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Giancarlo Stanton: The Walking Machine

Coming into the season, many felt pitchers would pitch around Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton this season. Apparently they were right.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows how much power Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton possesses. All you have to do is watch him hit a home run and it becomes very obvious the man can crush baseballs. This season, the power hasn't been on display as much as fantasy owners would like, but the man is a terrific hitter and he has learned to take the free pass more than ever this season.

Coming into this season, I felt Stanton would have no trouble hitting 40+ home runs, assuming good health. Well, Stanton has missed 43 games this season, and is hitting .249-.369-.473 with 13 home runs, 33 runs and 34 RBI in 66 games thus far. So, his power is down, and those of you who felt he would be pitched around this season were apparently right. He isn't getting many balls to hit, which is impacting his power production for fantasy owners.

But, on the positive side, Stanton is becoming very selective at the plate this season. As you can see from his .369 OBP in his triple slash line above, he is getting on base more than he ever has in his career. In addition, he is striking out at a 25.3% clip, a career best. Let's take a look at the trend in his strikeout and walk rates since he has entered the big leagues:

2010: 31.1 K% / 8.6 BB%, 100 games

2011: 27.6 K% / 11.6 BB%, 150 games

2012: 28.5 K% / 9.2 BB%, 123 games

2013: 25.3 K% / 15.4 BB%, 66 games

His walk rate this season really stands out. He has become Joey Votto with power. Here is a quick look at the walk percentage leaders, according to FanGraphs, for hitters with at least 250 plate appearances this season:

Chris Iannetta: 18.3 BB%

Joey Votto: 16.7 BB%

Giancarlo Stanton: 15.2 BB%

Seems weird to have Stanton's name appear just below Votto's, right? This is the same guy who some felt would strike out too much to be an effective big league hitter back when he was one of the top prospects in the game just a few short years ago. Now, he is becoming one of the better hitters in the game, as he is learning the strike zone and still hitting for a good amount of power. Just not as much power as this owner expected from him.

His batting average is down from last season, partly due to changes in his batted ball profile thus far. Here is a look at how his batted ball data, per FanGraphs, has changed since he entered the big leagues:

2010: 16.5% LD / 43.0% GB / 40.5% FB

2011: 16.3% LD / 45.2% GB / 38.5% FB

2012: 22.1% LD / 36.3% GB / 41.7% FB

2013: 16.3% LD / 45.9% GB / 37.8% FB

A quick look at his batted ball rates over his first 3.5 seasons in the big leagues shows that his 22.1% line drive rate may have been a bit of a fluke last season. As was his sub-40% ground ball rate. But, the real impact, for fantasy owners, is the drop in fly ball rate to 37.8%, which impacts the number of balls leaving the ball park. His current 20.0% HR/FB rate is a career low.

Want another reason why his power and batting average are down this season? This data smacks in favor of those who say he is being pitched around this season. Here are his plate discipline stats from FanGraphs, showing a dramatic change in his approach between 2012 and 2013:

2012: 37.1 O-Swing% / 66.0 Zone Swing% / 60.9 F-Strike% / 14.7 SwSt%

2013: 30.8 O-Swing% / 60.9 Zone Swing% / 53.9 F-Strike% / 13.2 SwSt%

This data proves two things. He is being more selective at the plate, as he is not swinging at pitches outside, or inside, the zone as much as last season, is not seeing as many first pitch strikes (F-Strike%), and is swinging and missing less often.

I really believe this data, to date, shows us that Stanton is becoming a much better hitter, a more selective hitter, who could be in for a monster season over the next few years, once he puts everything together. He just needs to stay healthy. And if he could utilize some of the hidden speed he owns and start stealing some bases, he really could put up monster numbers for his owners.

Until then, just enjoy Giancarlo Stanton, the Walking Machine.