Giancarlo Stanton Talks Hitting

Giancarlo Stanton
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Giancarlo Stanton is a prolific slugger experiencing a frustrating season. A hamstring strain kept him out of the Yankees’ lineup from mid-April to early June, and he’s scuffled mightily since returning to action. Over 47 plate appearances this month, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound outfielder/DH is 5-for-41 with a pair of home runs and 15 strikeouts. On the year, he’s slashing .204/.267/.441 with a 91 wRC+ — well below his standards.

No stranger to the injured list, having landed on it multiple times since New York acquired him from the Miami Marlins via trade in December 2017, Stanton has mostly been excellent when healthy. Now 33 years old and in his 14th big league season, he has 384 career home runs, including 59 in 2017, to go with a .535 slugging percentage and a 139 wRC+.

Stanton talked about his evolution as a hitter, which includes no longer taking swings in the dark, when the Yankees visited Fenway Park over the weekend.


David Laurila: [Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach] Hunter Mense told me that when you were Low-A teammates, he walked into an indoor cage and found you hitting with the lights off. Why were you doing that?

Giancarlo Stanton: “Dim lights, yeah. It was about trying to pick up the ball. My difficulty back then was picking up balls and chasing. It’s always a work in progress. I still get in trouble up here. You never completely eliminate your original mishaps; you can just get better and improve on them. But yeah, what I was doing was kind of finding obstacles.”

Laurila: Do you do anything like that now?

Stanton: “No. I don’t do anything that extreme anymore, but I did do a lot of extreme stuff to get here. I put it in my mind that someone is always working harder, and there were things I needed to get better at. With so much failure in this game, there are always ways to improve.”

Laurila: Mense also said you were one of the first guys he saw doing high-velocity training; you would want the pitching machine dialed up really high.

Stanton: “One of the hardest things to do in sports, if not the hardest, is to hit a baseball. And it’s also the toughest to reenact a live game. I would see guys take flips and then go out and try to hit live. I couldn’t understand how they could do that. I wanted to get more realistic pitches.”

Laurila: I assume that’s something you’ve continued to do?

Stanton: “Oh yeah. That’s a must.”

Laurila: Was that initially self-driven, or prompted by a coach?

Stanton: “I just realized that you can cheat a little bit in BP, but at 50 mph or on flips, my swing wasn’t as tight. I could get away with home runs or line drives, whatever, but that doesn’t correlate into a game without high velocity.”

Laurila: How stringent are you with pregame routines?

Stanton: “There are a few things that are the same every day, and there are a couple that I adjust depending on the pitcher or how I’m feeling. If I’ve been pulling off balls, or not staying down… it just depends. One of the things I’m always counteracting is pulling off the ball. I get a good pitch to hit and over-swing or get around it. That’s why I’ve closed my stance a little more, to get a more direct, locked-in direction to the ball, and be to the bigger part of the field.”

Laurila: When did you begin closing your stance?

Stanton: “I’ve closed it slowly over the years. That’s from pitchers throwing harder and having better arsenals. They have more [velocity] and pitches to stay consistent on and stay balanced on.”

Laurila: Have you always identified as a power hitter?

Stanton: “I would say that’s always the big ticket. I know that I have a lot of power. So it’s about being ‘a hitter’ as opposed to being able to just produce power or nothing.”

Laurila: You mentioned over-swinging. Watching you the past few days, I’ve seen some pretty big cuts. With your strength, you obviously don’t swing hard to hit the ball 450 feet.

Stanton: “Yeah. Effort level is important for contact management and accuracy. You’ve got to have an under-control repetitive swing. I’d say it used to be much harder. It used to be, basically, as hard as I can, every swing. I probably started [toning that down] three or four years into the big leagues.”

Laurila: Would you call yourself a hitting nerd, or do you try to simplify things as much as possible?

Stanton: “I like a lot of information and try to filter out what I need from all the cutting-edge things that… there is always something new, some new information, because of the evolution of the game. I like to keep tabs on that, but I like to stay with my foundation, too.”

Laurila: Can you give an example of information you’ve found to be helpful?

Stanton: “I like to see how much the ball is moving, specifically from each arm angle. Some pitchers have an illusion that it’s not moving as much as it is, depending if they’re on the first base side or the third base side of the rubber. Having an idea of how much it’s moving, especially if I haven’t seen the pitcher before, gives me a little more info in what might be a big spot.”

Laurila: How do you go about using that to your advantage?

Stanton: “If he has a lot of ride, you’ve got to set your sights lower. If he’s got a lot of sink, you’ve got to push him up. So a lot depends what the two best pitches in his arsenal are and what he’s most likely going to do to me. Then I set my sights.”

Laurila: Joey Votto recently told me that he’s never been all that concerned with who is the mound, preferring instead to focus on his own swing and approach.

Stanton: “Yeah, you don’t want to be fluctuating too much depending on the pitcher. You’ve got to have a plan for what you want, and if he does something different, if he spots up somewhere else, then you just tip your cap. You’ve got to trust your approach and your sights so that you’re not bouncing all over the place like, ‘Oh, I was looking here, but he did that, oh, what if he does that again?’ You can’t have a bunch of what-ifs when you’re at the plate. The game is too fast.”

Laurila: You played for Don Mattingly in Miami. What did you learn from him?

Stanton: “Have a simple approach. Get a good pitch to hit. Effort level as well; you don’t have to swing as hard as you can to put a good barrel on it, especially with how hard they’re throwing now. That and basically to be on time.”

Laurila: Pretty straightforward stuff, kind of Hitting 101.

Stanton: “Yes.”

Laurila: Any final thoughts on hitting? Is there anything important that we haven’t touched on?

Stanton: “I try to create backspin by staying inside the ball. I try to make sure I can get my barrel inside the ball to strike. That’s how I create my backspin. I figure my swing is a little outdated for what they teach these days, like an up-shoot swing. My setup is unique its own, but I mean, pure direction, I try to strike down and on the inside of the ball to create backspin.”

Laurila: Actually, one more question: Is hitting fun?

Stanton: “I would say that figuring out the puzzle of hitting every day is a fun grind. It will drive you crazy sometimes, but that’s part of it. Everyone goes through this grind — the ups and downs, the difficulties of hitting — so it’s about finding your calm in the most frustrating of times. You need to find the route out of those times, and being mad, yelling and screaming, isn’t going help you improve your mistakes. All you can do is go in the lab and focus on the things that can help you improve. All you can do is push forward.”


Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Will Brennan, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Gavin Cross, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Donnie Ecker, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Paul Goldschmidt, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Nico Hoerner, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Tim Hyers, Connor Joe, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Heston Kjerstad, Steven Kwan, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Hunter Mense, Owen Miller, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Lars Nootbaar, Logan O’Hoppe, Vinnie Pasquantino, Luke Raley, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Spencer Steer, Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Mark Trumbo, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Chris Valaika, Zac Veen, Alex Verdugo, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Anthony Volpe, Joey Votto, Christian Walker, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Mike Yastrzemski, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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10 months ago

Body breaking down due to Cough Cough?