Has the Giants emphasis on more selective hitting hurt Pablo Sandoval? I asked Giants manager Bruce Bochy that after another dispiriting shutout loss Sunday.
“I don’t think so,” Bochy said. “He’s still very aggressive at the plate. He took some real rips today.”
If we’re talking about one game, yes. Sandoval was holding nothing back, and he had one searing liner to right that excited Giants fans, until A’s outfielder Gabe Gross caught it.
But for much of the season, I’ve seen a Sandoval whose approach at the plate has been more cautious than in the past. I believe that working the count and looking for a pitch to drive is smart, but there are exceptions.
Vladimir Guerrero has built a successful career swinging at pitches well out of the strike zone. Sandoval is the same kind of hitter. Last year, he was swinging at — and hitting — pitches just above his shoe tops. This year he’s been laying off those pitches, which means more walks.
In the ninth inning Saturday, he took a walk with the tying run on base. But the Giants are more interested in him driving in runs than raising his on-base percentage.
Sandoval is hitting .282 with just three home runs, none in more than 100 at-bats.
Bochy suggested another reason for Sandoval’s problems.
“He’s taking too much on himself. Sometimes hitters will do that. When the team is slumping, they try to do it all themselves,” he said. “We’ve talked to him and told him not to think that way, just be loose and take your swings. Don’t go for the home run. The home runs will come if he’s just taking his usual swing.”
If Sandoval is pressing, trying to do too much, it’s because, when he looks around the Giants dugout, he can see he’s not going to get much help. Even with the designated hitter, the Giants had only one .300 hitter in their lineup Sunday, Edgar Renteria, and that’s only because he has been on the DL for a sizeable part of the season.
Without much power and with virtually no speed, the Giants have few ways to score runs, and it shows. Despite all the talk about offensive improvement, the Giants are on a pace to score about 670 runs, not much better than last year’s 651, and nowhere near enough.
Brian Sabean has shown no signs of either trading for power or signing a free agent who can provide that.
Many Giants fans would like to see Buster Posey promoted but he hasn’t hit for much power in his short minor league career, 10 homers overall in 338 at-bats, five in 153 at-bats for Fresno in the PCL, a notorious hitter’s league.
The danger is that the Giants starters will start to think, with good reason, that they have to pitch a shutout to have a chance to win, putting too much pressure on themselves.
Matt Cain has been cursed that way throughout his short career, and he lost Saturday, though he gave up only one unearned run. Jonathan Sanchez has given up just four runs in his last three games — and he’s 0-3 in that period.
Better start hitting, Pablo!