Different Ways To Look at Giancarlo Stanton's Yankees Career
by Paul Semendinger
February 8, 2023
NOTE - This article appeared in the IBWAA Newsletter Here's the Pitch on February 4, 2023.
When one looks at Giancarlo Stanton's Yankees career, there is a great deal to examine. There is the good and there is not so good. There have been time when Giancarlo Stanton has been amazing - and there have been times when, well... he hasn't been.
When one looks at the Yankees career (to date) of Giancarlo Stanton a number of different arguments can be made, all based upon statistics and data.
In a way, the way one looks at Giancarlo Stanton might be the way one looks at the Yankees, baseball, or statistics in general. There is so much to unpack that it becomes a challenge to even place it all in the context of an article.
But I'll try.
Giancarlo Stanton, first and foremost is a slugger; a big-time hitter. And, for the Yankees, he has been, over the course of his career, a true slugger. Giancarlo Stanton's OPS+ over the course of his Yankees career is 129. In four of his five seasons as a Yankee, his OPS+ has actually been over 130. His total is brough down to 129 only by his poor (for his standards, at least) OPS+ of 113 in 2022. Heading into last season, his OPS+ as a Yankee was 134.
If one were to look at OPS+, a conclusion can be drawn that Giancarlo Stanton has been a very productive slugger for the Yankees, year-in-and-year-out.
But, alas(!), OPS+ doesn't tell the full story. (No statistic does, of course.)
WAR is a statistic that is often used to determine a player's worth. In many ways, WAR is the new industry standard. If a player has a positive WAR, he had a good year. The higher the WAR, the better the player was. In fact, if a player accumulates 60 or more WAR over the course of his career, he is considered by many experts as a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame. If we look at Giancarlo Stanton's career, we can see that he has had a positive WAR as a Yankee. Over five seasons, Stanton's total WAR in New York has been 9.1. Nice.
Or is it?
When one looks more closely, he sees that Giancarlo Stanton, for all the slugging he does, has averaged less than 2.0 WAR a season. That is positive production, but averaging 1.82 WAR per season isn't necessarily impressive - especially for a player who is supposed to be a middle-of-the-order hitter and a slugger who should be helping to lead the Yankees to the championship each year.
In fact, based on WAR, Giancarlo Stanton has basically had two good years as a Yankee and three seasons where he has been only slightly better than an average player. Breaking Stanton's yearly WAR down shows this clearly:
2018 = 4.4 (a very good year)
2019 = 0.4 (not so much)
2020 = 0.6
2021 = 3.1
2022 = 0.7
Looking at it this way shows that, in three of his five seasons as a Yankee, Giancarlo Stanton has been only slightly better than a replacement player. Basically 82% of his total accumulated WAR was earned in his two best seasons (2018 and 2021). The other years, again, he just has not provided much value to the team.
So, while Stanton's OPS+ tells one story, he is consistently a slugger, his WAR tells a completely different one - in most seasons, he hasn't been of much more value than a replacement-level player.
One reason that Giancarlo Stanton's WAR has been low might be because he just does not stay healthy. A great player is only great if he is on the field and producing. And, unfortunately, Giancarlo Stanton just has not been a player who has been available for the Yankees on a regular basis. The following are his games played per season in total and as a percentage of the total number of games played by the team that year:
2018 - 158 games played (97.5%)
2019 - 18 games played (11.1%)
2020 - 23 games played (38.3%)
2021 - 139 games played (85.8%)
2022 - 110 games played (67.9%)
In total, over his Yankees career, Giancarlo Stanton has played in 63.2% of the Yankees' games. That's not very good. Worse, when one absents his first season, since 2019, Giancarlo Stanton has played in only 53.1% of all games played, or just over half of the games. That is simply, not very good.
Because Stanton has missed so many games, it becomes difficult to look at his yearly totals for such things as home runs because the numbers are depressed. Looking at home runs onj a yearly basis shows three solid years and two poor years (even adjusted for the shortened 2020 season):
2018 = 38 homers
2019 = 3 homers
2020 = 4 homers (pro-rated to 6 based on a full season, with his games missed)
2021 = 35 homers
2022 = 31 homers
Runs Batted In provides another, less-than-great, story. Giancarlo Stanton has reached 100 RBIs once in his Yankees career (2018). He came close in 2021 (97), but otherwise, the numbers are not all that impressive (78 in 2022, 13 in 2019, 11 in 2020).
Stanton's batting average has also been less than stellar. Stanton has never even hit .275 in a full Yankees season. In years where he has played in more than 50% of the games, his batting averages have been:
2018 = .266
2021 = .273
2022 = .211
For a player who was brought to the team as a superstar, his overall performance has been lacking.
Adding to the overall lack of greatness has been the fact that he has not played the field well. His overall Defensive WAR has been in negative figures in each season he's been a Yankee.
Of course, for the Yankees, it is often about the post-season. The question one might ask is "How has Stanton done in the post season?" Supporters might note that he has hit .260 with 11 homers in 9 post season series. Those are nice numbers. But, when one looks closer, it becomes less impressive. It is clear that in Wild Card games, Giancarlo Stanton is amazing (.429 with 4 homers in 4 games), but in the other series (.231, 7 homers in 6 games), he has been less so.
In conclusion, one can look at Giancarlo Stanton's statistics as a Yankee and draw multiple conclusions. For me, the numbers speak to a player who has vastly underperformed. Stanton was brought to the Yankees to be great. Overall, he hasn't been great. In one season, his first, he was very very good. In the other seasons, he has mostly been a slightly better than average player when he has played, but the significant amount of games he has missed has also negatively impacted the team.
Baseball Reference projects Giancarlo Stanton to hit .239/26/73 in 2023 as a 33-year-old ball player. That feels just about correct. Good, not great and overall disappointing. When the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton, they thought they were acquiring a superstar. He hasn't been that. The concern, going forward, is that Giancarlo Stanton, at 33-years-old is, or is about to, enter his decline years.
As a Yankee, the past wasn't particularly great for Giancarlo Stanton. I am concerned that his future will be even less so.