The San Francisco Giants are struggling- this is hardly news. The team has tanked just a year removed from a World Series ring, and slugger Pablo Sandoval is in the middle of another disappointing season.
Sandoval is hitting just .261 with a .310 OBP and .383 slugging percentage.
Those numbers aren’t indicative of the talent that Sandoval is. Even with this disappointing season, Sandoval is still pretty much a .300 hitter for his career, which is impressive. However, most of that high average came in 2008 and 2009 where he batted .345 and .330 respectively.
During that year and a half since Sandoval came up late in the 2008 season, he was thought of as one of the best young players in baseball. He hit for a high average, hit for power ( 25 home runs in 2009) and also drove in 90 runs during the 2009 campaign. During limited time in 2008 he accumulated an .847 OPS and in 2009 a .943 OPS, which seems like a distant memory with the way Sandoval has been playing since. From 2010 through 2013 Sandoval has accumulated an OPS of .780, which still ranks in the top half of third basemen during that span, but his power has deteriorated since 2009. He has just 57 home runs in about 3 and 3 quarter seasons, which averages out to about 14 home runs per season, way below the 25 that he had in 2009.
So how can such a talented player go downhill as fast as Sandoval has? The simple answer would be injuries, because he’s spent a lot of time during the last few seasons on the disabled list, which limits his production. But another key factor is his weight.
Sandoval’s weight has ballooned every season that he’s played and that’s true this year as well. Sandoval’s weight has fluctuated anywhere from 240 pounds to 265 pounds. It’s hard to tell how much he weighs exactly, but it’s enough to limit his ability to go to his right defensively. Any ball hit to his right is going to be a double. It limits his ability to hit the fastball. There’s been numerous occasions where fastballs are blown right past him and he can’t do anything about it. Finally, weight issues have led to some of the injuries and inconsistencies that he’s had.
The weight problems that Sandoval has are of his own doing. He’s naturally a big-boned guy, but he always comes to camp out of shape. His game is suffering both offensively and defensively because of his weight, which is hurting the Giants as they are starving for offense. Sandoval can be successful as he proved in 2008 and 2009 but he has to put the effort out to get into shape.
2014 will be Sandoval’s contract year, so you’d expect that he will come to Spring Training in great shape and be ready to rake. That’s what the Giants are banking on, among other things. History shows that the contract year is always the guys’ best year, so it’s safe to assume that Sandoval will have a much better year than this year. However, if Sandoval has an average year like this one, the Giants might decide against resigning him to a long-term contract and look elsewhere for a third baseman.