The San Francisco Giants rank as one of the most proficient offensive teams in baseball at the moment, but there remains a glaring void in the heart of their lineup. Slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval‘s on-going struggles are alarmingly concerning, especially considering the fact that he occupies the No. 3 spot in the Giants’ order. Sandoval’s season-long slump is creeping into dangerous territory. He’s accumulated just nine hits in 55 official at-bats, good enough for a .164 batting average.
The Giants have remained collectively productive at the plate in spite of Sandoval’s struggles. As a team, San Francisco ranks fourth in the National League in runs scored, averaging more than 4.9 runs per game. That’s an entire run more than what they averaged in 2013, when they managed to win just 76 games. Sandoval is enduring perhaps the worst slump of his big league career. He’s pressing on the brink of free agency, depleting his value to some extent in the process.
Sandoval is a quality hitter. He’s proven that over the course of his seven-year big league career, but he’s also susceptible to prolonged periods of being completely unproductive. The Giants won’t be able to compete for the NL West title if Sandoval significantly struggles over the course of the 2014 MLB season. While it remains highly unlikely for Sandoval to remain unproductive over 162 games, his struggles don’t appear destined to disappear anytime soon.
The “Kung Fu Panda” hasn’t merely endured immense difficultly getting on base. He’s also struggled at the hot corner, where he’s registered a highly inefficient .935 fielding percentage in 128.0 innings, making three errors in just 46 defensive chances. The “Giants Way”, which emphasizes pitching and defense, hasn’t exactly transpired in the manner of which it was drawn up at third base this season. The fact that Sandoval lost a significant amount of body weight over the offseason led most to believe the Panda would be more nimble in the field, but it hasn’t appeared so in early action.
Manager Bruce Bochy has displayed confidence in Sandoval by continuously slotting him in the third spot in the lineup while refusing to give him a day off. Bochy is pleased with Sandoval’s at-bats and believes the hits will start falling at some point soon. But it might not be a bad thing for Sandoval to take a day to collect himself. He’s started all 14 games for the Giants so far this season and could potentially benefit from added rest. The Giants have won despite Sandoval’s early struggles, but doubt will continue to creep in as the Panda’s at-bat total reaches the 100-AB plateau.