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. User avatar GiantsFan14 says:

    Well written article, even if I don’t agree with it. He’s still only 23-years-old heading into this season and the strides he made in regards to his walk-rate between 2008 and 2009 were huge. He became more patient as the season wore on and that is reflected in his walk totals. Also, he’s been in the league for over a year now and pitcher’s still haven’t been able to adjust to his free-swinging ways, because even though he does swing at a lot of pitches, he still makes contact often (zone contact 87.7%, outside contact 75.2%). Also, he has insane hand-eye coordination and when he makes contact, it’s usually HARD. He’s the kind of guy that is going to put up high BABIPs year in and year out. For a player to skip triple-A and have such immediate success in the majors is pretty impressive and seeing as how he doesn’t turn 24 until August he still has plenty of time to develop more patience and power. You make good points and it my just be my Giants bias, but I think Sandoval is truly a unique player in his ability to square up pretty much anything he swings at.

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  2. User avatar Kimbos Beard says:

    It’s kind of hard to get on a rookie for swinging at the first pitch or swinging often. These are things that rookies are expected to do. The guy didn’t play Triple A! Have to agree with GiantsFan14 on his breakdown even though he is a Giants, his points are more accurate.

    Not to mention that his free swinging may actually be okay in that lineup. It is so weak that sometimes you don’t want your best hitter sitting there working walks so that they can get stranded at 1B

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  3. letter181 says:

    “Not to mention that his free swinging may actually be okay in that lineup. It is so weak that sometimes you don’t want your best hitter sitting there working walks so that they can get stranded at 1B.”

    I don’t mean to be rude, but this sort of analysis is never accurate. This sounds like something Joe Morgan might say while calling a Sunday Night Baseball game.

    You never want your hitters to make outs unessecarily. I would rather have my hitters get on base with a walk than make an out trying to “make something happen” as it were. If nobody ever ” gets standed at first base” your club will be hitting a lot of solo homeruns.

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  4. letter181 says:

    Thanks for the reply GF, I appriciate the fact that you liked the article.

    While it is true that his walk rate increased tremendously from 08-09, consider the following.

    1. The IBB factor. Ask yourself, how would his BB% be if he played for a team that had an even halfway decent lineup?

    2. During the 08 season, Sandoval had only 154 PA. That is a sample size that is so small, that I don’t think anything can be determined from it. With such a small sample, I think it’s misleading to say “look how he improved”, in the same way I would find it misleading to say “look how he regressed” (his ld% was down from 08, for example) because he simply didn’t play enough to give us any real indication of how he would perform during a full season.

    That outside contact rate is, to me, another reason that BABIP is likely to decrease

    When I first proposed the article, I was being a little to hard on the Panda. But as I say in the closing paragraph, It is not as though he is a lost cause, he just has an adjustment or two to make. If he dosen’t make it? Two words, Jeff Francoeur.

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  5. User avatar mocabeenow says:

    I don’t want him to stop swinging at the first pitch, or start hitting flyballs.. He batted .357, 7 HR, 10 2B, 28 RBI’s on a 0-0 count in 115 AB’s. Regardless if swings and misses, he batted even better on a 0-1 count with a OPS 1.037, and 1.278 OPS on a 1-0 count.

    I’m riding the Kung Fu Panda..
    ~Moc

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  6. letter181 says:

    “I don’t want him to stop swinging at the first pitch, or start hitting flyballs..”

    Well, again I would point out that 115 Ab’s is not really large enough to be considered conclusive data.

    Think of it this way. If I flip a coin 20 times, it is quite possible that 18 of those times, it will come up heads. However, if I flip the coin enough times, the numbers heads to tails ratio will even out, as it should. It’s the same concept here, what we are looking for is enough AB’s to get a real picture of how the player will perform in the long run. This is why situational hitting stats often fall short in displaying a player’s ability. The at bats in those specific situuations are such a small percentage of the whole that it becomes unfair to give that stat the same weight as one where we are looking at 5x more AB’s.

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  7. nice write up…. but this makes me think the opposite…..
    “02/26/10 7:19 PM EST

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — If you thought that Pablo Sandoval had a keen batting eye, wait until this season.

    It turns out that Sandoval, who hit .330 with 25 home runs last year for the Giants, had diminished vision in his left eye. Sandoval said that this was discovered during an examination last November, though he didn’t provide a measurement of his visual acuity.

    Sandoval now wears prescription goggles on the field. He started doing this during the Venezuelan Winter League, which might partly explain his dominant performance for Magallanes. In 20 regular-season games, Sandoval hit .395 with a .425 on-base percentage and a .604 slugging percentage. He added five home runs in 11 playoff games.

