Every San Francisco Giants player has had his share of struggles this year (yes, even Buster Posey struggled for a week right before the All-Star break). But no Giants hitter has struggled as much as Pablo Sandoval is struggling now.
Sandoval’s been pressing at the plate and underperforming in the field as he's over-thinking on even the most routine grounders; he hasn't made a defensive play look easy in a long time. His weight has been a problem, and it’s been a huge factor in his lack of power and poor batting average.
The Kung Fu Panda may have to go back to “Camp Panda” this offseason. He has frustrated Giants fans frequently with his abundance of strikeouts, lack of hustle and terrible defense. On Monday, he failed to run out a double-play grounder that he easily should’ve beaten, and he made a two-run error.
Without those mistakes, San Francisco would’ve probably won the game.
Pablo was benched in the Giants’ series finale against the Rockies, and he deserved it. Sandoval hasn’t hit a home run in over two months, which tracks all the way back to before the All-Star break. He’s been knocking in some runs, but Sandoval has been unable to go deep.
Joaquin Arias, who has always been known as a utility player, has a .279 batting average (entering Wednesday’s game against the Rockies), which is better than Sandoval’s. Brandon Crawford has been hot in September, and both he and Arias are perfectly capable of starting.
Until Sandoval stops pressing, he should be benched.
What should the Giants do with Sandoval?
Both Arias and Crawford made plays on defense and drove in runs in San Francisco’s 8-3 win over the Rockies on Wednesday. Both picked up the slack, and Arias was fine hitting in the five hole. He didn’t ground into any double plays, and he actually helped his team.
Crawford has been solid hitting against lefties (even though he is a left-handed hitter), and Arias has dominated against lefties. The next three pitchers the Giants will face are lefties, and five of their next six are as well. So, even though Sandoval is a switch-hitter, he should be benched in favor of Arias against the lefties, since Arias is much better against them.
If Arias outplays Sandoval, and Crawford continues to produce against all kinds of pitchers, manager Bruce Bochy may have no choice but to bench Sandoval for some games and repeat 2010 all over again.
Sandoval still has decent stats and needs an opportunity to break out of his slump before the postseason, but if it really is his weight causing the slump, Sandoval is unlikely to turn it around.
Arias and Crawford both did a great job in August. Crawford is streaky, but he has tons of potential. He hasn’t been in a heated playoff race, but Sandoval hasn’t been a key piece, either.
If they can figure out a three-player, two-position platoon that would work, then I'm all for it. But, even though Giants fans have been loyal to the Kung Fu Panda, the smart ones have to admit that Sandoval is hurting the team right now.
You would think he learned from 2010, when he played a very small role in the Giants’ championship. But apparently he hasn’t. So, if Sandoval keeps slumping, Bochy will come to his senses and limit Sandoval’s playing time.
And that could mark the end of the Pablo Sandoval era...unless, of course, Camp Panda comes to the rescue this offseason.