Spring training is almost here.
The sights and sounds of baseball are soon to come, and the Giants are prepared to defend their title with much of the same formula as 2010. Pablo Sandoval, however, was not a part of the 2010 formula. To say 2010 was a "disappointment" for Sandoval is an understatement.
While the Giants defied the odds in the postseason, Sandoval was left looking from the bench during the World Series. The Kung-Fu Panda knew he had none to blame but himself, and left Giants fans wondering if they would ever see the 2009 Sandoval who nearly led them to the playoffs.
After an offseason of intense conditioning, the Pablo is back looking sleeker than ever. Sandoval refuses to disclose his total weight loss, but he looks noticeably trimmer in his twitter photos.
Could the Kung-Fu Panda be back to reinforce a lineup in need of reinforcing? The Giants and their fans hope so.
If the Giants hope to successfully defend their title, Sandoval's resurgence is a key component. His resurgent bat would compliment Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey in the middle of the lineup:
Andres Torres, CF
Freddy Sanchez, 2B
Buster Posey, C
Aubrey Huff, 1B
Miguel Tejada, SS
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Mark DeRosa, LF
Cody Ross, RF
Sandoval must work his way into the middle of the order before he can be projected to bat there given his dismal 2010.
If Sandoval does indeed reemerge in 2011, don't expect to see his 2009 stats that consisted of a .330 average, 25 home runs, and 90 runs driven in. It's easy for a fan to expect those numbers when they hear "resurgence". Expecting such numbers given Sandoval's 2010 season is simply unfair.
A .300 average, 15-20 home runs, and 75-85 runs driven in is more reasonable. Even these numbers are a vast improvement over the 2010 Sandoval and Giants management would be thrilled to get such numbers.
The Giants also hope for a much more agile Sandoval defensively. Sandoval's defense was a major factor in his benching during the postseason; he was simply not making the plays he was supposed to make. Panda's defense also declined over the course of last season, further complicating matters.
If the Giants are to have any hope of defending their title against other National League powerhouses such as Philadelphia, Pablo Sandoval's defensive and offensive resurgence would put them on that brink.
With his recent weight loss, the return of the Kung-Fu Panda seems more likely.
Expect to see just that in 2011.