Giancarlo Stanton will miss the next four-to-six weeks after being placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a fractured hamate bone in his left hand, the Marlins announced Saturday morning. Stanton apparently fractured the bone on a pair of swings in the latter half of the Marlins’ 7–1 loss to the Dodgers Friday night and was diagnosed after the game. The injury, which will require the surgical removal of the bone, is a fairly common one among power hitters and rarely has any long-term effects, but for the next month or so it will rob both the Marlins and Major League Baseball of one of the game’s top talents.
Stanton’s injury comes barely more than two weeks before the All-Star Game, which Stanton seemed likely to start for the first time in his career, and the Home Run Derby, which Stanton, arguably the game’s top home-run hitter, participated in for the first time last year. More importantly, the injury eliminates any chance Stanton might have had of becoming the first hitter since 2001 to hit 60 home runs in a season.
Stanton hits the disabled list leading the major leagues with 27 home runs and on pace for 58 on the season, which would have been the highest total in the majors since Ryan Howard hit that many in 2006. There’s no real chance of him reaching that total now. However, if Stanton misses five weeks, he would return on Aug. 1 and still have 59 games left in his season. At his current pace, he could hit 21 home runs in those 59 games, which would give him 48 on the season. It’s thus not a huge stretch to say that he might still have an outside chance at becoming the first player since Jose Bautista in 2010 to hit 50 home runs in a season even despite the injury.
As impressive as that is, it’s also a good indication of what will be lost for the next month or so. Stanton was arguably the best player in the National League last year and is undeniably one of the game’s most exciting sluggers. Losing him for any stretch of time is frustrating and becoming a bit too common. Stanton previously missed the All-Star game and Home Run Derby in 2012 due to surgery to remove loose bodies from his right knee. In 2013, he lost 36 games early in the season to a hamstring strain, and last year he very well may have lost the MVP award to Clayton Kershaw because he missed the final 17 games of the season after being hit in the left cheekbone by a pitch from the Brewers' Mike Fiers (Stanton finished second in the voting). Those injuries are all unique, unrelated and fairly fluky, but the fact remains that Stanton will fail to play 150 games for the fourth season in a row due to his most recent ailment.
For the Marlins, who had hoped to build on their 15-game improvement last year, this is a devastating blow. Miami has not played up to expectations thus far this year, going just 30–45 (.400) with a healthy and productive Stanton and are currently languishing 11 1/2 games out of first place in the weak National League East. The Marlins’ run differential and third-order record both suggest they have played better than their actual record, but neither sees them as improved from their .475 winning percentage of a year ago.
Yesterday, the Marlins could muster some glimmer of optimism from that underlying performance, their weak division and hope for improved health in the second half, particularly with 2013 Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez due to return on July 2 (though he appears to be ready now). However, the loss of their best player for the next month or more completely undermines any gains that might have been made between now and August. With Stanton likely out past the trading deadline, it’s very likely that the Marlins will once again be sellers in July.