The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Giancarlo's HR Quest Puts Spotlight on Key Baseball Issues

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton has put on one of the best power displays in history for a single month.  In 29 games in August, he belted 18 HR and 37 RBI, while compiling a .349 Batting Average.  His 18 home runs tied the National League record for most homers in the month of August set by Rudy York.  The rest of his slash line includes an outrageous .433 On Base Percentage and .899 Slugging Percentage.  With a total of 51 home runs through the end of August, he’s now on the “watch list” for potentially reaching Roger Maris’s 61 home run milestone for a season, set in 1961.  After 131 games, Stanton is approximating the pace set by Sammy Sosa (51) and Mark McGwire 53) when they surpassed Maris in 1998.

While Stanton is clearly at the top of this year’s class for home runs, he has a lot of company in the home runs department.  In fact, this season has been tagged as the “Year of the Home Run,” because the players in Major League Baseball are collectively on a pace to hit more than 6,000 homers for the entire season, something that has never been done before.  New records are being set for the average number of home runs per game and the number of home runs as a percentage of runs scored.

If we look back at the time of the All-Star break in mid-July, we were talking about New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge being in the position Stanton finds himself in now.  Judge took the baseball world by storm when he got off to a torrid start in the home run category by compiling 30 dingers by July 9.  However, he has cooled off considerably since then (currently has 37), while Stanton has made a meteoric rise.

This isn’t the first season Stanton has put up big numbers, but his career has been marred by injuries that have prevented him from playing full seasons in five of his eight major-league campaigns.  When he has been healthy he has twice hit 37 home runs in a season.  He has also led the league in Slugging Percentage in two seasons.  If you take the total number of career games he’s played and divide by 162 games (the number of regular season games), his “average per 162 games” (removing the injury factor) is an astonishing 44 home runs.  That’s a number in Babe Ruth’s stratosphere.

The attention being paid to Stanton has raised a number of related issues, some old and some new, being debated now.

What is the real home run record Stanton is chasing?  Sosa and McGwire first broke Maris’s 1961 single-season record of 61 home runs in 1998 with 66 and 70, respectively.  Then Barry Bonds shattered all their numbers with 73 home runs in 2001.  However, all of those performances are tainted by the PED era.  Many baseball enthusiasts feel that Maris’s record is still the only legitimate number; and if Stanton were to eclipse that number this season, he will hold a more special place in baseball history than Bonds, McGwire or Sosa.  Stanton has publicly stated he believes Maris’s 61 is the genuine record, in effect spurning those other guys’ efforts.

What’s contributing to this “Year of the Home Run?” Are the baseballs now being used in MLB juiced instead of the players being juiced, as in the PED era,  There has been increasing speculation in recent years that the construction of and the materials used in baseballs today are different and are contributing to the surge in home runs across the board.  According to a recent article in the Daily News, more and more pitchers and coaches are hopping on the bandwagon of the belief that baseballs are “being altered to become bouncier and to create more flight, thus allowing normal fly ball outs to carry into the stands.”  The MLB Commissioner’s Office denies these accusations, but otherwise can’t explain why the rise is occurring.  Some baseball analysts believe the recent emphasis on hitting approaches that leverage the launch angle and exit velocity by hitters, as well as the general disregard by teams for the negative aspects of strikeouts, are big contributing factors for the increase.  Whatever the reason, the game is fundamentally being changed from a hitting perspective.

Will the new Miami Marlins ownership try to leverage Stanton’s value after this season by trading him for several top prospects with which they can put their own thumbprint on the club?  Right out of the gate, their decision to trade him or keep him at the end of this season may be the toughest one they will ever make.  The Marlins need Stanton from a marketing perspective, but on the other hand there is probably no better time to unload him after this potentially historic season.  Furthermore, the Marlins will owe Stanton a boatload of money ($295M) for the next ten seasons, although he can opt out after the 2020 season.  If they could find another club willing to pick up his contract now, perhaps they should take the opportunity to exit this massive financial commitment, thereby reducing overall payroll, and to get some prospects with which they can improve the overall club for the future.  Or does ownership, which includes former Yankee standout shortstop Derek Jeter, simply try to re-structure the club around Stanton for the long-term?  The Marlins are currently riding on the back of Stanton for a potential wild card berth this season, so they may be thinking they aren’t far away from being relevant and just need to make a few key tweaks in the roster.  The Marlins’ fan base, which has been disillusioned for several years with former owner Jeffrey Loria, would favor seeing Stanton kept around to lead the club’s turnaround.  Trading him now might make them even more disillusioned, another factor with which the new ownership has to come to grips.

Stanton stands above the rest of the sluggers in this “Year of the Home Run.”  He makes hitting home runs in actual games look as easy as hitting a bunch of homers in a video game.  It will be fun to see how he holds up during the rest of September.  Perhaps by the end of the month, we’ll be saying, “Move over, Roger.  Make room for Giancarlo.”

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)