In desperate need of a spark, the Miami Marlins have been batting slugger Giancarlo Stanton second in the lineup. It’s done wonders for his production.
There was seemingly no limit to what Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly was willing to try to get some production out of his lineup. After significant experimenting and tinkering, he finally stumbled on something that works.
It isn’t the ideal spot for Giancarlo Stanton to hit, but it has produced the best results thus far. It remains unclear how long Mattingly will keep Stanton second in the lineup, but for now, it’s producing results and that’s all that matters.
After a miserable month of May, Don Mattingly was desperately trying to stir his team to life. After being ejected on consecutive days, three times total in the month, he decided to tinker with the lineup. There were a few iterations of the frankenlineup before the one they’ve sported recently.
It included batting Dee Gordon ninth. The Marlins tried slotting the pitcher up at eighth, a strategy made famous by Tony La Russa. They moved Yelich around. They batted J.T. Realmuto nearly everywhere. Nothing seemed to produce runs. Then, ahead of a two-game series with the Athletics, they slotted Stanton second in the lineup.
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The $325 million dollar man had been struggling to start the season. After getting off to a hot start, he’d gone into a deep freeze. He was chasing balls out of the zone, his strikeouts increased dramatically, and he appeared to be pressing at the plate. He regularly found himself in position to come up with a game changing hit, and failed to do so.
In an effort to reset his approach at the plate, the Marlins decided to move him up in the lineup. Batting him second would place emphasis on contact, rather than power.
A tale of two Stanton’s
Prior to the switch, Stanton was slashing .262/.332/.527. He’d accounted for 11 home runs and 30 RBI’s. However, his strikeout numbers were skyrocketing. He’d whiffed an incredibly high 43 times in only 184 AB’s, and had drawn only 18 walks. He was producing too many empty at bats.
Since sliding him up, he has posted numbers that would warrant an MVP type season. The split since batting second is quite drastic, and his batting average is .394 batting while second in the lineup. He’s reaching base more often, with his OBP at .427, and he is slugging the ball at a .667 clip.
Why the sudden turnaround? Stanton doesn’t need to be the guy who clears the bases with a single swing anymore. Now his job is to work the count, swing for contact, and get on base. Combine that approach with Stanton’s prodigious power, and it’s a recipe for success.
The increased production has been one of the contributing factors to the Marlins recent turnaround. After suffering through a lousy May, Stanton’s bat has helped the team split the series with the A’s, take two-of-three against the Angels, and sweep the Phillies.
Not a permanent solution
Of course, Stanton can’t hit second in the lineup forever. There are other hitters better suited to hit in that spot in the lineup. Stanton is a power bat and needs to hit in the middle of the order. Eventually the team will need to move him back into that spot in the batting order.
This served as a great way to jump start the struggling slugger, but it’s only a temporary fix. What will happen with his production when he returns to fourth in the lineup? Mattingly and the Marlins hope he will continue to take the same approach. If Stanton focuses on contact, his natural power and strength is usually enough to muscle any ball over the fence or beyond a defenders reach.
J.T. Realmuto figures to be a better hitter in the two-hole in the order. He hits for contact, has above-average speed and hits from the right side. The Marlins have a lot of left-handed hitters in their lineup, including leadoff man Dee Gordon. A right handed bat is best suited to split the lefties.
Eventually, the Miami Marlins are going to have to get production out of a more traditional lineup. Getting a bat like Stanton up with runners on base is critical, and there are few opportunities for that in a table-setting position.
Look for the Marlins to stay with the strategy as long as it is helping produce wins. It isn’t so much a matter of Stanton’s production as much as the teams nightly result.