    “I can see the ball better. It’s clearer,” Sandoval said Friday.

    Sandoval has noticed a difference this spring. When he takes batting practice using a machine that spits out colored tennis balls stamped with numbers, the 23-year-old switch-hitter can identify both the number and the color. Previously, Sandoval could distinguish only the color.

    “I’m so comfortable,” Sandoval said.

    Oddly, with his left eye as his lead eye, Sandoval hit .379 (55-for-145) as a right-handed batter last year, compared to .314 (134-for-427) from the left-handed side.”

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  8. letter181 says:

    Interesting, but, judging by his performance, the googles haven’t helped his batting eye.

    .395 BA with a .425 OBP… thats 30 points of isolated discipline.. he still isn’t walking at all.

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  9. User avatar mocabeenow says:

    possible, but not probable..

    I do see a problem when he has two strikes. 0-2 and 1-2. So there is a double-edged sword… Swing and miss or foul off the 1st pitch, then his effectiveness does go down.

    he might not hit .330 again, but I would bet my next two paychecks he bats over .300 this year. He hit over .298 in every month last year. AMAZING! that’s better than Pujols..

    ~Moc

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  10. User avatar mocabeenow says:

    On a side note, great write up. I enjoyed the way you wrote up this article. Probably why I’m commenting because you bring up very good points..

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  11. User avatar Kimbos Beard says:

    Not to mention that his free swinging may actually be okay in that lineup. It is so weak that sometimes you don’t want your best hitter sitting there working walks so that they can get stranded at 1B.”

    I don’t mean to be rude, but this sort of analysis is never accurate. This sounds like something Joe Morgan might say while calling a Sunday Night Baseball game.

    You never want your hitters to make outs unessecarily. I would rather have my hitters get on base with a walk than make an out trying to “make something happen” as it were. If nobody ever ” gets standed at first base” your club will be hitting a lot of solo homeruns.

    I don’t think you are being rude, but I think you are missing the point.

    You want your best hitter staying aggressive. Noone said anything about unnecessary outs. But when your best hitter is so much better than the rest of your lineup sometimes you would rather take your chances with your best hitter swinging at a borderline pitch then have the next guy up there.

    I don’t own Pablo on my team nor root for the Giants so I really don’t have an interest in him, but it does seems you are a little hard on Sandoval. The guy bats .395 in the Venezulan league with an OBP of .425 and you are going to complain that his OBP was only .30 higher….come’on thats reaching.

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  12. letter181 says:

    No, you don’t want the guy making unnecessary outs, but if he is up there swinging at every pitch, that is bound to happen. It almost sounds like You want him to play baseball with the attitude of “okay this team sucks, therefore I can’t play the game the way i’m supposed to” It dosen’t work like that. WIth Sandoval we are talking about a whole heck of a lot more than swinging at a few borderline pitches.

    Also, half of the article is based on the fact that he has no plate discipline. If your OBP is 30 points higer than your batting average, you are not drawing very many walks at all, so how is it a reach to say he still has no plate discipline? You are looking at the fact that the OBP is a high number, and it is misleading you. I wasn’t complaining about it. The fact is that somebody posted an article stating that they thought differently based on what he did in winter ball. I simply pointed out that his lack of plate discipline is still as prevelant as ever, so in a sense I am wondering what makes them think differently

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  13. letter181 says:

    Moca,

    Thanks for the love. I knew when I was writing this that it wouldn’t be a very popular opinion, so I’m fine with the level of disagreement. I encourage dialouge on any and all articles that I write, and feel that this is a position that is worth defending.

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  14. User avatar Kimbos Beard says:

    It almost sounds like You want him to play baseball with the attitude of “okay this team sucks, therefore I can’t play the game the way i’m supposed to” It dosen’t work like that.

    We will have to agree to disagree I guess. The one thing where I do think you are way off base is that players don’t come in with different attitudes based on their team. In “real” baseball the makeup of your team affects how you choose to play and how you approach the game. If a pitcher knows that they have a great defense behind them they maybe more than willing to throw pitches that they know will likely get put into play rather than trying to strike every batter out. That doesn’t mean they are playing the game wrong.

    If a batter knows he is the best hitter on the team and that his team depends on him to produce of course he is going to be more agressive. Teixeira can take that extra pitch because he has A-Rod behind him. Sandoval may probably swing at it. I don’t think that means he is not “playing the game the way he is supposed to”.

