St. Louis Cardinals: How Giancarlo Stanton would fare in the NL Central

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 4: Yadier Molina
ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 4: Yadier Molina /

With all the talk in the St. Louis Cardinals’ sphere surrounding Giancarlo Stanton, one of the most important concerns has yet to be brought up. How will Stanton play with the Cardinals in the NL Central.

Giancarlo Stanton has actually given a decent sample size against pitchers currently on NL Central teams not including the St. Louis Cardinals. Although he hasn’t faced a couple of guys, with Jose Quintana and Corey Knebel being the most prominent names, Stanton has had his share of at-bats against the NL Central. Here’s how it compares to his current division, the NL East.

VS NL East5725010.22712.5258.183.02
VS NL Central (w/o St. Louis)1831520.2237.65.93.3
% Change-1.76%-39.32%-27.87%9.27%

While his batting average does dip slightly, the other stats are indicative of increased success against the NL Central. While I do believe the sample size is still a bit small, that twenty of his thirty-two hits against the NL Central are home runs gives him an intimidation factor against other NL Central pitchers. As a result, Stanton walked at a much higher rate than his own division.

Part of the reason Stanton’s average is slightly lower in the NL Central is because NL Central pitchers, including the St. Louis Cardinals, are even more careful with him than those in his own division, as demonstrated by the higher walk rate.

While his current low average against pitchers who don’t see him all that often when compared to pitchers who have studied meticulously to face Stanton several times is concerning, being forced to face him more often will force NL Central pitchers into more situations where they actually have to pitch to him.

There is a good chance Stanton can increase his numbers based on his current home run rate success against the St. Louis Cardinals and the NL Central despite the factors described.

But there’s another element to succeeding somewhere as a hitter, which is the park you are playing in and how that park plays to your strengths. First off, lets take a look at Stanton’s splits by where he hit the ball to on the field to broadly check his strengths.

Up Middle247246951732750.3860.3850.8461.230.293
Opp Field69682248150.3240.3190.7351.0540.23

Looking at this, it’s clear that his strengths lie in either straightaway center or pulling the ball to left field. While at first glance, some of the deeper fields in the NL Central may make it seem daunting. However, for a guy like Stanton, the dimensions of the fields play to his advantage.

First, here is a comparison of all the away stadiums in the divisions (teams that aren’t the St. Louis Cardinals or Miami), in which teams play about 36-40 games, or 22%-24.7% of the schedule.

In order to fully encompass the effect of the field, not only is looking at the fences important, but the amount of fair territory in the outfields of these stadiums (courtesy of Fangraphs).

With more fair territory, there is a higher chance of a fielder not being able to reach a ball in play, making it easier for hits to land where they would be fouls or outs in other stadiums. Here are the numbers:

CityTeamStadiumOF (x1000 sqft)LF (x1000 sqft)CF (x1000 sqft)RF (x1000 sqft)LF PoleCF FenceRF PoleFence Height RangeRuns Scored Rank (ESPN)
AtlantaBravesSunTrust Park93.228.935.129.2335′400′325′6′ (LF) – 16′ (RF)16th
New YorkMetsCiti Field91.527.13628.4335′408′330′8′26th
WashingtonNationalsNationals Park88.828.232.827.8336′402′335′8′ (LF) – 14′ (RF)10th
PhiladelphiaPhilliesCitizens Bank Park86.225.734.925.5329′401′330′6′ (CF) – 19′ (LCF)9th
NL EASTAverage 89.92527.47534.727.725333.75′403′330′
CityTeamStadiumOF (x1000 sqft)LF (x1000 sqft)CF (x1000 sqft) RF (x1000 sqft)LF PoleCF FenceRF PoleFence Height RangeRuns Scored Rank (ESPN)
MilwaukeeBrewersMiller Park91.128.934.627.6344′400′345′8′8th
ChicagoCubsWrigley Field89.726.834.128.8355′400′353′11.5′ (CF)- 15′ (LF)5th
PittsburghPiratesPNC Park90.229.833.926.5325′405′325′6′ (LF) – 21′ (RF)20th
CincinnatiRedsGreat American Ball Park87.126.734.526328′404′325′8′ (RF-RCF) – 12′ (LF-LCF)13th
NL CENTRALAverage 89.52528.0534.27527.225338′402.25′337

One of the biggest, noticeable differences is the seven extra feet of average distance to the right field pole. On top of that, there is less average fair ground in right field than average. This makes it increasingly difficult to get hits in right field.

