What do New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton and Alex Rodriguez have in common? More than you might think.
New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton has looked more like former Yankees reliever Mike Stanton at the plate than he has the reigning National League MVP thus far in 2018. But he’s not the first high-profile addition to get off to a slow start in the Bronx. Alex Rodriguez did too.
Like Stanton, A-Rod was acquired via a salary dump by his former team. The Yankees sent second baseman Alfonso Soriano and infield prospect Joaquin Arias to Texas in exchange for Rodriguez.
That’s eerily similar to the price the Yankees paid to acquire Stanton: second baseman Starlin Castro, infield prospect Jose Devers and pitching prospect Jose Guzman.
Like Stanton, A-Rod was coming off a season that saw him win his first MVP Award.
In fact, A-Rod’s numbers in 2003 weren’t far off from Stanton’s in 2017.
|Player (Year)||BA||OPS||XBH (HR)||RBI|
|Rodriguez (2003)||.298||.995||83 (47)||118|
|Stanton (2017)||.281||1.007||91 (59)||132|
But those numbers seemed like a distant memory for both players when they got their respective Yankees careers underway.
Stanton’s struggles have been well documented. It’d be one thing if he was making loud outs. But he’s not. He’s been lucky to make contact with the ball, much less put it in play.
It's been a week to forget for Giancarlo Stanton. pic.twitter.com/2bRhbZAYdC
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 8, 2018
While his 25 strikeouts led all of baseball heading into play Sunday, Stanton’s 37.9 percent whiff rate was only MLB’s seventh-highest. Among qualified hitters, Minnesota’s Miguel Sano leads the way at 48.9 percent.
That doesn’t make his putrid start to the season any better, of course, but it at least offers this silver lining: Things could be worse.
He could be where A-Rod was 14 games into his Yankees career.
|Rodriguez (2004)||.196||.589||4 (1)||3|
|Stanton (2018)||.220||.761||7 (3)||10|
It’s true that A-Rod didn’t strikeout nearly as much as Stanton has, whiffing 13 times over his first 14 games. But Stanton has him beat in pretty much every other category.
Where neither holds an advantage is in the team’s overall record.
The Yankees went 7-7 through both of their first 14 games in pinstripes. A-Rod’s squad was in better shape in the standings, trailing first-place Baltimore by just 2.5 games, while Stanton’s Yanks trail first-place Boston by 5.5 games.
But things didn’t stay that way.
From his 15th game in 2004 through the end of the regular season, Rodriguez hit .295 with 58 extra-base hits (35 home runs), 103 RBI and a .918 OPS. He finished the year hitting .286 with 38 home runs, 106 RBI and a .888 OPS.
The Yankees went 94-54 the rest of the way (101-61 overall), winning the AL East by three games over second-place Boston (98-64). Baltimore, which had led the division in the early going, finished a distant third (78-84), 23 games off the lead.
So what does this all mean?
As I wrote last week, it’s way too early to panic.
Stanton is going to continue to strikeout because, well, it’s always been a part of his game. But history tells us that the whiffs aren’t likely to remain quite as frequent—he owns a career 27.8 percent K-rate—roughly 10 percent lower than where he currently sits.
History also tells us that his maddening inability to put balls in play won’t last. Right now, he’s making contact at a career-low rate, 62.1 percent of the time. That’s six percent less than his 68.1 percent career mark. While six percent might not seem like much, it is, especially when you factor it over another 148 regular-season games.
Are the Yankees going to play .635 ball the rest of the way, like they did in 2004? That’s anybody’s guess.
But if they do, you can count on Stanton playing a big part in that run. Just like A-Rod did.