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  15. elhefe777 says:

    Pablo rakes and will continue to do so well into the future. I could care less about his lack of walks and I will throw caution to the wind when I snag him early…

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  16. letter181 says:

    Mark Texeria’s career isolated discipline is 88. Last year it was 91. This suggests no evidence that he is taking pitches based on who is or isn’t behind him in the batting order. Quite the contrary, his plate discipline has stayed remarkably consistant through the years, regarless of what team he is on.

    If you are on a team, sometimes you have to rely on other members of that team. Trying to do too much is likely to have a negative effect on both a player’s personal stats, and the progress of the team.

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  17. User avatar mocabeenow says:

    Maybe DeRosa, Huff, and someday Posey will help lower the weight on Pablo’s shoulders..

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  18. User avatar GiantsFan14 says:

    “During the 08 season, Sandoval had only 154 PA. That is a sample size that is so small, that I don’t think anything can be determined from it. With such a small sample, I think it’s misleading to say “look how he improved”, in the same way I would find it misleading to say “look how he regressed” (his ld% was down from 08, for example) because he simply didn’t play enough to give us any real indication of how he would perform during a full season.”

    obviously a 154 PA sample size is too small to do much with, but i’m not just looking at his 154 MLB PA, i’m also considering his ~500 minor league PA in 2008 which increase the sample size quite a bit and still shows clear improvement.

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  19. letter181 says:

    That’s fine, as a point of reference, but considering we are dealing with three different skill levels, including A+ ball, i’m not sure I’m comfortable taking a guys minor league numbers and expecting them to translate when dealing with major league pitching.

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  20. letter181 says:

    Also, and again I don’t put much stock in this because of the sample sizes involved for some of them, but its a funny sort of coincidence that in 2008 AA ball, as well as his 08 and 09 MLB seasons 1/4th of his walks came on the intentional pass.

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  21. letter181 says:

    I’m curious to know what more people think about the second half of the article, his BABIP in relation to his GB%

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  22. manuscr1pt says:

    hey guys, chris’ signature at the end of the article says his username is “letter18″, should read letter181.

    [EDIT: i fixed it. but if that's a permanent field it needs amending.]

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  23. User avatar curl says:

    I do agree that a little more than a season of data isn’t enough to draw a complete picture of what to expect out of him; however, if you compare him to another notorious bad ball hitter, you can see it’s definitely possible for him to maintain the average.

    Vladimir Guerrero since 2002:

    First strike swing %: 59.4%
    Outside zone swing %: 38.4%
    Outside zone contact %: 65.7%
    Career BB% when adjusted for IBB: 5.9%

    Pablo In 2009:

    First strike swing %: 60.5%
    Outside zone swing %: 41.5%
    Outside zone contact %:75.2%
    Season BB% when adjusted for IBB: 6.2%

    Unfortunately, there’s no data on Vlad from 98-01 seasons, so we can’t see how if he progressed as a hitter over that time but I think it’s clear that it’s certainly possible to have no patience and still be a .320 career hitter (Vlad). Although, I will certainly grant you that a .350 BABIP is probably unsustainable,

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  24. manuscr1pt says:

    “I’m curious to know what more people think about the second half of the article, his BABIP in relation to his GB%”

    the thing i was thinking when i read this was: why couldn’t his GB% creep down next year (thus likely preserving – to some extent – his BABIP)? maybe that’s just me playing devil’s advocate, but if he’s a young guy with just over 700 career ABs, i’d say it’s entirely possible that his LD% and FB% increase a bit as he settles in more.

    while i think you point to a lot of good indicators for concern, i do think that some of the things you call into question have fair counter-arguments. for example, in essentially the same feeble giants lineup, panda figures to get some extra intentional passes again. it’s true that he hasn’t “earned” them, but they are happening, they are going to happen again, and they are buoying his stats.

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  25. B-Chad says:

    Well considering GB’s lead to more hits than FB’s, I would expect a higher BABIP than the league average. The highest number of hits on balls in play comes form LD’s (obviously), followed by GB’s, and finally FB’s (which considering HR’s are subtracted from balls in play, actually makes a lot of sense). While he likely won’t be legging out infield singles, he may be smoking sharp ground balls through holes in the infield. All that said, even taking into account his hard contact and percentages in terms of balls in play, unless he hits more LD’s, I’d expect a regression in his BABIP to some degree, but by no means do I expect it to league average. Also take into account he’s another year older, and thus more physically mature, and a slight uptick in HR/FB, and you may see a slight decrease in BABIP off-set by more HR’s hit.

