Imagine expecting more when reviewing a stat line that includes 38 home runs, 100 RBI, 102 runs scored and an OPS of .852 (126 OPS+). So it goes with Yankees DH/OF Giancarlo Stanton, who enters his second season in "what have you done for me lately" New York.
Stanton was hard-pressed to match his massive NL MVP production from 2017 (NL-leading 59 homers, 132 RB, .631 SLG and 169 OPS+). Viewing 2018 as disappointing is unfair and the notion that his downturn was due to the newness of New York and his role with the club as the primary DH might be a bit overblown.
Some of the expected improvement from Stanton in 2019 is perceived to be derived from attaining a comfort level in New York. It is true that Stanton and many other players endure an adjustment period when coming to the Yankees. This might have been believed to be more so a potential issue with Stanton, who came from Miami -- where the focus was to get through the season rather than win a World Series.
In New York, media and fan attention focuses on each box score, which inherently increases an individual's internal pressure to perform day in and day out.
In this regard, Stanton deserves credit. A lot of credit.
The 29-year-old never hid from the media at his locker and by all accounts continued to work hard throughout the season. Stanton did not wear any frustration on his face and never made excuses. He always seemed focused on the entirety of his game versus five at-bats in a singular contest. In sum, he appeared to be comfortable.
Despite the initial concern based on others' results before him, it didn't take Stanton long to become accustomed to the DH role, where he produced a .942 OPS in 380 plate appearances, but the offensive results as a fielder decreased considerably. It is evident that the DH role itself was not an overall issue, but potentially the back and forth to the field from being the DH may have had adversely affected on his performance.
Potentially more impactful to his production was Stanton's hamstring soreness, which plagued him for a better part of the season. Stanton fought through the injury while the club was already playing with its best player, right fielder Aaron Judge. Here, Stanton demonstrated an impressive will to help his club and the ability to carry it for an extended period.
At one stretch from June 4 to August 24 (72 games, while hobbled in parts), Stanton dug extremely deep and went on an extended hot stretch in which he hit .313, with a .383 OBP and .589 SLG, including 20 homers and 50 RBI. Unfortunately, Stanton's hot stretches have come with severe icy periods throughout his career. That was also the case in 2018, as evidenced by the .737 OPS he compiled in the season's first 28 games and .742 OPS in the final 24 games.
So what exactly is fair production to expect from Stanton? His career norms paint the picture of an extreme slugger with holes in his swing (28 percent strikeout rate), but who also has an above-average walk rate (11.5 percent). The home runs will come in bunches, but there will also be droughts. Only Stanton's MVP season stands out as a complete run through the season in which he excelled from start to finish, particularly because he struck out less (23.6 percent rate) and walked more (12.3 percent).
Stanton might very well receive some benefit from this being his second season in New York, and any back and forth from the outfield to DH will feel less foreign to him. But if we're expecting a replication of his MVP performance, comfort in New York and as a DH ranks down the list of measures that will boost his production to the levels he'll need to quiet his naysayers. Instead, health and regaining the approach at the plate from 2017 could lead to him fulfilling the lofty expectations many have for him.