Like most of Giancarlo Stanton‘s home runs, it was a no-doubter. Swing and stare. This one came off an 0-1 slider from Madison Bumgarner in the bottom of the third inning at Marlins Park on Tuesday, smoked at 107 mph and delivered at an appropriate launch angle. It was the sixth consecutive game with a home run for Stanton, his 11th in 12 games, his 18th since the All-Star break and his 23rd in his past 35 games. Slice and dice the numbers any way you want: The dude is on fire.
— MLB (@MLB) August 16, 2017
With this stretch of power hitting, Stanton has become the talk of baseball. The first half and then the Home Run Derby might have belonged to New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge, but Stanton is making us lock in on the at-bats for a team four games below .500. For those of us old enough to remember, it sends us back to the joyful summer of 1998, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased down Roger Maris — or maybe the less joyful march of Barry Bonds in 2001.
Joe Posnanski had the best description I’ve seen of Stanton in this column: “Every single thing about Giancarlo Stanton says star, from his Hollywood name to his perfect physique to the unnatural way baseballs jump off his bat. He has this unique charisma; he blends ‘intimidating’ with ‘teddy bear,’ like no one I can remember.”
That’s also a pretty apt description for both McGwire and Sosa in that magical summer, before public opinion turned against them years later after steroid scandals and not talking about the past. Stanton’s remarkable 35-game stretch has been matched or surpassed by only three players: Sosa had 25 in 1998, Bonds had 24 in 2001 and McGwire had 23 in 1999. Just to compare:
As Stanton’s season total climbs to 44 with 44 games remaining, the mention of those three raises a potential issue: They’re the only players to hit more than 61 home runs. If Stanton stays hot and approaches Maris’ total of 61, there will be cries that Maris holds the real home run record, suggesting we erase the memories of Bonds, McGwire and Sosa, or at least erase their numbers.
Sixty is certainly possible. Based on his season rate of home runs, he’d hit 16 over his final 44 games to finish with 60. If he hits them at the rate of the past 35 games, he’d hit 29 and finish with 73 home runs — tying Bonds’ record. Obviously, he’s going to slow down at some point. Let’s say this closed stance he has used the past couple of months has made him better and split the difference between his rate through July 4 and his rate since. That gives him 20 home runs and he finishes with 64. So, Maris could definitely be in play.
Sports talk radio and sports talk TV shows will go crazy with this, of course. My take is the record is the record, and it belongs to Bonds. You don’t have to like it. But this isn’t the Olympics or the Tour de France; last time I checked, baseball hasn’t taken away any World Series trophies from teams who employed PED users. We’re still a few weeks from the hyperventilation going full throttle, and keep in mind that even chasing 61 will create enormous pressure on Stanton. Ryan Howard was at 56 home runs through 141 games in 2006 but hit only two in his final 21 games.
Until then, enjoy the big guy hitting. It has been quite a show.
Red Sox turn triple play! This came against Yadier Molina, and if you were going to pick somebody to hit into a triple play, Molina would be high on the list. Also, triple plays > cycles.
— MLB (@MLB) August 16, 2017
The amazing thing is that a 5-4-3 triple play usually happens when the third baseman is playing right next to the bag. Rafael Devers actually had to take a step back and still turned it. And speaking of Devers: two more hits in Boston’s 10-4 victory to raise his average to .348 in 17 games.
Just another day at the park for Joey Votto. With three walks, he has stretched his streak of reaching base at least twice to 20 games, one short of Ted Williams’ 21. And, yes, I am absolutely and inexplicably enthralled with this streak; you should be, too. What’s the saying? OBP is life. Oh, Votto also decided to chuck a baseball onto the roof at Wrigley Field:
Joey won’t rest until he sends one into orbit. 🌗🛰 pic.twitter.com/dmHLEymZ1G
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 16, 2017
You’d think he was frustrated by another Cincinnati Reds loss, but they beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 as Luis Castillo threw six scoreless innings. The Reds have certainly had issues developing starters in recent seasons, but Castillo, with his upper-90s heat and plus changeup, looks like the real deal. If he can develop a third pitch — he does throw a slider, but it’s not very effective yet — he has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Colorado Rockies‘ offense gasping for air. The Rockies lost 4-3 at home to the Atlanta Braves, with the go-ahead run scoring on Nolan Arenado‘s throwing error in the eighth inning. But the story here is the lack of offense from the Rockies. They’ve scored three runs or fewer in eight straight games — and three of those were even played at Coors Field. The Rockies and Diamondbacks both still have a five-game lead over the Cardinals and Brewers in the NL wild-card race, just close enough to get the heart beating a little faster for Rockies fans.
They’re just not getting much offense from the lower half of the order, as Carlos Gonzalez (.305 OBP) and Trevor Story (.301) continue to be drains, although Story did homer Tuesday. Here’s a thought: What about trading for Curtis Granderson? He was terrible in April but since May 1 he has hit .262/.379/.560, ranking 21st in the majors in wOBA — just ahead of Arenado. We’re too deep into the season that the Rockies can’t keep waiting for CarGo to break out. Granderson would be a nice upgrade.
Here’s a long Joey Gallo home run. The Rangers beat Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 10-4 as they refuse to die in The Race That Shall Not Be Named. Gallo’s season is endlessly fascinating. He’s up to 34 home runs and is slugging .566, even though he has only 20 singles and is hitting .208 while on pace for 199 strikeouts in fewer than 500 at-bats. Maybe opponents should go with a five-man outfield against him.
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) August 16, 2017
A few quick words on Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees beat the New York Mets 5-4 — Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario both homered as Mets fans started dreaming about 2018 — and while Sonny Gray pitched six solid innings of two-run baseball to win his Yankee Stadium debut, the big story in New York will be Chapman giving up two runs in the ninth on Rosario’s home run. He also limped off the field after covering first base for the final out, although he said after the game that “it’s nothing to worry about.”
He has given up home runs in back-to-back games for the second time in his career and two runs in each game. In the game before that, he walked three batters. The swing-and-miss rate on his fastball, over 40 percent at his peak, is down to 25 percent this season. So you can imagine how the New York media is reacting:
If this keeps happening with Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson will be the Yankees’ closer before September 1.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) August 16, 2017
Should the Yankees be worried? Should they start considering a new closer? It’s certainly a controversy manager Joe Girardi wants to avoid, but it’s not going away because the Yankees really have five relievers who have been better than Chapman this season — Adam Warren, Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Dellin Betances have allowed a lower wOBA. It’s hard to believe, but Chapman is arguably the team’s sixth-best reliever. I’d call that a good problem.