    I’m also going to second Giantsfan’s mention of Sandoval’s improved discipline, especially when taking into account his minor league numbers. In the case of walks and strikeouts, I think minor league numbers are great indicators. We aren’t talking about HR’s hit in the Pacific Coast league, we are talking about discipline stats. In almost 1300 minor league AB’s he walked a whopping 69 times with 14 (!) of the intentional variety. Last year in 572 AB’s Panda walked 52 times (13 intentional). That is substantial growth anyway it is sliced. Panda’s increased walk rate can even be taken into account when looking at month by month splits. In 169 AB’s spead out over March, April and May, he walked 8 total times, with 3 being intentional walks. That means in Panda’s remaining 403 AB’s he walked 44 times with 10 of those being of the intentional variety. Eliminating intentionaly walks, that would put Sandoval’s March/April/May non-intentional walk percentage (by PA-IBB) at 2.82% in comparison to his non-intentional walk percentage for the remainder of the season at 7.67%.

    Also take into account Panda’s low K-rate (14.5% for the season with fluctuations month to month), and you have a free swinger who makes good contact (and lots of contact in general: 82.4% contact rate and insane 87.7% zone contact rate), getting a year older thus more physically mature (which conceivably could lead to a better HR/FB) and an improving walk rate as the season went along, and I see a strong buy. Take into account others will be worried about his high BABIP (like yourself) and I believe you’ll have a bargain come draft day, as opposed to a likely bust.

    All that said, and in spite of my strong disagreement, awesome article dude. Very well written, and kudos for the use of numbers and not simply anecdotal and “gut,” analysis. Cheers!

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  26. letter181 says:

    manuscr1pt:

    Well, It is possible for his GB% to decrease next year, of course. It’s possible that as he settles in, he will get better, but that would be just speculation at this point. It is not as though Sandoval can never be a good big league hitter, it’s just that judging by his performance in 09, we see a lot of things that could potentially make a prospective fantasy owner nervous. I wouldn’t be adverse to drafting him in general, However, I have seen Mock drafts where he is going as high as the 3rd round. That is insanity, in my opinion.

    It is true, he is returning to the same weak Giants lineup, however the IBB’s won’t necessarily accompany him. If he continues to chase pitches there is a good bet that he will not have as good of a season, thus, there would be no reason to walk him. After all, why walk a guy with men on base if I know hes just going to swing at a ball in the dirt? It does not appear that pitchers have made that adjustment yet, but they will, I doubt if that part is even up for debate. If Sandoval doesn’t adjust, he will be far from the first player who had an excellent first season and then faded into obscurity. Pitchers have a whole lot of video and stats on Sandoval now, and they wll use that to their advantage.

    also, thanks for adding the 1, not sure how I missed that :)

    Curl:

    although the comparison to Guerrero is an interesting one, I think that he is the exception, and not the rule. It would be a mistake (in my opinion) to assume that free swingers don’t need to adjust because Vladimir Guerrero was succsessful. If we start judging what is correct based on outliers, instead of the general population, I think we are asking for trouble. Take for instance, Bill Gates. This is a man who never finished college, and became a billionare. However I don’t think it would be wise to advise a child to skip college because “Bill gates did it, and look how he turned out”

    I don’t mean to imply that you are that you are intimating any of these things, this is just what went through my mind when you brought up the comparison.

    Lastly, I don’t doubt that there are some fair counter-arguments to my assertions. However, I think that I am right, as does the other side of the argument. Good old fashioned debate, nothing wrong with that. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

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  27. letter181 says:

    B- Chad:

    Thanks for the response, it was well thought out, and you raise some interesting points.

    The major problem I have with taking minor league numbers (especially from AA and A+ ball) to support his discipline is simply that the competition is much worse. In A+ ball for example, he could be seeing nothing but straight fast balls in a variety of counts…. being that he was evidently way beyond the competition at that level, he will most likely crush the large majority of the pitchers at that level… I understand that I am speculating a bit here, but I don’t think it is a huge leap to say that a pitcher who can throw the ball with more velocity and movement will be much touger to face than one that can not.

    As GF noted, his outsite zone contact rate was 75 % last year. Even Vlad, the epitome of the free swinger, *only* has an outside zone contact rate of 66% for his career. if he continues to put balls in play outside the zone at such a high rate, I expect his BABIP to drop significantly.

    But as I say, you make an interesting argument, and though we fundementally disagree on some things, I appriciate the time you took in researching and bringing certain things to my attention.

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  28. B-Chad says:

    Example A: “It’s possible that as he settles in, he will get better, but that would be just speculation at this point.”

    Example B: “If he continues to chase pitches there is a good bet that he will not have as good of a season, thus, there would be no reason to walk him. After all, why walk a guy with men on base if I know hes just going to swing at a ball in the dirt? It does not appear that pitchers have made that adjustment yet, but they will, I doubt if that part is even up for debate.”

