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« Hiroki Kuroda: Command King | Main | Jays' Johnson, Morrow Feature Wipeout Sliders »

Giancarlo Stanton Solves Breaking Stuff

Giancarlo Stanton is not a happy man. And who can blame him? The Marlins' outfield prodigy has jacked more home runs through his age-22 season (93) than every hitter not named Mel Ott, Eddie Matthews, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Conigliaro and Frank Robinson, yet he's now surrounded by a quasi-Triple-A squad that will cost less than that psychedelic home run sculpture in Miami's taxpayer-funded stadium/night club/art gallery.

While the Marlins look primed for another last-place finish in the NL East standings, Stanton can at least take solace in his rapid improvement at the plate. Stanton's on-base-plus-slugging percentage has soared from 18 percent above the major league average during his rookie season to 41 percent above average in 2011 and 58 percent above average in 2012. He has developed into one of the game's most dangerous hitters by taking out his Fish-induced frustration on curveballs and sliders.

Stanton crushed fastballs from the moment he reached the majors, but pitchers could beat him with quality breaking stuff during his rookie year:

Stanton's slugging percentage by pitch location vs. curveballs and sliders, 2010

Stanton slugged .346 against curves and sliders as a rookie, which was about 25 points below the major league average. He hit six homers against breaking balls, and none came on a pitch thrown to the bottom third of the strike zone.

In 2011, Stanton expanded his slugging prowess against curves and sliders:

Stanton's slugging percentage by pitch location vs. curveballs and sliders, 2011

He still scuffled against low-and-away pitches, but Stanton improved his slugging percentage on curves and sliders to .444. Stanton went deep 11 times on breaking balls, including two on low pitches.

This past year, Giancarlo transformed into an elite hitter against breaking stuff:

Stanton's slugging percentage by pitch location vs. curveballs and sliders, 2012

He slugged .563 against curves and sliders, tying Josh Hamilton for the fourth-best mark among MLB hitters, and his 13 homers on breaking balls ranked behind just Hamilton. Stanton hit six homers on low breaking stuff.

Stanton, under contract with the Marlins through the 2016 season, probably wishes he had Hamilton's freedom to change zip codes this winter. But if he maintains his gains against breaking stuff and stays healthy, Giancarlo is going to get a payday that trumps Hamilton's down the line.

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