Pablo Sandoval is on the shelf once again for the Giants.
Sandoval will be out for at least 15 days after aggravating a foot strain on Saturday. Schulman also reported that the Giants could be without second baseman Marco Scutaro after he was struck by a pitch on the hand during Tuesday night's game.
The Giants can ill afford to lose Scutaro with leadoff man Angel Pagan sidelined due to a hamstring injury and Sandoval down for the count as well. Playing without the top of the lineup that helped carry the team to a world championship last year could be a tough task for an offense that has looked over-matched against good pitching of late.
The Giants managed only two runs in a two-game set against Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays last week. They were held to one run by Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller of the Cardinals during a doubleheader last Saturday. Pagan missed all six of those games and Sandoval was only in the lineup for three of them.
Sandoval's continued injury problems are starting to weigh heavily on the Giants. According to Baseball Prospectus, Sandoval battled right elbow inflammation during spring training but didn't miss any time once the season began.
Last year, Sandoval missed 37 days with a broken hamate bone and 19 more with a thigh strain. He missed 45 days with a broken hamate bone in 2011 and battled a sore shoulder late that season as well.
Many have speculated that Sandoval's nagging injuries are related to his ongoing weight issues. It's impossible to make that conclusion without being a medical expert who has access to Sandoval's health records.
However, it is simply unacceptable for him to be out of shape. According to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area, the Giants have asked Sandoval to prioritize losing weight while he's on the disabled list.
Sandoval reportedly showed up to spring training out of shape to the dismay of the organization. He lost weight at the behest of the manager Bruce Bochy during the spring, but he's drawn the ire of the Giants once again.
There's been a correlation with Sandoval's weight and his performance on the field, though once again, that doesn't imply causation.
During Sandoval's first year-plus in the big leagues, he hit .333/.381/.543.
In 2010, he was clearly heavier. He hit just .260/.323/.409 that year while losing his starting job during the postseason.
He dropped nearly 40 pounds during the following offseason and hit .315/.357/.552 in 2011. Sandoval couldn't keep the weight off, however, and he has slumped down to .285/.336/.440 since the beginning of 2012.
The Giants need a healthier, more effective version of Sandoval in order to contend. Joaquin Arias is arguably a better defender at the hot corner, but he's hitting just .238/.269/.238 through his first 69 plate appearances this season. He should hit better than that if he's given more consistent playing time at third base, but he offers nowhere near the offensive upside of Sandoval.
Nick Noonan is another option to fill in for Sandoval, though he may now be needed at second base to replace Scutaro. Noonan has only a lifetime .703 OPS in the minor leagues. He also hit just .200 in 60 at-bats for the Giants this year before being demoted to Fresno. He was recalled to replace Sandoval on the roster.
Infielder Tony Abreu was recently activated from the disabled list. He's hit just .251/.279/.355 in 469 plate appearances during his big league career. He could see increased playing time along with Noonan and Arias in the absence of Sandoval and possibly Scutaro.
Third baseman Adam Duvall is crushing the ball in the minor leagues. He's hitting .304/.370/.600 at Double-A Richmond.
However, the Giants promoted Noonan instead of Duvall, so he doesn't appear to be a likely alternative at this point. Duvall could be a long-term option at third base if Sandoval isn't able to get his weight down and his performance up before hitting free agency after the 2014 season.
Sandoval has shown flashes of brilliance during his career. He was outstanding during the 2008, 2009 and 2011 seasons. Last postseason, he hit .364/.386/.712 with six home runs, including three in Game 1 of the World Series, to help the Giants win their second title in three years.
If the Giants are going to get back to the postseason, Sandoval will have to provide production in the middle of the lineup. Noonan, Arias and Abreu can't replicate his offensive potential.
The Giants have asked Sandoval to get in shape while he tries to get healthy. His health and performance could be the key to the club's offensive success during the remainder of the season.