23-22) remained competitive and showed signs that their early-season contention has been no fluke.
Much of that success can be attributed to the resurgence of Giancarlo Stanton. During the West Coast trip Stanton went 15-for-38 at the plate with a pair of home runs. The scary thing about Stanton this year has been his improvement with putting the ball in play in lieu of always swinging for the fences.
But, of course, he still can swing for those fences. And many times when he does, it just looks so effortless, like the ball should have no chance of getting out:
Despite hitting just the two home runs on the road trip, Stanton struck out only six times while drawing six walks. His batting average rose from .294 to .318. He also stretched his career-long hitting streak to 17-games before having it snapped Friday night in the second game in San Francisco. Stanton had five multi-hit games on the road trip. His .318/.405/.612/1.017 slash line is a thing of beauty and shows that he doesn’t always have to hit balls 450 feet to be productive at the plate.
And for opposing pitchers, that is scary.
"“He just continues to get better and better. He feels good, and he’s healthy. He’s making contact and putting the ball in play. It’s great to see him getting base hits as well.” -Marlins manager Mike Redmond, courtesy of MLB.com’s Rick Eymer"
Stanton leads all of baseball with a whopping 43 RBI in 45 games. He is also second in the National League with 12 home runs.
And don’t look now, but his defense is coming around. After posting an awful -1.4 defensive WAR in 2013, he has accrued a 0.8 dWAR so far in 2014, according to Baseball Reference.
Before receiving a scheduled day off in the San Francisco finale on Sunday, Stanton had been in the lineup for every Marlins game this season. With the off day on Monday, he should be rejuvenated when the Marlins return home to host the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday night. Stanton has absolutely destroyed the baseball at Marlins Park to the tune of seven home runs and a .707 slugging percentage.
The slumping Marlins return home just in time; they are an MLB-best 17-5 at home and have the worst road record in baseball at 6-17. Of course the law of averages should even things out eventually but Miami’s home/road splits through the first two months of the year are pretty eye-opening.
Now is the time for Giancarlo Stanton to keep it going and reclaim his status as the face of the Miami Marlins. We are all still in shock from the Jose Fernandez heartbreak but hope is far from lost, especially with Stanton performing at an MVP level and the rest of the offense contributing above what was expected of them. If I am Marlins president Mike Hill and company, I am on the brink of offering Stanton that lucrative long-term extension right now. That would show the fanbase that they are committed to winning now and in the future, that they haven’t thrown in the towel with Fernandez done for the year. Stanton is not going to get any cheaper and this team, which is largely built around its strong starting pitching, can and should still compete in 2014.
Giancarlo Stanton will lead that charge.