StrategyMarch 12, 2010

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Proceed with Caution on Sandoval - 57 comments

By Christopher Olson

Giants Sandoval Hits into Fielder's Choice Against Rockies in Denver

In his first full season, Pablo Sandoval was a glimmer of offensive hope in an otherwise dismal San Francisco Giants lineup. Sandoval finished out the ‘09 campaign batting .330/.387/.556 in 572 at bats, ensuring that he will be in high demand on draft boards this upcoming season. But when I look at a guy like Pablo Sandoval I don’t see a high batting average, or even a great slugging percentage, I see a lack of plate discipline, a ton of it.

At first glance, everything looks great. Sandoval ended 2009 with a .387 OBP, a number 57 points higher than his batting average. However, 13 of those 52 walks were intentional. This was a product of his great season, no doubt, but it is worth pointing out that the intentional passes did help to inflate his on-base percentage.   
As we probe deeper into the numbers, we uncover more stats that may be cause for concern. Last season, Sandoval swung at the first pitch he saw 47% of the time, the highest percentage in all of baseball. This stat alone may not be so alarming. However, when we consider that Sandoval swung at balls that were outside of the strike zone 41.5% of the time last year as well, we notice a dangerous combination. Sandoval’s motto seems to be “swing early and swing often,” and so the question becomes, can his kind of success really be sustained with such a philosophy? It certainly worked for him in ‘09, but is there a reason why?  
One might be tempted to look at Sandoval’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) last season. A player’s BABIP is a number that represents how often a ball that was put in play went for a base hit, Sandoval’s BABIP was .350. Consider also that the balls Sandoval put in play were grounders 45% of the time. What might this mean? Well, a guy who puts the ball on the ground that much with a BABIP that high may not have the best forecast for his future, particularly since it does not appear he will be legging out many infield hits. One would expect at least a few more of those grounders will go for outs next season. Despite the preponderance of ground balls, however, Sandoval did manage to hit his fair share of line drives as well, as he roped the ball 18.6% of the time last year.

What does all this mean for fantasy players regarding Sandoval? Proceed with caution. In his young career, Sandoval has shown flashes of greatness, however, they have been tempered with signs of trouble. His 2009 BABIP was very high, but the jury is still out on whether or not he can sustain that number, or something close to it. The amount of ground balls he hits seems to suggest that this will be a difficult task. One thing that is not in question, however, is his lack of discipline. The number of pitches he swings at outside of the strikezone are definitely a concern, and when you combine that with his propensity to swing at the first pitch of an at bat, you get something that is not exactly ideal. Make no mistake pitchers will adjust to Sandoval’s aggressiveness, whether he will adjust back or not will be key for his survival in the big leagues.

Christopher Olson is a huge baseball fan who roots for both the Yankees and the Nationals in a futile attempt to make himself look like less of a front runner than he actually is. You can catch up with Christopher in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of letter181.
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57 Responses to “Proceed with Caution on Sandoval”

  1. Harry Carey says:

    “And again, I must point out that what you personally witness can be very misleading. You aren’t watching every single plate appearence, but the statistics cover ever single plate appearence.”

    And so too can statistics be just as misleading. While I did not watch every single plate appearance, I did see quite a lot. But we can agree to disagree and let Sandoval’s 2010 season decide…..

  2. letter181 says:

    Well, I don’t think the 2010 season will tell the story completely, because he is still a young player. Regardless it will be fun to watch this year amidst all the controversy this article stirred up :)

  3. Harry Carey says:

    One last thing to point out. Take a look at Pablo’s pre and post all-star break numbers. I again have to point to his strike out to walk ratio and how it only improved as the season went on. He had 48 k’s and 24 w’s before the break and 35 k’s and 28 w’s after the break. And just looking at August through October he had 26 k’s and 26 walks while continuing to hit over .330!

    It just seems to me that we have a player who continues be getting better.

    Bring on the 2010 season!!

  4. User avatar GiantsFan14 says:

    i agree that you can’t really trust your eyes as many times the memory will fail you in many aspects, but when considering something like how hard a player hits the ball there isn’t much other than our eyes to go off of. With all of Pablo’s PA I’ve seen I think it’s pretty much certain that he hits the ball hard, he has insane hand-eye coordination and that leads to solid contact. When that is backed up by the only stat I can find on ball off the bat speed, I’m going to assume it’s true until I see evidence to the contrary.

  5. letter181 says:

    I think you guys are all missing the big picture here, and that is… That my article got over 50 replies:)

  6. User avatar GiantsFan14 says:

    Keep writing, discussion like this is good for the cafe.

  7. awynne1 says:

    Sandoval tore up the Dominican League this winter. That’s a challenging league. I would say he is on top of his game right now.


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