On June 9th, San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval was activated off the disabled list after having surgery on the hamate bone in his left wrist. Leading up to his return, it was obvious that Sandoval had put on a considerable amount of weight during his time on the DL, and manager Bruce Bochy wasn’t happy about it.
Bochy voiced his displeasure through the media, and after vowing to meet personally with Sandoval to discuss the issue, Pablo upped his conditioning regime. But it’s clear the weight hasn’t gone down.
It’s pure speculation based on the eyeball test, but “the Panda,” as he is affectionately nicknamed, looks as big as he’s ever been. One thing’s for sure, he’s definitely not as slim as he was last year, after he recommitted himself following a down year when his weight also ballooned.
The question remains—how well will Sandoval need to perform for his weight not to be an issue? Or, put a different way, if Sandoval goes into a minor slump at the plate, or boots a few ground balls at third, it will be interesting to see how quickly Bochy or Brian Sabean bring the weight back to the forefront.
Currently hitting .303 on the season with eight home runs and 30 RBI, he’s hitting .288 in July and .262 over his last 10 games. What’s really been lacking since he returned has been the long ball. After hitting four home runs in April, and averaging five or more in every month he played last season (he was injured in June 2011), Sandoval had only one home run in June and is sitting at two this month.
When Bochy originally brought up his weight six weeks ago, he didn’t mince words, as his candid comments circulated the local media fast. In response to a question about Sandoval’s own comments about recommitting himself to his workout regime, the Associated Press reported that Bochy said (from ESPN), “Well, you know, there comes a time when you don’t want to hear it.”
Bochy continued, “We need action, and that’s got to happen now, which has this past week, he’s worked hard, but that has to be consistent. It can’t just be for three or four days a week, it’s got to be for the season. That’s what he needs to do, that’s what we want to see, and he knows that’s what he needs to do.”
This wasn’t the first time Bochy expressed his discontent with Sandoval’s weight through the media. During the Giants' World Series run in 2010, Sandoval’s numbers were down considerably, so much so that he lost his job as a starter during the final months.
Bochy and Sabean not only publicly commented about Sandoval’s weight, they gave him an ultimatum to get in shape or else he would find himself starting the 2011 season in Fresno.
The harsh words worked, as Sandoval changed his diet and spent the entire offseason in Arizona working with a trainer. Reporting to spring training in 2011, Sandoval was considerably leaner, and it clearly translated to the field.
In June, Bochy also alluded to the first time Sandoval had weight issues in 2010.
“[Sandoval] is a vital part of this team, but as we’ve seen just a couple of years ago, if he’s not quite in the condition he needs to be, it’s hard to perform up to his capabilities.”
Sandoval is a vital part of the team in the lineup and at third base. With nine errors, at times Sandoval has hurt the team with his defensive mistakes, but it’s impossible to know if any of the issues are weight related.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. If Sandoval falters at the plate or in the field, it’s almost certain that his weight will be brought up again. Short of losing the weight and keeping it off, it will always be the elephant in the room for Sandoval, and it might end up hurting his chances for a long-term deal.
His teammate, Melky Cabrera, went through a similar issue a couple of years back while playing in Atlanta. Cabrera’s weight ballooned and his numbers suffered, ultimately resulting in him getting released by the Braves at the end of the season.
After dropping 20 pounds, Cabrera hit .305 last year with over 200 hits, and he's currently hitting .357 and leads the majors with 128 hits.
Sandoval saw a similar jump last year after he dropped the weight, raising his average from .268 in 2010 to .315 in 2011, and his home runs total from 13 to 23.
This year, Sandoval started hot, hitting .311 in April, but other than the two games he played in May, his numbers have declined each month.
Maybe they go hand in hand, but if Sandoval doesn’t pick up his production, or lose the extra weight he’s carrying, you can be sure Bochy will be taking issue with it again.