Friday, July 23, 2010

Is Pablo Sandoval Really Back?

No, this is not an overreaction to Pablo Sandoval going 0-for-7 in his last 2 games. Ever since the All-Star break, he has been hot, and many people, including me, have proclaimed that Pablo is back. This post is going to tell the world if Pablo Sandoval is in fact back.

Pablo was expected to be the leader of the Giants offense in 2010, but as everyone knows by now, his first half numbers were pretty atrocious. His .263/.322/.382/.704 line seemed more like Freddy Sanchez numbers than the Pablo Sandoval we saw in 2009, who looked like a star while hitting .330/.387/.556/.943. His struggles this year have been attributed to many different things. He's been impatient, swinging at the first pitch many times. Maybe the league figured him out and he didn't know how to adjust. He's been swinging at terrible pitches, even though he kind of always does that, and has hit into 20 double plays, the second most among all players in baseball. And perhaps the most troubling part of Pablo's first half was that he stopped slugging. His slugging percentage this year is more than 150 points lower than last year's. Whatever the reason, Sandoval has not produced as expected this year.

You know, I've always thought the idea of a player being a good "second half player" was kind of ridiculous. I mean, just because a guy gets 3 days off, he changes his whole approach and is reborn into a new player? Knowing me, I'm probably not considering some vital piece of information, but the All-Star break just always seemed like an excuse for why a player began playing better or worse. But Pablo Sandoval has certainly looked like a different player since the break.

In 8 games after the All-Star break, he has been on fire. He's gone 9-for-29 with 5 doubles, 7 RBI and 6 BB while having a much better looking swing. He's been more patient and hasn't been swinging at terrible pitches (at least not as much). His attitude has also changed. He's always been a very happy, cheery guy, which is great, but sometimes when a player is struggling you'd like to see them get frustrated with themselves and Sandoval never really showed that. Now he's getting fired up when he hits a run scoring double and he could be seen excitedly pounding on the dugout when the Giants came back to beat the Dodgers in that crazy game. You know the one I'm talking about. So, Sandoval has certainly given Giants fans a reason to be encouraged.

What I'm about to say is going to shock you. I even shock myself when I think about typing it. We really can't know whether or not Pablo Sandoval is back. What, that didn't shock you? Damn. It may seem like a really obvious thing to say, but I can't tell you how many times in the first half he would hit a home run to deep center field or blast a double in the gap and Kruk and Kuip would say something like "He's really staying back on pitches now, he's starting to heat up". Next thing you knew, he was back to going 0-for-4 and hitting into double plays. So it's probably a little soon to suggest that Pablo is back or that the Giants don't need another hitter because Sandoval is heating up. Eight games simply can't tell us that, considering his struggles this year. He has looked better, but there have been other times this year where he looked like he may be "back". I hope he is back. Nothing would make me happier than to see the 2009 version of Pablo Sandoval. But I care about all Giants fans, you see, and I don't want anyone to get their hopes up, only to see them crushed. I'm a cautious man, and you should be too.

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