Giancarlo Stanton has spent all of the 2014 Major League Baseball season showing us how great he is. He spent all of Monday's game showing us how great he can still be.
Stanton did a little of everything as the Miami Marlins hung on for a 6-5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Well known for his prodigious power, Stanton put his team up 3-0 with a pair of homers—the first to right field and the second a 470-foot moon shot to left—on his way to a 2-for-3 night with two runs and three RBI.
But Stanton wasn't just all about offense Monday. He also made a lunging, highlight-reel catch on the warning track in deep right field to rob Kolten Wong of what could have been a rally-starting extra-base hit to kick off the top of the fifth inning at a time when the Cardinals had fought back to 5-3.
You may have seen this all-around performance in real time, or perhaps you've already watched the highlights, but even if either of those apply, it's worth checking out Stanton's display of damaging and defending baseballs again:
"He was definitely trying to take that game over, not only with his bat but with his glove,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said afterward, via Jacob Feldman of the Miami Herald.
The Stanton-driven double-yoo lifted Miami's record to 58-60 and helped the club gain a game on the Cardinals, who currently inhabit the second wild-card position in the NL.
Because of Stanton's big night on Monday and monster season overall, the Marlins still are hanging around the playoff chase—they're 3.5 games in back of St. Louis through play on Tuesday—which puts him in the MVP discussion in a league that lacks a no-doubt front-runner so far.
By season's end, then, it's at least possible that Stanton could have some hardware to his name, but it's just as possible that we have not yet seen the best of him.
For one, Stanton is still just 24 years old, which is remarkable, considering it feels like he's been around for quite a while. In a way, he has been here for some time, since this is actually his fifth MLB season; he broke into the bigs in June 2010 as a 20-year-old phenom.
Stanton ranks 12th all time with 148 career home runs before his age-25 season. With a month-and-a-half of baseball left, he should climb into the top 10 and perhaps even approach Albert Pujols, who amassed 160 through his age-24 campaign.
|Ken Griffey Jr.||172|
You took note of the company on that 150-homers-through-age-24 list, yes?
If that's not a sign that there's still plenty more to come from Stanton, then consider that he's steadily improved both his strikeout and walk rates since his rookie season:
That's right: Stanton currently is sporting the lowest strikeout rate of his career, and it's almost five percentage points better than it was when he got started. That shows his ability to make significant adjustments.
In fact, his plate-discipline figures at FanGraphs prove he's been swinging at a lower percentage of pitches outside the zone (O-Swing%) and swinging and missing more overall (SwStr%) since the start of 2013.
Then there's Stanton's solid defense in right field, not to mention the fact that he's already stolen a career-high 10 bases and is on pace to more than double his previous best (six stolen bases in 2012).
The key for the 6'6", 240-pound Stanton this year and going forward is his health, which had become a problem early in his career. But after battling all sorts of ailments and issues, including a right hamstring strain last year and right knee surgery in 2012—both of which cost him chunks of seasons—Stanton has been as durable as he has productive so far.
That's a necessity if Stanton is going to continue showing us how great he is this year—and how much better he can still be in the years ahead.
In one single, dominant performance on Monday, Stanton provided evidence of both.
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