Liotta: Sandoval needs to make adjustments at the plate 

It’s your move, Pablo Sandoval.

A force at the plate from start to finish in his first full major league season a year ago, the Kung Fu Panda has struggled to duplicate that level of production in this, his sophomore season. This week’s All-Star break provided a perfect opportunity to look deeper into the dropoff.

Compared to last year, when Sandoval hit .333 with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs by the All-Star break, the Giants’ third baseman checked in at .263 with just six home runs and 36 RBIs at this year’s juncture. His most glaring struggles have come on the road, in the power department, and, unfortunately for the Giants, in run-producing situations.

On the road this season, Sandoval has managed a paltry .217 average with two home runs and 14 RBIs. Last year, he was a .301 hitter away from home.

Sandoval’s drop in power numbers has been startling, too, especially in light of the fact he actually has more singles (62-60) at this year’s break than a year ago. His 26 extra-base hits pale in comparison to the 42 extra-base hits he racked up by last year’s break, in 29 fewer at-bats no less.

But it might be Sandoval’s dropoff in production when faced with RBI possibilities that might be most troublesome. Considered the key cog in the Giants’ offense coming into the season, Sandoval was hitting just .243 with runners on base, and .165 with runners in scoring position at the break this year.

Match those numbers up against the .357 and .301 averages he racked up in those situations last year, and the situation has to be labeled “serious.”

It’s been reported that the Giants have been trying to get Sandoval to be more patient, and he could be accused of pressing when he gets behind the count.

In at-bats where the first pitch thrown to him has been a strike, he’s hitting .183 this year (compared to .286 last year). In at-bats where the first pitch has been a ball, he’s hitting .327 (compared to .371 in 2009).

Those around baseball will always say it is a game of adjustments, and obviously pitchers have adjusted their approach to Sandoval. They’re obviously pitching Sandoval much more carefully, with a game plan of “get ahead in the count and make him chase.” And it appears to be working.

By no means is this type of thing unique to Sandoval, nor does it damn him to the Mendoza line. It happens to every hitter in baseball, usually more than once in their career.

It figured that the 23-year-old would have to up his game at the plate with how pitchers would pitch him this year.   
It’s your move, Panda.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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