The San Francisco Giants don’t know just what happened to Pablo Sandoval, but they do know that the cleanup hitter who’s been manning third over the last week-plus isn’t him.
Sure, he looks and plays like Sandoval, but this imposter is missing the most important aspect that Ku Fu Panda brings to the reigning World Series champions — the bat. That’d be the same bat that gave him .300-plus batting averages despite swing rates that would have sent lesser batters into oblivion, and the one that gave him the reputation as one of the best pure hitters in the game (sorry, Buster Posey).
And right now, that’s the bat that the Giants need most to return.
See, while it’s undoubtedly a good thing that (all facetiousness aside) Sandoval has returned to the Giants lineup, the tangible results on the few have been far in between. No, you can’t blame him for his 0-for-3 performance on Tuesday considering that the team was just no-hit by Cincinnati Reds‘ Homer Bailey, but it was just one in a string of disappointing work days, as he’s hit in just two in the eight games since coming back.
The three measly singles give him an un-Panda-like .107/.167/.107 line, but even more concerning has to be the fact that instead of hacking and making contact as he is accustomed to, he’s swinging right through pitches at a 13 percent rate, with an alarmingly-high strikeout rate of 30 percent over 30 PA.
So yes, I suppose you could say that Sandoval is lost.
But is it just that he needs time coming off the DL? That’s the best-case scenario the Giants can hope for at this point, considering that he’d been sleeping at the plate through May with a .243/.291/.374 triple-slash in May too, undoubtedly affected by his .244 BABIP (not exactly unlucky either, given his 17 percent line drive rate for the month).
With an offense that ranks nearly dead last over the last seven days (15 runs, 29th in MLB), it should go without saying that these Giants, who are 1-6 since Sandoval’s return and who haven’t gotten spectacular pitching this season, can’t afford to have anymore major holes in their lineup.
And right now, there might not be a bigger one (both literally and figuratively) than the one Panda is leaving in the heart of the order.