Opinion

Why Giancarlo Stanton will hit even more homers in the AL East

Murderers’ row might get convicted in the first degree this season with the addition of Giancarlo Stanton—this, we know.

The reigning NL MVP (267 homers in 986 games) provides the Yankees with a mesomorphic trio in the middle of their lineup. Stanton will accompany AL MVP runner-up Aaron Judge (57 homers in 182 games), and Gary Sanchez (53 homers after 177). In terms of home run pace at this stage of their careers: Judges ranks second all-time, Stanton third, and Sanchez fourth. Both Judge and Sanchez have massive power and out-of-this-world talent, but they have certainly been the beneficiaries of the hitter-friendly confines they call home and the ballparks throughout the AL East.

What we don’t know about Stanton just yet is how much the ballparks in the AL East will play to the 6’6” 245-pound slugger’s hand. Of the 28-year-old’s league-leading 59 home runs last season, 41 were hit inside NL East ballparks—accounting for 69% of his homers (31 in Marlin’s Park). With the Yankees set to face their divisional rivals 73 times next season, and 13 consecutive matchups against every AL East team to begin 2018, it’s worth taking a look at how Stanton’s power will play at these venues. 

Comparisons of the average dimensions between AL East (below, left) and NL East (below, right) parks indicate that Stanton is going to find himself in more hitter-friendly situations next year. New Yankee manager Aaron Boone, a fellow California native who happens to share the same agent as Stanton, will also have the luxury of etching him in DH slot to keep him fresh.

As you can see, AL East ballparks on average are 15 feet shorter down the left field line, and 15 feet shorter down the right-field line. Given that Giancarlo’s approach results in more balls hit to dead center, or pulled to left field, the shortened distance down the line left field could play particularly well for him. Most of the bombs that Stanton hit from centerfield to left last year were also absolutely slaughtered. Out of the 47 homers Stanton hit in those directions last year, 31 of them traveled at least 419 feet, averaging 444 projected feet and an average exit velocity of 112MPH.

Using Stanton’s 2017 spray chart, I used Statcast to insert it into each stadium in the AL East. Let’s start in the Bronx.

It’s no secret that Giancarlo’s new home is undoubtedly a hitters’ ballpark: 318 feet down the line in left, and 314 feet down the line in right with a wall that Aaron Judge is almost taller than, he’s probably going to like calling New York home. We know Giancarlo’s ability to pull the ball out of the ballpark will not be a problem, but the bigger question is how many he will be able to flick over that short porch in right.

If we can learn anything from last year, Stanton hit 11 home runs to the opposite field that would have been no doubt home runs at Yankee Stadium. Not typically known for his ability to drive the ball the opposite way like his partner in pinstripes Aaron Judge, who ranked second in baseball in opposite field homers last year (19)—it will be interesting to see if Stanton works with the Yankees hitting coachs to tweak his approach and focus on driving the ball the other way more often. 

Fenway is home to the shortest left field line in baseball at 310 feet, but it’s offset by the 37-foot high and 217-foot long green monster. The Yankees play the Red Sox 19 times this year, 10 of which are in Boston—making Stanton’s spray chart here is particularly interesting. Barring conditions that could have an adverse impact playing a series up there in the cold on April 11th-13th, he hit a ton of balls that I think would have cleared the monster that wound up being field outs at other ballparks.

When Stanton hit a “fly ball” last year, it left the park (48 times) more than he made an out (43). Given this, he certainly has the potential to be a Red Sox killer these next 10 years. Plus, in 3 career games at Fenway Park, Stanton already fenced one over the monster.

Camden Yards in Baltimore is the deepest ballpark down the left field line in the AL East. However, it’s still 7 feet shorter than Marlin’s Park, and widely known as a hitter-friendly venue—just ask Mark Trumbo, who belted 25 homers there in 2016. Right-handed batters hit homers at a 1.125 park factor and the total home run factor in Oriole Park is 1.208, making it the 7th best stadium for hitters in baseball.

Advantage: Giancarlo.

Over the course of the past 7 years, the Marlins and the Rays have met 11 times at the Trop, and Stanton has not had much success there. In 11 games, he’s gone 3 for 45 (.222) with one homer. Last season, in the two games he played in Tampa, he continued his struggles—going 1 for 9 with a double. Despite his struggles against the Rays on their home turf, Stanton will have 10 chances to redeem himself there this upcoming season. Looking at his spray chart from last year, specifically those fringe field outs near the wall in left—Stanton did hit a few balls that would have probably gone out at the Trop that didn’t leave the yard elsewhere.

While it’s a very small sample size, perhaps Giancarlo just loves hitting under a dome. In career 3 games played in Toronto, he’s 6 for 11 (.545) with 3HR and 2 2Bs. While the walls are higher than average, the dimensions aren’t staggering, and they’re symmetrical all around. Protected from the elements, the Rogers Center is an extremely hitter-friendly ballpark. In fact, from 2010-2016, the ballpark produced 105 runs compared to 100 runs in an average MLB stadium, and 120 homers for every 100 homers. The only stadium left in the bigs with astroturf, ESPN’s park factor ranks the Rogers Center as the 4th most hitter-friendly ballpark in the game.

Stanton’s move to the Yankees will not only provide him with a cavalry behind him in terms of protection but the luxury of keeping his legs fresh in the DH slot. His migration up the east coast also puts him in a division with the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the league: Rogers Center (4th), Fenway (6th), Oriole Park (7th), and Yankee Stadium (10th).

According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, Stanton lead the league in no doubt home runs (24), came in second in “just enoughs” (15), and finished towards the bottom of the league in “lucky homers” (2). By my evaluation, playing in the AL East will give Giancarlo Stanton more than a good chance at improving those “just enoughs,” and “lucky homers” come 2018, but only time will tell.

Just a reminder: 56 days until pitchers and catchers report.

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