Leading Off: A picky Panda might be more productive

05/08/2013 12:00 AM

08/11/2013 12:00 PM

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval is a special player. His .304 lifetime average, two All-Star selections and momentum-creating 2012 World Series performance testify to his eminence.

But the Panda could be so much more.

It's dangerous territory criticizing a man who as of Tuesday led the National League in total hits, but here's the point: His swing-at-everything approach in the long run makes him a less effective hitter and run producer.

What statistics – and impact – would he have if he wielded his massive strength against more pitches in the strike zone? Instead of a single off a pitch destined to bounce off the plate, how many more majestic drives into or over the fence would he hit off pitches over the plate and between the knees and belt?

To see Sandoval swing and miss at down-the-middle fastballs, which statistics show are a weakness, is to ponder how many of them he would pound to mulch if a defined strike zone were part of his hitting approach. Even refining and tightening his personal strike zone to something approximating normal could boost his power numbers, raising a slugging percentage in the mid-.400s to the .550 or so compiled during his best season.

Manager Bruce Bochy and others point to Sandoval's prowess as a bad-ball hitter, and they're right. He can hit pitches other hitters can't.

The question, though, remains: Wouldn't a player with his talent be even better if he swung at more strikes and took walks off pitchers afraid to throw it over the plate? In the long run, the Panda show would be even more entertaining.

Today's poll

Should Pablo Sandoval swing at better pitches?

Yes, he'd produce more

No, he's doing just fine

Vote above or leave your comments in the comment field.

Tuesday's results

Which Bay Area team will advance further in the postseason?

Warriors: 26%

Sharks: 74%

Total votes: 202

Call The Bee's Brian Blomster, (916) 326-5512. Follow him on Twitter @b_blomster.


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