San Francisco Giants Lose Pablo Sandoval: Blessing in Disguise?
Yes, you read the title correctly.
In the midst of a season in which Pablo Sandoval appeared primed to be an all-star caliber player after having famously shed 40 pounds in the offseason, the Kung Fu Panda will reportedly miss four to six weeks with a fractured hamate bone in his right hand.
Sandoval has been one of the only competent hitters for a San Francisco Giants lineup that currently ranks 14th in the National League in scoring and 11th in hitting.
Don't fret just yet, Giants fans—this may prove to be beneficial to the club.
Does it seem ridiculous? Probably.
Sandoval leads the Giants in hitting (.313), on-base percentage (.374) and slugging percentage (.530). Furthermore, he has proven himself to be an exceptional fielder thus far, having increased his mobility and quickness significantly since the 2010 campaign.
However, a few facts must be taken into consideration:
1. This may coerce the Giants front office into making a move for a big bat sooner, rather than later.
With depth in the outfield in Cody Ross, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell, Andres Torres, Nate Schierholtz and Brandon Belt (who has apparently been playing exceptionally in the outfield for Triple-A Fresno, and is primed to make his return to the big leagues in the near future), as well as a myriad of young prospects and a now-expendable Barry Zito, the Giants have the pieces in place to make some intriguing offers to various teams around the league.
Four to six weeks is not that long. By the time Sandoval makes his return, he could join an already-revamped lineup. Assuming the Giants score a dangerous hitter, this lineup would be an absolute nightmare for opposing pitchers.
Will the San Francisco Giants make the playoffs in 2011?
2. Sandoval's absence will allow him to be fresh for the remainder of the season following his return.
Think about October! Should the Giants qualify for the postseason, they will do so with their most dangerous hitter in midseason form.
3. Panda's injury could make for increased trade-stock for Miguel Tejada, who has moved to third base in Sandoval's absence.
Already signed to a one-year lease, Tejada could prove to be a point of interest for teams around the league looking for a quick upgrade at third or shortstop, assuming he starts hitting.
4. Just as it will for Tejada, Pablo's trip to the DL will likely make for significantly increased trade stock for Mike Fontenot, who will receive the bulk of playing time at shortstop.
A scrappy player who has proven himself to be a more-than-competent fielder, Fontenot was also a timely pinch-hitter for the Giants throughout 2010. Look for him to hit well for San Francisco and, in doing so, become yet another valuable piece of trade-bait that the Giants would undoubtedly use to acquire a solid hitter.
5. Lastly, losing Sandoval has undeniably put the Giants into a backs-against-the-wall situation - the likes of which the team has proven it can thrive in, as was exemplified in a 2010 season in which the club saw itself fall behind the Padres by 7.5 games on July 4, only to storm back and win the division.
Who's to say the offense will remain as stagnant as it has been thus far in the season? Slumps don't last forever, and, as optimistic fans and realistic experts alike will tell you, players such as Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross will start hitting.
Fear not, fellow Giants die-hards. This too shall pass.
The pieces are still in place for a run similar to that of last season—should the Giants be able to make the playoffs, whether by one game or 10, their rotation will again pose a nightmare for opposing lineups.
Michael Manbert is a reporter for SFGiantsInsider.com.
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