Yankees fans had little reason to follow the Miami Marlins or Giancarlo Stanton until the old Yankee captain and new Marlins co-owner, Derek Jeter, shipped Florida’s most prolific hitter to New York.
They knew the most important and most glaring fact about their new hitter. That was, he hit 59 home runs last season and just got added to the team that led the majors in round-trippers in 2017. Records were sure to fall in New York, with Stanton piling on alongside Aaron Judge and company.
So, with the Yankees treading water at .500 and watching the Red Sox pull away with the best record in baseball, it stands to reason that Yankee fans want to know why. The easiest target is Stanton.
Stanton’s .220 batting average screams “under-achiever!” It is the worst start by average in his eight-year career. The number has some fans questioning if the small-team star can’t handle the pressure of the big city.
He looked overwhelmed while striking out five times in a game. Then he did it again. Ray Lankford is the only player to have suffered that fate more than twice in a season. In 1998, he had the platinum sombrero three times in a season split with the Giants and Cubs.
Deron Johnson is the only other player in history with two five-strikeout games. It took Johnson almost the entire 1964 season to do it, taking strike 15 in early September. It is still April, making Stanton a prime candidate to set a new standard for futility.
Stanton does not seem dismayed by his slow start. He shrugged off his big strikeout games as “a bad week” and remains confidant.
Indeed, his career .268 batting average over eight seasons should serve less to measure his sluggish April and more to remind Yankee fans that better days are coming.
Stanton did not forget how to hit. With only 60 or so at bats so far, he is a short hitting streak away from topping .270.
That being said, it is possible he is adjusting, or even over-adjusting, to the smaller confines of Yankee Stadium. The short fences might be teasing him into bad mechanics. Eventually, a veteran slugger like Stanton will relax and let the homers come.
Those Yankee fans who expected 59 more home runs this season should realize 2017 was a career year. He never finished with more than 37 homers in a season before.
As of April 16, he is one of a handful of Yankees with three dingers on the season. That would project to 35 homers on the year, roughly Stanton’s career average. Four starters with over 30 home runs would be an incredible fete, but would it satisfy Yankee fans looking for 50-plus from Stanton and Aaron Judge?
Stanton also has 10 runs batted in. That projects to 115 for the season. That would be only the third time he bested 100 RBI, well above his usual 85. Yet, there are fans demanding more from their new addition.
New York is not losing games due to hitting. They are the fifth-best hitting team by average, have the fourth-most home runs, and the third-most runs overall. Imagine where they will be if Stanton and the even colder Gary Sanchez get warmed up!
If there is a culprit for the Bombers’ pedestrian start, it is the pitching staff, particularly the relief corps. The Yankees can not contend if they do not improve their 4.78 team ERA.
That is almost two runs more than division-leading Boston. Only the Seattle Mariners have a team ERA over 4.00 and a winning record (8-5) in the American League.
Manager Aaron Boone might want to spend some time on defensive drills, too. Midway through April, the team leads the league in errors by a comfortable margin.
Yankee fans are understandably concerned. After all, their team supposed to go 162-0 with a thousand home runs this season.
Historically speaking, we could be reading about Giancarlo Stanton’s record-setting home run season and how the high-flying Yankees are chasing down the Red Sox by June.
While I appreciate how the worried fan base gives me something to write about, there is nothing to write about here.
Giancarlo Stanton and the Yankees will come around fine and deliver the season you promised yourselves the day Aaron Judge became the second-best home run hitter on the team.