Fact: The most powerful man in baseball spends his summers in South Florida, not the league offices in New York or the headquarters of the Boras Corporation in California.
Nobody associated with the game has as much power as Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
While the hype that preceded his arrival in the big leagues back in 2010 wasn't quite on the level of Washington's Bryce Harper, expectations—especially in the power department—were incredibly high, especially for an athlete who had not yet celebrated his 21st birthday.
Stories, like this one from former MLB pitcher Dan Meyer, only helped to fuel those expectations.
Fast forward five years, and Stanton has not only established himself as one of the game's premier power hitters, but his performance stacks up against some of the game's all-time greats.
Miami manager Mike Redmond talked to Craig Davis of the Sun-Sentinel in May about the progress Stanton has made thus far in his career.
That's scary to think about and what he's been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. There's still room to get better. When he continues to swing at strikes and gets pitches and gets into favorable counts ... wow, watch out. As much damage as he's doing now, he could do even more damage.
But to look at the numbers on the surface and not delve deeper would be a major disservice, both to us and to Stanton, for it's only after breaking things down that we can truly appreciate what Stanton is doing.
Current Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee knows about hard-hitting sluggers, having played with both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in Milwaukee as well as Andruw Jones in Japan. But as the well-traveled veteran told Davis that he sits in awe of his younger teammate:
It's not even the homers; some of the singles he hits, seeing the [fielders'] reactions as the ball goes by them. It's ridiculous how hard he's hitting the ball. He seems like he's getting better at recognizing pitches and staying within his zone. The scary thing is he's still getting better.
Scary? Yes. Surprising? Not at all.
With age comes maturity, both mentally and physically. The older he gets, the harder he hits the ball.
|Avg. Ball Speed off Bat on HR Over Stanton's Career|
|Year||Age||Avg. Ball Speed (MPH)|
A nearly three-miles-per-hour jump may not seem like a big deal, but it is.
Think about all the times that you were convinced a ball was heading out of the park from the second a player's bat made contact, only to watch it settle into an outfielder's glove on the warning track, held up by a rogue gust of wind.
Stanton's hitting the ball hard enough that it would take tropical storm-force winds to seriously alter its trajectory—and he's hitting the ball harder than anyone else in baseball.
|Avg. Ball Speed Off Bat Leaders (Min. 10 HR)|
|Player||Team||Avg. Speed (MPH)||Season High|
So what does a ball traveling nearly 120 miles per hour look like?
It's one of the rare cases where, truly, if you were at the game or watching on TV and happened to blink at that very moment, you probably missed it.
Call it what you will. A rocket. A bullet. Completely unfair. They're all valid choices. But here's the thing: Hitting the ball hard doesn't always translate into the ball traveling really, really far. That shot doesn't even come close to being the longest home run that Stanton has hit this season.
Of the 17 balls that he's turned into souvenirs for lucky fans sitting beyond the outfield wall, that shot, measured at 427 feet, ranks ninth on the list.
Yes, a nearly 430-foot home run barely cracks Stanton's personal top 10.
That, friends, is a 484-foot home run, the longest in baseball this season and a new Marlins Park record, crushing the mark set by former Marlin Logan Morrison last September when he hit a 467-foot shot off Washington's Dan Haren.
Not only is Stanton hitting the ball harder than everyone else, but he's hitting it farther as well.
|Average True Distance Leaders (Min 10 HR)|
|Player||Team||HR||Avg. True Distance (Feet)||Season HIgh|
Of the 17 longest home runs hit in baseball so far in 2014, four of them—nearly 25 percent—have been hit by Stanton. His 484-foot blast is the longest of the season in any venue while this 469-foot shot stands as the longest that Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park has seen all year.
But Stanton's power isn't limited to the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the game or those that teams in the National League East call home. When stacked up against the players that, like Stanton, are among the most prolific home run hitters in the majors this season, his power stands out above the rest.
|Home Runs that Would Clear the Wall in All 30 MLB Ballparks|
|Player||Team||HR||HRs in All 30 MLB Parks||Percentage|
Not even Baltimore's Nelson Cruz—MLB's current HR leader—or Boston's David Ortiz—arguably the most recognized and celebrated slugger of his generation, who checks in with a 50 percent mark (7-of-14)—comes close.
The only player with at least 10 home runs and a higher percentage than Stanton is Toronto's Juan Francisco at 90 percent (9-of-10). But nobody's about to try and make the argument that Francisco is a more fearsome slugger than Stanton, who has other-worldly power.
The kind of power that plays anywhere and everywhere. Even in a junkyard.
That he's a threat to go deep each and every time he steps to the plate is an indisputable fact, and it doesn't matter how talented the pitcher he's facing may be. Just ask the ace of Washington's pitching staff, Stephen Strasburg, who would certainly like this early season offering back.
As you can see from the video, Stanton has transformed from a right-handed hitter who typically pulled most of his home runs to the left side of the field into someone who can hit the ball to all fields, a dynamic slugger capable of depositing the ball in any part of the ballpark.
Marlins first baseman Garrett Jones told Davis about the impression Stanton has made on him.
He's like a super hero. He's built like a Greek warrior. He has had a couple of big home runs to give us a lead, win some ballgames. He's just like that folk hero. It's pretty cool. I've seen a lot of guys with power, but he's on a notch above anybody.
Stanton hits the ball farther—and harder—than anyone else in the game.
Yet for all of his power, Stanton remains a relative unknown outside baseball. He's not yet become the transcendent star that sluggers who came before him were, like Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.
Part of that may be because he doesn't have the lucrative, national (or global) endorsement deals that his contemporaries—both in the game, like Harper and Mike Trout, and from other sports, such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James—do.
Or perhaps it's part of a bigger narrative, as former ESPN scribe Rob Neyer points to, one that puts baseball squarely behind the NBA and NFL when it comes to mass appeal.
Whatever the reason, Stanton's lack of worldwide appeal does nothing to detract from one simple truth: He is baseball's most prolific power hitter.
Nobody else comes close.
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