No modern Yankees player has been more accountable than Giancarlo Stanton, an attitude he's sustained through his disrespected ups and laser-focused downs.
Unfortunately, that accountability rings increasingly hollow as a player's skills recede with age. While Stanton has been an unfair target of boos on particularly weak hacks during his 30/100 seasons of the recent post, the ire has been a lot more pointed lately, as he's been unable to carry the team's offense without Aaron Judge (or even do a respectable imitation of the act).
So, what's to blame for Stanton's slump, barely mitigated by an insurance run single on Sunday afternoon? Is it his typical slow return to form following a muscular injury of his own? Hopefully ... but ... the long-term data indicates something more serious may be at play here.
That downward spiking line you see in the chart below isn't Josh Donaldson's Non-Gray Hair Percentage. It's actually 2022 All-Star Game MVP Giancarlo Stanton's expected weighted on-base average against fastballs, which tanked precipitously last season before dropping even further this year.
Slugging fastballs has typically been Stanton's greatest strength, with his proneness to offspeed low-and-away serving as his greatest weakness. If he's struggling to punish heaters in the zone as he ages -- which, yes, seem to be growing more potent by the day, to be fair -- that doesn't bode fantastically for his age-related regression past 33, his current checkpoint.
After all, how do you think Donaldson's temples got so gray in the first place? His worrisome inability to spot a hittable fastball and inflict damage upon it.
Yankees star Giancarlo Stanton struggling vs fastballs is concerning
An ever-present Stanton was correct this weekend when he faced the media and announced he still had "work to do" after his late RBI single on Sunday. Unfortunately, some of that work might involve adjusting his longstanding swing path to be able to get to the heater sooner (without sacrificing his trademark power along the way).
Stanton, a one-of-a-kind ballplayer, has always been a threat to age poorly. He's a power hitter, first and foremost. When he's right, he strikes the baseball at eyepopping velocities. Stanton has never seemed like the type of hitter who could learn from the aging pitcher who has to eventually subsist on guts and guile. He's not developing a forkball. He's not working on perfecting the bloop single. He's here to mash. And, while he's never been a one-trick pony, he simply wouldn't be the same without his most special trick.
Needless to say, while the Yankees knew he could someday hit trouble, they hoped it wouldn't come before the age of 35.
Stanton has yet to play enough to rack up a respectable Savant page this season, but it goes without saying that when he does impact the ball, he still does so with the type of force rarely seen in today's game. His 100th percentile maximum exit velocity indicates that the impossible remains possible with him, even while working with a smaller sample size to actually create one of those flash-bang batted ball events.
Considering he's comfortably locked up through his age-37 season, though, the Yankees are going to need to see Stanton start to catch up to the hard stuff again quickly. Hopefully, the issue is at least partially solved with increased comfort and cushion in the lineup. If not, this contract no longer looks like a relative bargain, even with the Marlins picking up a portion of his earnings. There is not, and has never been, an accountability bonus on the luxury tax payroll.
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