By: Jake Perda
As Spring Training came to a close, I wrote an article stating that fans should not get too caught up in the Pablo Sandoval Spring Training hype because Spring Training statistics don’t mean anything. Nearly every year we see guys tear the cover off the ball in Spring Training, then fail to even come close to matching that level of production once the regular season began (Jackie Bradley Jr., Grady Sizemore, Mike Napoli, Travis Shaw, etc.).
Despite my seemingly logical approach, I received a lot of feedback from readers telling me that I was a hater. Apparently seeing videos of Pablo doing a bunch of irrelevant non-baseball exercises and watching him smack home runs off of Class-A no names was all the proof some people needed to jump on the Sandoval redemption bandwagon. If he can push a sled across some turf and punch a punching bag a bunch of times, how could anyone possibly think he’d have trouble squaring up a 95mph fastball or fielding ground balls at a position they call “The Hot Corner”?
We are officially 18 games into the regular season, and Pablo Sandoval has not even come close to being the same player we saw in Spring Training. Although he leads the team in home runs with 3 and RBI’s with 10, Pablo is currently hitting .220 and is second on the team with 12 strikeouts. Just because the rest of the offense has been just as embarrassing to begin the season, Pablo’s lack of production is not something that can be swept under the rug. We know that Hanley, Mookie, and Benny are all bound to heat up eventually. Pablo should not be given the benefit of the doubt. 2 years and 3 weeks into the Pablo Sandoval Era, we have yet to see him prove that he can make consistent contributions to this offense. The only thing that he’s done consistently so far this season is swing and miss at pitches over his head.
Sandoval has not seemed comfortable fielding his position at 3rd base either. Assuming that he plays 130 games this season, Panda is on pace to make 29 errors this season, which would nearly double his previous career high of 15. There has been some debate over whether his struggles in the field have come from nerves, conditioning, training, or something else, but quite frankly, I don’t care. He doesn’t get paid $17 million per season to bobble ground balls right at him and hand extra outs to fearsome American League lineups that certainly don’t need them. Fielding may not be Sandoval’s strong suit, but if he can’t be a serviceable 3rd basemen, then John Farrell is going to have yet another problem to deal with.
The overarching question behind all of this is, how long does Pablo really have before the Sox begin exploring other options? Since his primary competition in Travis Shaw is currently hitting 465 foot cockshots in Milwaukee, Pablo is going to be given every opportunity to prove that he can be a real contributor to this team on both sides of the ball. If Pablo can’t get his shit together in the field, then he’s going to have to rely on his bat to keep him in the lineup each day. That being said, Marco Hernandez better start stretching.