    Example A is concluded with the statement, “but that would be just speculation at this point,” when discussing Panda making adjustments. Example B is concluded with, “I doubt if that part is even up for debate,” when discussing pitchers making adjustments. So I’m wondering, why is it speculative that Panda will progress as an aging hitter, and non-debatable that pitchers will make progressive adjustments against him, when all evidence from last year points to Sandoval making progress (walking more, hitting more HR’s) and against pitchers making positive strides? Seems a bit off base no?

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  29. letter181 says:

    Not at all, I’m surprised you don’t see a difference in the two statements.

    In example A, you are speculating that just because he plays for a longer period of time, he will get better.

    In example B I am talking about an adjustment we have seen pitchers countless times before. Sandoval teed off on pitchers last year, therefore, they will most likely be studying him pretty hard this off season, and looking for ways to expliot him. Sandoval, however, was extremely succsessful last year, while doing things that are generally atypical towords succsess. He may not feel he needs to make any sort of adjustment (if it a’nt broke, don’t fix it.)

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  30. letter181 says:

    I would also point out there is a major difference between one guy adjusting to an entire league and an entire league adjusting to one guy. Even if some pitchers don’t make the adjustment, do you really think it’s likely that the majority won’t?

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  31. B-Chad says:

    Well according to this logic, in preparing to face the Giants teams/pitchers must not have studied film/stats on the Giants best hitter. I simply don’t believe that to be true, especially when you see players like Ichiro study film from at bat to at bat. Example B operates under the assumption that by looking at the film and stats for a longer period of time pitchers will somehow be able to make adjustments that will be successful, where their adjustments all last year failed.

    Also to discuss example A, drawing walks are considered an “old man skill,” and one that is developed over time. Given that Sandoval’s walk percentage increased after March/April/May, it would seem a bit presumptious to think he sees no problem with hacking at everything.

    In further defense of Sandoval, it is quite impressive to see him positive run values against all pitch types except I believe sliders (I had his fan graphs page open when I made the initial post, so I could be wrong on his one negative run value). He devoured fastballs, but was also worth positive run values against curveballs, changeups, etc. Unfortunately the splits data don’t show his swing percentages month by month. Hopefully in due time they will as splits are new to fangraphs. That said, judging by his increased walk rate, I’d guess he chased fewer pitches. Anecdotally (unfortunately because without concrete stats it’s about all I”ve got), Sandoval looked much better in the batter’s box as the season progressed. Often times in his first 100-150 AB’s he’d swing out of his shoes at about everything from his shoe tops to above his head. As the season progressed, there were times he’d step, but check his swing, and he seemed to make a conscious effort to work for pitches to drive. Obviously first pitch swing stats for the season say otherwise, but I’d guess judging by the stats we have at our disposal, that his first pitch swing percentage was likely lower, just by the increased walk rate.

    Once again, I strongly disagree, but I commend your post, congrats for getting on the board with post numero uno.

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  32. letter181 says:

    It’s not that they didn’t study his film or stats last year, it’s that now they have a full season of stats to look at, which are now much more conlusive to the type of hitter he is than they were in 2008. They also have many more at bats to look at. Not to mention an entire offseason in which to prepare. The fact that he walked more in the later half of last season could very well be coincidental, and I could argue that it is just as presumptious to assume that is deliberate improvement.

    What will month by month sample sizes of swing percentages show you? It may be that the guy just simply had a better month in may than in june against curveballs, for example. That is why it is important to judge on a full season worth of data.

    I respect the fact that you disagree, I didn’t expect this post to be a crowd favorite, after all. However you are attempting to break down monthly sample sizes that show moderately improved numbers and take that as a sign that he is improving. I believe this is misleading. Yes, he walked more in his last 403 AB’s, he also had many more at bats in which to walk. I would find it troubling if anyone walked more in their first 169 at bats, than they did in their final 403 at bats.

    Thanks for reading. If you have any more to add, please feel free to comment. This is in no way a hostile environment, and though we disagree, I believe this is generating some great discussion.

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  33. letter181 says:

    I fear that many of you are getting lost in the fact that the article is critical of some aspects of Sandoval’s game. Keep in mind that the point here is “if he does not adjust, he will have a hard time sustaining his success,” not “Pablo Sandoval will suck this year.”

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  34. B-Chad says:

    It’s not that he walked more in his last 403 AB’s from a counting stat perspective, but a percentage perspective. Also when dealing with such a small sample in general, month to month variations are all we have. At this point, I could argue we don’t know Sandoval is a free swinger, perhaps he had a season of free swinging, the sample size is too small, but that would be foolish.

