This is the other reason I love baseball, but it is hard as hell to blog about it to people who don’t already know what happened ‘cause it’s less adorable and more HOLY SHIT DID YOU SEE THAT SPORT THING. I’m gonna use pictures.
Okay, so: Pablo Sandoval.
We’ve had him since 2008, and sometime in 2009, he became this phenomenal power hitter who everyone was excited to see. He was already nicknamed Panda for obvious reasons and Barry Zito, tonight’s winning pitcher (holy fucking shit, hold on, I need a moment with that sentence—BARRY ZITO, TONIGHT’S WINNING PITCHER! Wow. Uh. Okay. Let’s start this again) Barry Zito dubbed him “Kung Fu Panda” because, again, duh.
And then he slumped. He got totally out of shape in 2010 (his weight isn’t a huge factor in his ability to play, but weight + lack of physical training was) and didn’t contribute much to our World Series run. 2011, he was back in shape—until he broke his hamate bone. 2012, he was even better—and then he BROKE HIS OTHER FUCKING HAMATE BONE, and we all stared at him in bleak despair and thought, “Oh my god. We lost him for no reason.” (This is kind of a Giants theme. See Buster Posey.)
But he came back, better than ever, and what was a hacky, swing-at-everything approach at the plate has become brilliant by sheer virtue of his ability to make contact with absolutely everything. Yeah, a lot of those are fouls, and yeah, he doesn’t have the world’s best walk rate, but once he’s fouled off a pitcher eight times, the pitcher gives up trying to paint the corner and then DOUBLE!! Or he fouls a couple of sweet down-the-center strikes and the pitcher’s like, sweet! I’ll trick him! and pitches down and outside, and then HOME RUN!!!!
—omg, while I was drafting this, Grant Brisbee linked this graph of things Pablo Sandoval has swung at. Bless.
This makes him sound like not a smart batter, which is kind of the stereotype/joke, but that’s not true! He is. He knows what he’s doing. It’s just that what he’s doing doesn’t work unless you’re Pablo Fucking Sandoval.
He’s usually not that much of a home run hitter, for all his power. Some of that is the park—AT&T is fucking huge—and a lot of that is his lack of patience; to my inexpert eye, it seems like he’s happier to get a single off an okay pitch than wait for his opportunity and drill one deep. But last night, he saw three pitches and hit home runs off each of them. Two of them were off the best pitcher in baseball.
Here is the best pitcher in baseball’s reaction to him:
Yesterday the Chronicle asked him what his approach was to hitting Verlander.
“Swing the bat,” Sandoval said.
“That’s Pablo’s approach all the time against anybody,” Marco Scutaro responded.
I love this man.
Also, in related news, I still love Marco Scutaro.