However, since that isn’t how Stanton plays, as demonstrated by the low number of times he actually put the ball in right field, this aspect doesn’t hurt him nearly as much as one might expect.

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The long left field pole distances in Milwaukee and Chicago are also concerning at first glance, and inflate the average NL Central left field pole distance significantly.

Miller Park follows the typical field type, with a larger outfield area reflecting a greater distance to the left field pole.

Wrigley on the other hand is a different beast.

With the renovations to the park in 2016, about 2,000 feet of foul ground was removed as the bullpens were moved behind the center field fences (courtesy of Clem’s Baseball), making the foul ground boundaries unique in comparison to other stadiums.

While there is a small portion of the outfield in foul territory, the right foul line runs with the outfield wall a bit under half of the way in, allowing for long balls to stay fair if they remain in play. This effect is slightly diminished in the left field, as there is a small gap between the wall and the left foul line, but the distance is so small it only makes a difference on grounders or liners to the deepest left field corner.

For a guy like Stanton who tends to hit his long balls away from the lines and closer to center field even when he pulls, this ballpark quirk doesn’t harm Stanton’s game much at all. Both parks were also incredibly hitter friendly this season, ranking above all NL East teams in that regard, alleviating many of these concerns about Wrigley’s “hittability.”

When looking at center field dimensions, it has to be approached in a slightly different manner. While the areas in the left and right fields allow us to talk about the foul ground encompassing possible fair territory, the boundaries of center field cross into fair territory.

The NL Central has marginally smaller and closer center fields than the NL East, but this is in part due to the massive center field of the Mets’ Citi Field, which was 26th in runs scored.

All in all, these factors result in the NL Central having more runs scored in their parks as well. Of course, I did leave out two important teams, simply because they weigh far more than the previous ones. Fifty percent of a team’s games are played at home, which makes the home stadium the most important in judging which division is more friendly to Stanton. Here are the stadiums in question.

CityTeamStadiumOF (x1000 sqft)LF (x1000 sqft)CF (x1000 sqft)RF (x1000 sqft)LF PoleCF FenceRF PoleFence Height RangeRuns Scored Rank
MiamiMarlinsMarlins Park93.428.336.928.3340′407′335′7′ (LF) – 8.5′ (CF, RF)28th
St. LouisCardinalsBusch Stadium91.128.634.128.4336′400′335′8′25th

Despite Busch ranking in the bottom five in runs factor, Marlins Park somehow manages to look worse. In particular, the gigantic center field of Marlins Park, which is 7 feet deeper where Stanton does most of his home run damage, is a big flag in comparing the two stadiums. On top of that, Busch has more fair ground in both right and left field, despite having the same right field pole distance and the left field pole being four feet closer than in Miami.

Overall, most of the factors lean towards Stanton being more successful as part of the St. Louis Cardinals. While it’s hard to top the incredible 59 home runs and 132 RBI’s that he hit this season, with the improved conditions he will face, there is certainly a chance he could. While I won’t go so far as to say that, I will say he gets close to a repeat performance.

Giancarlo Stanton 2018 Projection with the St. Louis Cardinals: .277/.381/.616, 53 home runs, 124 RBI’s

Do you think Stanton can break his numbers from last year if he joins the St. Louis Cardinals? Am I being too generous and placing too much weight on his spectacular 2017 season? Feel free to comment below with your thoughts. And Giancarlo, if you’re reading this, the grass is certainly greener in Busch III for you than anywhere else, and we’d love to have you.