    I also disagree with the, “full season of stats,” being conclusive and suddenly sparking a collective light bulb in the heads of opposing pitchers managers. Last year after his first 100-150 AB’s, plus his minor league track record most pitchers almost certainly would come to the conclusion he was a free swinger and pitch accordingly. I also understand you don’t believe Sandoval will suck this year, but I believe you are neglecting the good that Sandoval illustrated last year.

    Finally, it is awesome having a heated, but civil debate that doesn’t turn into name calling, and snarkiness, kudos.

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  35. letter181 says:

    I understand the difference between counting stats and rate stats, however a small sample is still a small sample. Month to month variations may be all we have, but I doubt very much they are enough to draw any solid conclusions. Sure, pitchers had his minor league stats last year, but minor league stats (not even AAA) and 154 PA in 08 are not exactly the best indicators of how a player will fair with a full season in the majors. I would also sumbit to you, that most pitchers, and even some managers, don’t rely too heavily on stats, and if they do, they dont always look at the ones that are relevant.

    that sample size argument would be foolish yes (the one you alluded to) , because we have almost 800 MLB plate appearences now that tells us that sandoval is a free swinger, and while that isn’t a ton, it is enough for us to begin to get a picture of what a guy will be most likely do in the league. It would have been irresponsible of us to take those 154 PA on their own merit in 2008, but since he displayed much of the same behavior in 09, (in terms of lack of discipline) we can probably safely say that this is the type of hitter he is right now. ANy significant improvement or regression from those 154 plate appearences can be written off as a small sample for the 08 year, but when a guy repeats similar behaviors in his full season, it tells us something.

    Did he improve his discipline a bit towords the end of 09, yes. Is it enough to make a conclusive statement that he is improving overall? In my opinion, no it isn’t.

    Did sandoval show some minor improvement in his siscipline towords the end of this season? sure.

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  36. letter181 says:

    heh, that last sentence is just a half finished retread of the one above it that I guess I forgot was there, just disregard it.

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  37. User avatar GiantsFan14 says:

    i didn’t read everything, but i think one of the points B-Chad was trying to make is that if pitchers were going to adjust to him, why haven’t they done it already? He got better as the season wore on and was already regarded as a free swinger coming into 2009 so why wouldn’t those adjustments by the pitchers have showed themselves at some point in the season? Pitcher’s have definitely tried to make adjustments already and they just haven’t worked for two reasons: 1) He has gained more patience at the plate and 2) he has an uncanny ability to hit anything hard no matter where it’s thrown.

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  38. letter181 says:

    This was the first season that pitchers have seen him for any prolonged length of time… yea they may have known he was a free swinger before hand, but now he has become p roblem… so they will look for ways to beat him. If you guys really think that the time to adjust to him has passed because hes played one full season, thats something I must strenuously disagree with.

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  39. B-Chad says:

    I don’t think it’s an argument that the time to adjust to him has passed, pitchers make adjustments against players young and old as information changes, and vice versa for hitters. That said, I believe the chess game of pitching and hitting adjustments began last year, and will continue this year. The question for me is with Panda continue to see growth in his walk rate (which I suspect he will) or will he stagnate and stay at his current level (which he certainly could).

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  40. B-Chad says:

    Also, consider me jealous, I wish I had 1/4 this many responses to any of my previous articles, hahaha.

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  41. User avatar GiantsFan14 says:

    i’m not saying more adjustments couldn’t happen. but with his minor league numbers and his stint in the majors at the end of 2008, it was already widely known around the league that he was a free swinger going into 2009. there is no way pitcher’s haven’t already tried making major adjustments against him and while they will continue to try to adjust, i think the fact that they had a whole year to do so and weren’t successful means that future adjustments may not be so successful either.

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  42. Harry Carey says:

    Letter181 –

    Nice article, but you had me until one of your reply’s where you said, “If he dosen’t make it? Two words, Jeff Francoeur.”

    Really? That has to be the worst comparison possible. While I agree that Panda needs to walk more, he doesn’t even come close to striking out as much as Francoeur. If I am right, I believe Francoeur strikes out 4 times as much as he walks. Panda strikes out twice as much as he walks…..HUGE DIFFERENCE.

    I’m not sure there really is a great comparison for him, but who really cares. The guy can flat out hit. If I were a coach I wouldn’t want him changing his aggressiveness one bit. Remember when the Reds asked Dunn to become more aggressive? They really screwed him up for a while. If it aint broke don’t fix it….

    If all of a sudden Sandoval’s average dips below .260 next year and he strikes out over 100 times and just completely falls flat…..then maybe look into changing his approach. But until that happens (and I doubt it will)….leave well enough alone.

