Giancarlo Stanton's power has been the stuff of scouting lore since his scoreboard-clearing days in the minors. But there has also been concern that one of the trade-offs for those thunderous shots -- lots of swings and misses -- would hold him back in his quest to become an all-around terror at the plate. Unfortunately for pitchers, Stanton has solved his one offensive weakness by connecting more in two-strike counts.
Giancarlo's K rate has decreased from 31.1 percent as a rookie in 2010 to 27.6 percent last year and 22.3 percent in 2012, not far off the 19-20 percent MLB average this season. His OPS+, on the other hand, has skyrocketed from 118 to 141 to 155. For that, he can thank better plate coverage in the upper third of the zone when he doesn't have a strike to spare.
First, here's the average contact rate by pitch location for right-handed hitters in two-strike counts since 2010:
Righty batters have whiffed 19 percent of the time they have swung at two-strike pitches thrown high in the zone since 2010. Now, look at Stanton's contact rate with two strikes as a rookie. There was a big cold spot on high-and-away offerings:
Stanton swung through 39 percent of two-strike pitches thrown high, the sixth-highest rate among MLB hitters that season. Last year, he adjusted and started to get his bat on those high-and-away pitches:
His miss rate on high two-strike pitches improved to 32 percent. Giancarlo has connected with even more high two-strike offerings in 2012, save for a small sliver of the zone. His miss rate is down to 27 percent:
For all the deserved praise that Bryce Harper and Mike Trout receive, Stanton has rather quietly cobbled together one of the greatest offensive starts to a career. Ever. Per Baseball-Reference, Stanton has the ninth-best slugging percentage (.537) and the 18th-highest OPS+ (136) among hitters getting at least 1,000 plate appearances through their age-22 season. Now that Stanton has cut the Ks, there's no telling how much pain he'll inflict on pitchers in the coming years.