By Matt Citak
When Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Yankees back in the beginning of December, New York was immediately considered one of the favorites to become the 2018 World Series Champions. With a heart of the batting order consisting of Aaron Judge, Stanton, and Gary Sanchez, not to mention guys like Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner, and Neil Walker, many believed the Bronx Bombers would ride the momentum of their surprising 2017 success into the franchise’s 28th World Series title.
Yet through the first 10 games of the season, New York has struggled to find its groove. The Yankees have begun the season 5-5 and already find themselves 3.5 games back from their heated rival, the Boston Red Sox.
Now there is plenty of blame to go around for New York’s sluggish start. Despite being less than two weeks into the season, the Yankees have already endured their fair share of injuries. Greg Bird and Jacoby Ellsbury began the season on the disabled list, with Aaron Hicks, Brandon Drury, and CC Sabathia joining them soon after.
Meanwhile the team as a whole is hitting just .237 through its first 354 at-bats of the season. With the amount of firepower on the Yankees’ roster, this lineup needs to provide a lot more production to support its pitching staff. Gregorius is off to a hot start, hitting .375 with three home runs and 10 RBI already. But remove him from the conversation and no other Yankee with more than 15 at-bats is hitting over .300 at the moment.
While the lineup overall may not have gotten off to the best start, the biggest culprit is none other than New York’s big off-season acquisition. After blasting two home runs in his Yankees’ debut on Opening Day, finishing the game 3-for-5 with four RBI, Giancarlo Stanton has struggled mightily ever since.
The 6-foot-6 slugger has gone 4-for-37 since the first game of the season, racking up 19 strikeouts compared to just six walks and two extra-base hits.
Yankees fans were excited to welcome Stanton to New York, giving the reigning National League MVP a standing ovation in his first at-bat at Yankee Stadium. However it was not long before those cheers turned into boos, as Stanton would go on to strikeout five times, picking up the infamous platinum sombrero in his first home game in the Bronx.
That performance served as foreshadowing of what was to come from the slugger in the remainder of the home-stand. In the six games against AL East opponents, two against the Rays and four against the Orioles, Stanton went 3-for-28 with 16 strikeouts. The rough stretch culminated on Sunday when Stanton picked up his second five-strikeout game of the season, finishing the day 0-for-7 with nine runners left stranded.
It took only 10 games for Stanton to make history with the Yankees. Unfortunately for him, it’s not the type of record he wanted to set.
After his second five-strikeout game of the season, Stanton became the first player in the live ball era to have two games with zero hits and five strikeouts in the same season.
That is obviously not what Stanton was hoping to accomplish when he was acquired by the Yankees during the off-season, especially this early in the season. And while the Yankees’ faithful have every right to boo last year’s NL MVP, it seems likely that the veteran will get his bat going sooner or later.
It’s important to keep in mind that the 28-year-old has spent majority of the last decade playing in warm weather. From his time in the minors playing in Greensboro, Jupiter, and Jacksonville, to his first eight seasons in the majors playing in Miami, Stanton is not accustomed to playing in cold weather on a nightly basis.
I’m not suggesting the weather is completely to blame for the slugger’s struggles. But considering his track record with the Marlins, which included four All-Star appearances, two Silver Slugger Awards, two NL Hank Aaron Awards, two-time NL home run leader, and last year’s NL MVP honor, Stanton’s .167 batting average and nearly 50 percent strikeout rate does not seem sustainable.
So hang in there, Yankees fans. Despite the less than ideal start from Stanton and the rest of the team in 2018, things are likely to get better before they get much worse. Even with the 5-5 record, FanGraphs still gives the Yankees an 87.9 percent chance of making the postseason.
And while New Yorkers tend to overreact early in the year, don’t forget that we are only a mere six percent into the 2018 season.
There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played, and plenty of time for Stanton to break out of this slump and return to his MVP-form.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.