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  43. Harry Carey says:

    And one more thing. I’m just curious what different approach you think pitchers will take with him? Will they actually just start throwing pitches over the middle of the plate? I watched enough Giant games last season and saw Panda hit balls so far out of the strike zone it just became silly. So I’m not really sure what it is a pitcher can do against him? Seriously, what sort of adjustments do you think they can make that will cause him to become less successful?

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  44. letter181 says:

    You are looking at the Jeff Francoeur comparison the wrong way. It absolutely works in the sense that Jeff Francoeur was a free swinger who started off hot, but never changed his free swinger ways and because of that, could not sustain his early success. That was the point I was trying to make. I wasn’t trying to say that Sandoval and Francouer are exactly the same player, you missed the point. I also fundamentally disagree that striking out more inherently makes you a bad hitter, which you seem to be suggesting, but that’s another argument.

    But since you brought up the idea of terrible comparison’s, trying to say that telling Sandoval to change his approach is the same thing as telling Dunn to change his approach is absolutely absurd. Yes, they both were successful at the time they were told to do this, but there is a huge difference in how they arrived at said success. Adam Dunn’s career Isod is 134. His career HR/FB rate is 22.4, He has a 20 percent career LD%…. The point being, Adam Dunn has been great in all the right areas ( hitting wise) almost his whole career. The Reds wanted him to change because they thought his batting average needed to be higher, they also wanted his k’s down ( i assume you’re talking about the Dusty Baker years) because Dusty and his gaggle of idiots misunderstand the game of baseball so badly that it boarders on criminal. Of course you are not gonna ask a guy like Adam Dunn to change anything, but that’s because Adam Dunn does things right.

    Pablo Sandoval is paddling through a thick river trying to sustain success with his lack of discipline. Has it been done before, yes. Has it been done a lot? no. There is also a world of difference between certain free swingers. Ichiro gets away with it because he has a line drive percentage of 21 percent career, and he has the speed to beat out some of those grounders he hits. Sandoval, does not have that luxury, so it will be even harder for him.

    I think you guys are being very results oriented here. That is, you see a guy who had one successful MLB season flailing and think that because he was successful doing it, that it isn’t potentially a problem. I very much disagree.

    As to your other question: What will pitchers do differently? I would suspect he sees very little in the strikezone with runners on base, even moreso than last year. Did pitchers throw balls to him outside the strikezone last year too? Yes, the difference? Can’t get lucky forever. I invite you to look at xbabip stats. They are the expected batting average on Balls in play average for a hitter. Sandoval’s xbabip last year was 320, 30 points lower than his actual… if you take 30 points off his BABIP this year, ( i expect it will even be a little more than that next year) what exactly do his numbers look like then?

    Also, I find it curious that you were with me until the Jeff Francoeur thing. how does that comparison, whether you agree with it or not, take away from the validity of what I wrote in the article?

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  45. User avatar GiantsFan14 says:

    The thing is, xBABIP doesn’t take into account how hard he hits the ball. Pablo had the 6th highest average batted ball speeds in the majors at 105.5 MPH (I could only find this stat for home runs but I’m guessing it’s telling of how hard he hits the ball in general). The guys in front of him: Albert Pujols, Mark Reynolds, Nelson Cruz, Michael Cuddyer and Ian Stewart. When you take into account his age in relation to the other guys on the list, who are almost all in their prime, it’s quite astounding. I have no hard data to back it up but it seems to me that harder hit balls are more likely to fall for hits thus inflating his BABIP higher than you might expect by just looking at GB/LD/FB numbers.

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  46. letter181 says:

    GF,

    you’re right. xBABIP, doesn’t account for the speed of balls put in play, neither does any other metric (that I know of). However we must work with what we have, and apply what we have correctly. The fact that he hits his HR balls hard could tell us something, or it could tell us absolutely nothing, I am not sure, to be honest with you. It may be that his HR balls are indicative of how hard he hits the ball in general, but that’s not a statement I’m prepared to make at this time. However, IF he is hitting balls abnormally hard in general, then yes, that would probably correlate positively with his BABIP, but we have no real way of knowing that at this time. I have been a strong proponent of tracking MPH on every ball put in play for awhile now, as it would help us with the luck factor (among other things). But to the best of my knowledge, that is not happening right now.

    And so, we work with what we have. Are the metrics we have perfect? Absolutely not. Taken together, do they allow us to make fairly accurate predictions? I believe the answer is yes.

