Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton could be making a run at the pre-steroid MLB record set by Roger Maris in 1961.
Forget the lukewarm take that the Home Run Derby ruins players’ swings — Giancarlo Stanton is putting that to bed once and for all.
The Miami Marlins slugger has been on an absolute tear in the second half of the MLB season. Stanton has homered 22 times in his past 34 games and has already hit 10 in 13 games in the month of August.
Stanton has raised his slugging percentage over 100 points in roughly a month, which has coincided with his move into the two-hole in the Marlins lineup. His current hot streak is on par with some of the best stretches by baseball’s most prolific power hitters, and it has him knocking on the door of history if he can carry this pace through the rest of the year. Stanton has an outside shot at taking down what many still consider to be the MLB record — Roger Maris’s 61 home runs in 1961.
Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight has already crunched all of the relevant data and found that only nine players in MLB history who had 35 home runs or more by their 116th game hit more than 20 the rest of the way. Every player who did so, except Ken Griffey Jr, was linked to steroids. Junior had 36 home runs through 116 games in 1997 before hitting 20 more to finish with 56.
Stanton now needs 19 home runs in his remaining 45 games to reach 62 and break the “clean” record still held by Maris in the eyes of many baseball purists. The chances of Stanton being able to sustain this ridiculous pace are slim. Of all the hitters in MLB history, only eight have done what he needs to do down the stretch, and only one of them was not at least suspected of juicing. The record set by Maris is not the official MLB record, but it is still a historic mark that seems fair for the players under strict drug testing to be held up against.
If there’s one thing working in Stanton’s favor, it’s his team’s schedule for the rest of August and September. The Marlins have 10 games left against the Philadelphia Phillies, who have one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball, eight games against the Atlanta Braves (including four at the launching pad that is SunTrust Park) and three games at Coors Field. Stanton has already hit a combined 10 home runs against the Phillies and Braves this year. He also has a handful of games against the New York Mets — who figure to be playing out the string with rotation fill-ins — sprinkled in. Stanton has also hit five home runs against the Mets this year.
Pressed to put a percentage chance on Stanton hitting 19 more home runs this year to get to 62, I’d be willing to put money on it for nothing worse than 20:1 odds. The juiced balls the league continues to roll out won’t hurt his chances. Same goes with the Marlins remaining schedule. We will know in another two weeks whether or not Stanton is going to make a legitimate run at 62.
After years of battling injuries and his approach to hitting, Stanton is finally putting it all together in a dominant stretch that is reminding everyone why they fell in love with the swing that produces laser beams the likes of which have never been seen before in baseball. What Stanton is doing right now is special. Just enjoy the ride to the finish because the final result could be historic.