In the couple weeks before Opening Day, hundreds of season prediction articles littered the baseball blogosphere. Naturally opinions varied, but almost nobody disagreed on one point: the Miami Marlins were expected to be terrible across the board and finish last in the NL East.
Well, more accurately, everything about the Marlins was expected to be putrid except Giancarlo Stanton.
And the Marlins have been awful. They currently own the worst winning percentage in baseball at .227. Breaking it down further, every facet of their performance has contributed to their 5-17 record. Their pitching staff has the fourth-worst ERA (4.48) in the league, they have compiled the lowest UZR (-14.0), and their offense has the worst wOBA (.257). In fact, they have the lowest wOBA in Major League Baseball by a staggering 30 points.
The poor performance has extended to Giancarlo Stanton, though. After essentially posting a six-win season in 2012 with 37 home runs and a .405 wOBA, he’s kicked off his 2013 campaign with no home runs, a .200/.324/.250 slash line, and a .267 wOBA. It hasn’t been pretty.
Of course, Stanton missed roughly a week in mid-April with a shoulder injury. While the injury could certainly be a significant contributor to his poor start, it goes beyond that. His poor performance appears to be an outgrowth of the talent around him, or the lack thereof. He’s arguably the only offensive threat in the lineup, and opposing pitchers are treating him as such. They’re not throwing him anything to hit. He’s seeing the lowest percentage of pitches in the strike zone of any hitter in baseball.
The lack of pitches in the strike zone has naturally led to an uptick in his walk rate. His 14.1% walk rate is highest of his career — so he’s still getting on base — but the power has been noticeably absent. Seeing an .050 ISO next to his name looks like a misprint. He has yet to hit a home run and only has three extra-base hits on the season.
His struggles may not simply be a case of being pitched around, though. It’s certainly part of it, but Stanton’s plate discipline numbers show something interesting:
He’s swinging at more pitches outside the zone, but his swing percentage at pitches in the strike zone has dropped precipitously. One would think that Stanton would jump on any pitch in the strike zone, considering he sees so few of them. The numbers don’t suggest that, though, and I don’t really know what to make of it.
For fantasy owners holding Giancarlo Stanton, it’s a difficult dilemma. He’s clearly getting nothing to hit due to the Marlins’ poor lineup, which could mean his numbers will suffer throughout the season. Do you think about selling Stanton and extracting whatever value you can get from an opposing owner? I can certainly understand the argument. I’m just not sure I could part with the talent.
Then again, it’s why I didn’t draft Stanton in any league this year. I swore off the Marlins. Protection within a lineup is generally overstated. With the Marlins and Giancarlo Stanton this year, though, I’m not sure it is. He’s the only dangerous bat in the lineup, and his numbers are suffering greatly because of that.
J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).