December 30, 2016

Giancarlo Stanton's contract kerfuffle

by Daniel Conmy

Listening to Effectively Wild has become routine in many baseball fan's lives. Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh banter back and forth about the hypothetical often and leave questions lingering during their show. In episode 998, Miller brought up Giancarlo Stanton's enormous contract  a 13-year/$325 million pact between him and the Miami Marlins. The breakdown of the contract looks like this:

Thanks to Spotrac, we see the breakdown in age, year, and salary. This contract does include and opt-out clause after the 2020 season. Per Fangraphs, Stanton has accumulated $196.7 million of worth since he entered the league in 2010. $44.7 million of that worth has come during the current contract. That's quite a bargain when you look at the relative contract value for 2015 and 2016. In 2017 there is an uptick in salary, but Stanton, based on Steamer, is projected to amass a 4.6 WAR. Yes, projections are just that and the real world can vary much more than a prediction. If Stanton stays in good health, the contract looks like surplus value for the Miami Marlins.

This assumption relies on the lower annual value years from the contract. At $8 million per one WAR Stanton has time, while in his supposed prime, to gather surplus value that might be lost in the later years of his contract. But, this is the issue posed by Sam Miller. The projections expect a relative move back to all-star height, but will Stanton move his value you back up to previous marks?

A larger than life  literally  superstar struggled immensely at the plate last season and there aren't any statistics that are extremely different from Stanton's career averages. One discernible difference is the way pitchers have attacked Stanton. A rise in sliders and curveballs led to diminished value at the plate for Stanton. 23.7 percent of pitches thrown to Stanton were sliders, compared to 19.6 percent through all seven seasons. For curveballs, Stanton saw an increase from 7.5 percent in 2015 to 9.6 percent in 2016  still below the average 10.4 percent in his career.

The difference in attack from pitchers is one that is backed by the numbers. Stanton's career runs above average per 100 pitches against sliders is -0.10. That means Stanton adds slightly below average value against sliders. Every other pitcher, except splitfingers, Stanton has positive value.

In baseball, pitchers and hitters are constantly adjusting to have a slight edge. Pitchers found a weakness in Stanton and exploited it by throwing more sliders. Stanton, if he wants to be revered in the city of Miami as the larger than life superstar, has to make the adjustments to either lay off the low and away slider or somehow do damage on that pitch. 

It's always difficult to justify the large cost in years and dollar amount for a superstar and we already are questioning the likelihood that Stanton will make good on his side of the contract. The first step begins with a better approach on breaking balls.

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