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  47. User avatar GiantsFan14 says:

    Well the combination of the speed of the bat numbers I found and what I’ve seen myself (probably watched ~120 games last year) leads me to make the conclusion that he just hits the ball hard, and he hits it hard pretty much anywhere it’s pitched. Hopefully hit fx is released this season so we can get a better idea of the effect that speed off the bat has on balls in play, but since we don’t have all those stats now I think it’s a pretty fair assumption to say that higher speeds off the bat will lead to higher BABIPs. Ground balls are more likely to find holes, and line drives and fly balls are more likely to find gaps and get over the outfielders head. We obviously don’t have enough data to know for certain what Pablo’s true BABIP is, but I very much expect that it will be quite a bit above average. I just don’t think it’s something you can ignore when discussing a player as unique as Pablo.

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  48. letter181 says:

    I would be very careful of factoring what you have seen into analysis on any level. The reason for this is pretty simple: the human memory stinks. Sometimes we don’t remember what we saw, sometimes we remember what we see incorrectly, and sometimes (not necessarily intentionally) we filter what we see to get our desired result. Ground balls correlate positively with BABIP, but only in conjunction with speed, which Sandoval dosen’t exactly have. His BABIP will probably be a bit above average regardless, but a 30-40 point drop would severely hurt him.

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  49. Harry Carey says:

    “i assume you’re talking about the Dusty Baker years) because Dusty and his gaggle of idiots misunderstand the game of baseball so badly that it boarders on criminal.”

    As a Cubs fan that made me laugh. I’ve never disliked a manager more than I disliked Dusty Baker!

    I will admit that the only stats I can look at are the stats that are easily available on-line. So in looking at just those stats and comparing Francoeur vs Sandoval during their first two seasons we find the following:

    Sandoval: 194 Games 717 At Bats 97 K’s 56 W’s .333 Avg .382 OBA .543 SLG
    Francoeur: 232 Games 908 At Bats 190 K’s 34 W’s .271 Avg .297 OBA .477 SLG

    You say that, “I also fundamentally disagree that striking out more inherently makes you a bad hitter, which you seem to be suggesting, but that’s another argument. ” I disagree with your disagreement in this case. Striking out at the clip Francoeur did early in his career without walking at all was a tell tale sign of things to come. When I look at the above two statistical lines I see polar opposites. I see a guy who clearly had some luck on his side, but seems to be able to create a lot of it on his own. And the intentional walks are not going to go away, if anything, they are only going to increase. Pitchers are not going to want to pitch to a guy with runners in scoring position that can hit anything outside or inside the zone. Francoeur on the other hand showed no ability to hit anything other than fastballs in the zone. Thus as his career went on pitchers knew he would get himself out as long as they threw him off-speed stuff outside the zone.

    You clearly are way more into all the different stats then I am. And I am sure they help identify weaknesses most of the time. But again, I watched enough of Sandoval (and Francoeur) to see for myself how very different they are.

    “Also, I find it curious that you were with me until the Jeff Francoeur thing. how does that comparison, whether you agree with it or not, take away from the validity of what I wrote in the article?”

    I only mentioned that because you weren’t the first (nor will you be the last) to make the arguments you made using all those statistics. The information you presented is obviously true and does lead most people who have not watched Sandoval enough to come to the conclusion you and others have come to. But once you compared him to a guy like Francoeur you completely lost me. The only thing they have in common was their free swinging ways. Vlad would have been a closer comparison (134 K/ 61W; .316/.358/.553 in 1997-98) early in his career. The reason (for me) being the strike out to walk rates between the two were SO different. In my opinion, when a guy strikes out over 100 times in a season and only walks 25 times (a 4:1 ratio) that is a HUGE red flag. More so then any other stat I can look at. Sandoval’s strike out to walk ratio is very impressive at such a young age which makes me far more confidant in his abilities.

    Again, for me it comes down to the fact I’ve watched enough of Sandoval to know he’s just a unique talent much like Vlad was. Will he be able to sustain? I have no idea. As long as he keeps his weight under control and stays healthy all signs (not necessarily stats) point to yes!

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  50. letter181 says:

    “Again, for me it comes down to the fact I’ve watched enough of Sandoval to know he’s just a unique talent.”

    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. I would also point back to what I said about the human memory being unreliable, this is part of the reason why “I saw it with my own two eyes!” dosen’t qualify as valid evidence anywhere.

    Fancouer striking out that much more than he walks probably does have something to do with his lack of discipline, my comment was more geared toward your statement that If Pablo Sandoval strikes out 100 times next year, it would be a big problem. But that isn’t necesssarily true, it depends on his BB%. And again, I was only comparing them (Sandoval and Francoeur) based on lack of plate discipline, and how this can be a problem for hitters.

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