Long Ball Power

If you missed it yesterday, the Giants broke a Petco Park record by knocking six balls out of the yard in a 13-5 win. The first three of those homers came from Brandon Crawford (his 9th), Hunter Pence (18), and Hector Sanchez (3). The final three left the park off the bat of Pablo Sandoval, who now has 13 for the year. Every starter in the lineup had at least one hit for the Giants, who cranked out 17 hits total. All of this without Buster Posey. For some odd reason, I feel like many of these offensive outbursts (not that there have been an abundance or anything) have come when Posey is out of the lineup. I’m not trying to get at anything here, but it’s definitely a weird coincidence.

So… in the last calendar year, Pablo has had a pair of 3-HR games. Obviously, it’s hard to compare them when one was in the World Series against Justin Verlander, while the other came on a September afternoon between two bottom-feeders. Seriously, though, if a guy is going to have multiple 3-HR efforts, you’d think he’d get at least one of them in places like Arizona, Milwaukee or Cincinnati. Sandoval did it in San Francisco and San Diego, in two of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the game. Yesterday’s outburst was the result of Crawford calling out Pablo after his (Crawford’s) home-run that started the party, according to Baggarly. Want the Panda to go big at the plate? Just show him up. What a crock, Baggs.

Look, so many things have gone wrong this season, and there are a handful of players who’ve had letdown years, for injury purposes or lack of performance. Pablo’s name should be right at the top of that list. I’ll be honest, I typed up some informal projections for each Giants’ starter before the season. That was back in March, and I hadn’t revisited those numbers until today. I didn’t really need to. Expectations don’t change, and I could’ve told you which players exceeded my projections, and which ones who came up short. But Pablo’s performance yesterday made me wonder exactly what I’d predicted him to do this year, so I finally opened the file again. Get ready for it.

Prediction: Pablo Sandoval: .312, 35 HR, 99 RBI.

Reality: Pablo Sandoval: .277, 13 HR, 71 RBI (in 119 games).

Was I crazy? That’s up to you to decide. But the Panda truly was my breakout candidate, and I thought all of this pieces were in place for that breakout to happen. It didn’t, and I don’t know that it ever will in a Giants uniform. After hitting 25 HR in his first full season, he’s got 61 dingers over the last four years. That’s an average of 15 a year, and the biggest reason has been his conditioning, as well as a slew of injuries. He hasn’t made it through a full season since 2010, and that was his worst year in the league.

If yesterday’s outburst tells us anything about the Giants’ 3rd baseman, it’s that he’s still got an incredible amount of natural talent stored in that body. He’s a .357 hitter over the last month, with 9k/10bb. He was also the hottest hitter on the planet through the season’s first 6 weeks. If he can manage to put together a healthy season, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be a .300 hitter with 20-30 home runs. Will he ever do it? Who knows. But next season is a contract year for the Panda, as many of us know, and he will certainly spend it with the Giants. That could be Sabean and Co.’s last chance to tap into that potential.

We know the front office isn’t happy with Sandoval, but games like yesterday definitely help ease the tension a bit. Either way, the guy knows how to put on a show every now and then, and he did it yesterday. Whether he can sustain success for a full season is the million dollar issue.

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