Playing under a spotlight fuelled by trade rumours and ownership drama, Giancarlo Stanton is showing us why the Miami Marlins gave him a 13-year contract in the first place.
The right fielder was already having a strong season through Independence Day: 21 home runs with an .870 OPS.
But no one was prepared for Stanton’s supercharged second half — since his two-home run game on July 5, he’s mashed an astonishing 23 home runs in just 35 contests, good for a slugging percentage of .938.
As if that wasn’t enough, Stanton still appears to be heating up. He’s hit 11 home runs in just 14 games since the calendar turned to August, raising his OPS by nearly 70 points in the process.
On Tuesday night, he homered in his sixth consecutive game, bringing him one step closer to one of MLB’s most impressive records. The current mark for consecutive games with home runs is eight straight, set by Dale Long, Ken Griffey Jr. and Don Mattingly, who’s now Stanton’s manager in South Beach.
“I’d like to see him beat it actually,” Mattingly said of Stanton’s run at the record, according to the Associated Press. “It would be good …We’re trying to win games and the last thing I’m going to do is root against him hitting homers.”
This isn’t merely a case of a star player coming on strong in the second half — Stanton has put himself in rarefied air. Only two men, Sammy Sosa in 1998 and Barry Bonds in 2001, have hit more homers over a 35-game stretch, and both were named National League MVP in those seasons.
That’s exactly the kind of production the Marlins hoped they’d be getting when they signed Stanton to a staggering 13-year, $US325 million contract, the largest in the history of sports, heading into the 2015 season. The deal made Stanton one of MLB’s most talked-about players over the past few years, even though injuries limited him to just 193 games between 2015 and 2016.
But now, even though he’s healthy and hitting better than ever, Stanton’s future in Miami remains cloudy. Several teams have reportedly inquired about the possibility of trading for the slugger, and the Marlins, for all their aggressive dealing, have never posted a winning record since Stanton joined the team, a fact he’s all too aware of. What’s more, club owner Jeffrey Loria has reportedly agreed to sell the Marlins to a group that includes Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter; at the time of this writing, the new group’s vision for the team is unclear.
But what is clear is that Stanton has completed his development into one of baseball’s most feared hitters. He’s on pace for MLB’s first 50-home run season since 2013, when Chris Davis accomplished the feat. He ranks third among NL position players in Wins Above Replacement, and has a legitimate shot at posting the highest slugging percentage of the decade.
All of this and more will ride on Stanton’s performance in the final quarter of the season. He will try to extend his home run streak to seven games on Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants.
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