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Giancarlo Connecting More With Two Strikes

Giancarlo Stanton's power has been the stuff of scouting lore since his scoreboard-clearing days in the minors. But there has also been concern that one of the trade-offs for those thunderous shots -- lots of swings and misses -- would hold him back in his quest to become an all-around terror at the plate. Unfortunately for pitchers, Stanton has solved his one offensive weakness by connecting more in two-strike counts.

Giancarlo's K rate has decreased from 31.1 percent as a rookie in 2010 to 27.6 percent last year and 22.3 percent in 2012, not far off the 19-20 percent MLB average this season. His OPS+, on the other hand, has skyrocketed from 118 to 141 to 155. For that, he can thank better plate coverage in the upper third of the zone when he doesn't have a strike to spare.

First, here's the average contact rate by pitch location for right-handed hitters in two-strike counts since 2010:

Average contact rate by pitch location for RHB in two-strike counts, 2010-12

Righty batters have whiffed 19 percent of the time they have swung at two-strike pitches thrown high in the zone since 2010. Now, look at Stanton's contact rate with two strikes as a rookie. There was a big cold spot on high-and-away offerings:

Stanton's contact rate by pitch location with two strikes, 2010

Stanton swung through 39 percent of two-strike pitches thrown high, the sixth-highest rate among MLB hitters that season. Last year, he adjusted and started to get his bat on those high-and-away pitches:

Stanton's contact rate by pitch location with two strikes, 2011

His miss rate on high two-strike pitches improved to 32 percent. Giancarlo has connected with even more high two-strike offerings in 2012, save for a small sliver of the zone. His miss rate is down to 27 percent:

Stanton's contact rate by pitch location with two strikes, 2012

For all the deserved praise that Bryce Harper and Mike Trout receive, Stanton has rather quietly cobbled together one of the greatest offensive starts to a career. Ever. Per Baseball-Reference, Stanton has the ninth-best slugging percentage (.537) and the 18th-highest OPS+ (136) among hitters getting at least 1,000 plate appearances through their age-22 season. Now that Stanton has cut the Ks, there's no telling how much pain he'll inflict on pitchers in the coming years.

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