Pablo Sandoval’s Resurgence

Pablo Sandoval HRPablo Sandoval was downright awful when the season began. Through May 7th, he was hitting an uncharacteristically low .174, with only 2 homeruns, and 6 RBI. With his impending free agency coming after 2014, Sandoval altered his approach, trying to see more pitches and walk more frequently. While he accomplished some of those goals, it led to larger issues, and robbed Sandoval of what makes him so great, hitting awful pitches. By trying to stay inside the zone and not chase, exactly what hitting coaches preach at every level of the game, Sandoval seemingly lost his ability to hit.

Fortunately for baseball lovers and fantasy players everywhere, Sandoval went back to his free swinging approach, and is back to what we’ve come to expect from the Panda.

With both hamate bones surgically removed, it seemed as though Pablo Sandoval was going to have a career year in 2014. Ever since he was called up in 2008 and hit .345, the expectations have been sky high; but unfortunately those lofty goals have not been met. His slow start in 2014 only reminded fans and owners about the lack of results, but since May 7th he’s simply been fantastic. In 257 PA’s, Sandoval has a triple slash line of .332/.366/.517, 10 homeruns, and 37 RBI; a dramatic improvement upon the first month of the season. While his walk and strikeouts numbers have taken a hit since he reverted to his old approach, everything else is back to what we expect. One of the things that made Sandoval so much fun to watch was the fact that he seemingly swung at everything, and what was more impressive was the frequency at which he hit those pitches. According to Fangraphs, an average O-swing% is 30%, an average O-contact% is 68%, and an average swing% is 46%. Take a look at the difference between Sandoval’s numbers pre May 7th, and post.

Pablo Sandoval O-swing% O-contact% Swing%
Pre May 7th, 2014 42.8% 73.1% 52.5%
Post May 7th, 2014 47.5% 82.9% 59.9%

Although his numbers were always above MLB average, it’s clear just how much his approach has changed since early May. In O-swing% there is an 11% increase, in O-contact% a 13.4% increase, and in overall swing percentage, Sandoval has shown a 14.1% increase.

While his BAbip since May 7th has been high (.342), Sandoval’s best seasons (2008 & 2009) also resulted in high values. In 2008 when Sandoval hit .345, his BAbip rested at .356, and in 2009 when he hit .330, his BAbip was .350. So while you may look at his 2014 BAbip and think he’s headed for some regression, the exact opposite may in fact be true. Another thing for Sandoval owners to be excited about is his ISO. Fangraphs considers .145 to be average for MLB  players, and Sandoval’s is currently sitting at .185. His line-drive, ground-ball, and fly-ball percentages are all in line with MLB average, so you can be confident that he’s not benefitting from any abnormally high rates. If his line-drive percentage was higher at around 30%, then there would be reason to worry, but Sandoval has no such issue.

Sandoval’s spray chart is also another reason to be excited about the future.

Source: Fangraphs
Source: Fangraphs

While most players tend to favor one side of the field, that is not the case for the Giants third baseman. Sandoval has a true spray chart, and will seemingly always be kryptonite to the ever-growing use of shifting. This chart also helps reinforce the theory that Sandoval has gone back to his free swinging approach. As he has an affinity to swing at anything that moves, it would make sense that we’d see his batted balls fall everywhere from foul line to foul line.

If you are a Sandoval owner, my advice to you is simple; hold on to the Panda, especially if you’re in a keeper league. His 2014 season is going much better than his overall numbers suggest, and there’s always the possibility that he will leave San Francisco for a friendlier hitting environment. However, regardless of what uniform Sandoval is wearing next season, you can expect him to hit well, and hit for power. Although it was already 5 seasons ago, we saw what a healthy Panda can do in the power department when he hit 25 homeruns and drove in 90. Sandoval a premier player at a corner position in the infield, so make sure you treat him as such. If your league allows draft pick trading, Sandoval should net you nothing lower than a 2nd round pick, and realistically should bring back a 1st. If any trade scenarios present themselves in the coming weeks, be wary of trading him, but if you’re in fire-sale mode looking to rebuild, he should be able to help you out tremendously. Sandoval is back to his see ball-hit ball ways, and should be fun to watch as the season heads towards its conclusion.

*As a side note for baseball fans, Sandoval has turned himself into an amazing defender at third base. Mark Simon of ESPN wrote an article on how he’s been the Giants best fielder and I highly recommend checking it out.