Giancarlo Stanton finally seems to have settled in with Yankees

ByColey Harvey ESPN logo
Thursday, July 5, 2018

NEW YORK -- As Giancarlo Stanton tracked Julio Teheran's third-inning fastball deep into his hitting zone Wednesday, he quickly and violently threw his hands toward the ball with a swing that suddenly has become very familiar

-- and reminiscent of the hitter he was just a year ago.

It was the exact swing the New York Yankees want to see much more of as the summer rolls along.

With a head-turning 111.0 mph exit velocity, Stanton's 21st home run of the season was bombastically announced with a deep and bellowing crack that echoed throughout Yankee Stadium as the ball traveled deep toward the right-field bleachers. The sound of the hit was quickly eclipsed by the shouts and applause of a sellout crowd that Stanton may have finally won over for good.

Something else that swing, which resulted in a 410-foot three-run home run, showed? To borrow, on the most American of holidays, a phrase uttered by a litany of U.S. presidents: The state of Giancarlo Stanton is strong.

"I'm getting there," Stanton said following the Yankees' 6-2 Independence Day win over the Atlanta Braves. "Still have work to do. But it's a good feeling right now."

Sure, there is still plenty for Stanton to improve. His 115 strikeouts in 83 games are proof of that. But at long last it appears he's genuinely confident about where he's headed on the heels of a tough transition following his trade from the Miami Marlins last December.

"[I'm] having better overall at-bats. There's still some sloppy ones in there, but consistent, better plans, better approach overall," Stanton said. "I'm just giving myself the best chance to be successful out there."

The Yankees will need Stanton to take advantage of as many of those chances as possible in the next couple of weeks as they play without Gleyber Torres. The 21-year-old Torres, who has helped key New York's offense this season, was placed on the 10-day disabled list after Wednesday's game with a hip strain.

Stanton's latest home run was his second in as many days, and his 10th since June 1. His batting average, which was as low as .222 at the start of May, is now hovering close to .270.

"He's just more competitive pitch to pitch," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "We've seen him really start to, game in and game out, there's more at-bats where he is on. And from the timing standpoint, when he's on, he's as deadly as there is. We're starting to see that on a more consistent level."

Despite an uneven start, Stanton's numbers line up near identically to where they were at this time last season, when he was the National League MVP.

At the end of play on July 4 last year, Stanton was batting .265 with 21 home runs, 52 RBIs and a .523 slugging percentage. After Wednesday's game, he's batting .267 with 21 homers, 51 RBIs and a .515 slugging percentage.

Stanton's 2017 first-half numbers may have been good, but it was what he did in the second half that really earned him the MVP award. From July 4 on last season, he ripped 38 home runs in 78 games on his way to a league-leading 59-homer tally.

Boone wouldn't be surprised if a similarly torrid stretch awaits Stanton. He can perform even better than he has of late, the manager believes.

"There's another gear," Boone said. "We've seen that other gear last year when he ran off and won the MVP. He won that MVP on the strength of a couple of months that were historic.

"I would never put anything past a guy with his ability and his talent and his skill set. Whether we see that kind of run, I don't know. But all I know is we're starting to see a consistent performer that I feel like is putting himself in a good position night in and night out to [make an] impact."

Stanton's production started to pick up on May 2, the day his average plummeted to .222. In the 54 games since then, he's hitting .292 with 16 homers, 11 doubles and 36 RBIs with a .932 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He also has just three games in that span in which he has struck out three or more times.

Prior to May 2, Stanton struck out three or more times in five of the 29 games he played. That included the Yankees' home opener, when fans ferociously booed his five-strikeout performance.

Despite the difficulties Stanton has had at times wooing the New York fans, one Yankees veteran says the slugger has remained true to himself.

"He's always been the same," starting pitcher CC Sabathia said. "That's something that I noticed right away -- he's been the same guy the whole time, ups and downs. That's a good sign."

Stanton's demeanor isn't all that has remained consistent. As the jeers he heard earlier this year have begun giving way to more cheers, he has stuck to his approach at the plate. That's meant focusing on hitting the ball the opposite way.

His third-inning home run and his shot to right Tuesday night were prime examples of that. With nine opposite-field home runs -- just two shy of the 11 he had all last season -- he trails only Boston's J.D. Martinez in homers hit the other way. Aaron Judge, who also homered Wednesday, has eight opposite-field blasts.

"If [I] don't pick the ball up, I tend to be out in front, swinging at nonsense, so let it get deep [in the strike zone], trust it, and know that I've got a full right field over there," Stanton said. "I have enough power to do damage there."

With Yankee Stadium's shorter porch to right, Boone believes Stanton's opposite-field power surge is a matter of a good hitter taking advantage of his surroundings.

"You watch him take batting practice, and his approach is to try to go that way," Boone said. "And then obviously in this building, it's a good approach to have, especially as a right-handed hitter, if you have power and you can stay on it the other way. Guys like Aaron and Giancarlo, they don't have to get it all to ride it out the other way.

"That approach is a wise one, especially when you have power like him."

As his timing and consistency keep improving, Stanton believes the stats will follow.

"As long as I just keep it day by day, and keep my approach, and keep not giving away at-bats, the numbers should be there," Stanton said. "But whatever's going to help us win. It really doesn't matter the numbers. It's if I can help in any way."

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