Back on Friday, Giants beat-writer Hank Schulman wrote an article about the MLB’s homerun revolution and why the San Francisco Giants aren’t a part of it. Without diving too much into it, Schulman essentially focuses on AT&T Park, the introduction of launch angles, and building through the draft as the three overriding reasons the Giants are one of the few teams failing to partake in the league-wide power-surge.
Yesterday, Schulman took to Twitter, suggesting that IF the Marlins new management team decides it’s in their best interest to start from scratch, the Giants need to strongly consider trading for Stanton in what would likely serve as a cash-dump for Miami.
While I believe this to be a pipe-dream, there is no doubt that Stanton is the type of player whose talent and abilities transcend launch angles and ballpark factors. The proof lies in Stanton’s .309 batting average with 9 homeruns and 19 RBIs in 26 career games at AT&T Park. Stanton’s .676 slugging percentage at AT&T is his 4th highest of all MLB Stadiums in which he’s played in more than 9 games. The 3 stadiums ahead of AT&T? Coors Field, Petco Park, and Dodger Stadium – so to think that he would be able to impact the NL West would be quite the understatement.
With his MLB-leading 40th homerun last night against the Rockies, Stanton has now hit 19 homeruns in his last 30 games. By contrast, the Giants have hit 20 homeruns as a team during the same 30-game stretch.
As several outlets have suggested, Stanton’s offensive explosion over the last 30 days have come as a result of the mechanical adjustments he has made to his stance. As Harold Reynolds from MLB Network discusses in the video, Stanton has completely closed off his stance to allow himself to be squarer to the ball at contact.
In reviewing some of Stanton’s at-bats over his 8-year Major League career, he’s always had the tendency to pull off the ball (meaning that his front hip flies open, therefore causing his entire front side to fly open), thus leaving him susceptible to any pitch, more so off-speed, on the outer 3rd. But due to his incredible strength and swing efficiency, Stanton’s ability to punish mistakes has somewhat masked his overall inconsistencies as a hitter.
Now that Stanton has implemented this new stance, he has forced pitchers (and teams) to re-think how/if they plan to attack him. Since July 5th, Stanton is hitting .310 with 19 homeruns and 36 RBIs, however the most telling stat for me, is that Stanton’s struck out 29 times while walking 20. In the same 30 game stretch, fellow homerun derby participants Aaron Judge and Miguel Sano have struck out 48 times suggesting that he is staying disciplined and seeing the ball well with his new adjustments.
Obviously, Stanton’s stance-adjustment has paid significant dividends. But as is so often the case, it isn’t the stance itself that is producing results, as many are suggesting. Instead, it’s the hitting position the stance puts him in that’s allowing Stanton to be more consistent, therefore enabling him to utilize his strengths more often as a hitter.
If we look at some at-bats Stanton had against Matt Moore in 2016 and 2017, we get a better idea of why the stance itself isn’t the main contributing factor.
In 2016 (left), Stanton was slightly open, versus extremely closed off this season. And as Harold Reynolds alluded to, while Stanton pulls off both pitches during the stride phase of the swing, his stride foot actually lands square in 2017 versus open in 2016.
If we play both videos together, you get a better idea of where the momentum created by Stanton’s stride is actually taking him.
Prior to this season, Stanton’s momentum and power were working in a different direction than the flight of the ball. Now, Stanton is able to match the flight of the ball with the force of his momentum and bat speed working directly towards the ball.
To me, the open side comparison tells the real story. While it’s difficult to get a view of the front-hip, the open-side exposes what I believe to be the biggest contributor to Stanton’s success.
The swing on the left (below) was taken from 2015, whereas the swing on the right was taken last week. Keeping in mind the different in stances we saw from the front, we notice a significant difference between upper and lower body connectedness between the two swings when the front heel plants into the ground following the stride.
In 2015, we see how far Stanton has already pulled off the ball with his front hip already rotating towards the 3rd base dugout. This season, Stanton’s front-hip is pretty close to square, with the Dodgers’ Corey Seager providing the best illustration of staying square to the pitcher upon heel plant.
In staying square to the ball, Stanton (and Seager) is allowing himself to maintain one of the most critical positions to hitting– the ability to keep his hands back while preserving a solid foundation. If you look back to 2015, Stanton’s front-side caused his hands to leak forward, suggesting that not only was he using too much of his shoulders to swing the bat, he wasn’t allowing enough separation from his hands to his body to fully drive the barrel of the bat through the hitting zone. In 2017, Stanton (along with Seager) possess an athletic/strong lower half, with perfect hand-separation in the upper-half. In doing so, Stanton is in a much better position to cover the width of the plate (due to his balance and alignment), and adjust to varying pitch speeds (due to his hands being properly separated).
Just a couple of days ago, I expanded on this topic of hand-separation in a post about Tim Tebow. Despite Tebow over-extended his arms (the opposite of Stanton), the swing inefficiencies it causes are similar.
If we move ahead to the “barrel-lag” phase, where the cap of the bat is facing the catcher, we capture our first true glimpse of what staying square to the pitcher has allowed Stanton to do – utilizing his leg drive to hit behind the ball.
On the left, Stanton’s upper body is working ahead of his lower-body as dictated by the blue line – a direct result of his front side being too quick. Despite what his career power-numbers have suggested, the hitting position Stanton maintained back in 2015 is more indicative of someone like Derek Jeter or Tony Gwynn, who were trying to hit for average, not power. Notice in both photos below, the upper-body forward lean that both Jeter and Gwynn maintain at contact. Swings like these center on hand-eye coordination and barrel control, both of which were skills that made Jeter and Gwynn great.
In terms of skill-set, Gwynn/Jeter and Stanton could not be more different, but they maintained similar qualities in regards to how they approached the ball.
If we skip ahead to the contact phase of the swing, we again see the significant difference in leg-drive and body alignment.
Stanton has always been a homerun hitter, but it hasn’t been until recently, that he’s swung like one. Other hitters in baseball who have maximized every ounce of their power potential, such as Aaron Judge, Barry Bonds, and even the diminutive Jose Altuve (who isn’t known as a power hitter, but is likely in the midst of his 2nd 24+ homerun season despite being 5’5”), all hit behind the ball like Stanton is now.
Knowing what we know now, the scariest part of what we’ve seen using video is that we may just now be catching a glimpse of things to come for Giancarlo Stanton. If Stanton plays in roughly 45 of the Marlins’ remaining 48 games and continues to hit homeruns at the same pace he has for the entire season (1 per every 10.5 at bats), he very well could finish the season with between 55-60 homeruns.
Based on what I’ve seen, there’s reason to believe that the best has yet to come for Giancarlo Stanton, and that’s something the Giants definitely need to consider (even with his massive contract) if he does become available in the near future.