The Giants have surprised me this season by playing reasonably good baseball, sporting a record of 34-30 so far, good enough for second place in the NL West.
One of the biggest reasons has been the hitting of third baseman Pablo Sandoval, the man they call “Big Panda.”
We all knew the Giants had good pitching, but we also knew that they have truly atrocious hitters. But with pitching that good, all you need is one or two good hitters sometimes, and Sandoval has literally won several games almost single-handedly, especially in his most recent tear in the month of June when he has OPS’d 1.245 and raised his batting average from .301 on June 2 to .335 as of today.
And not only does Sandoval swing a lively stick, but despite his chunky frame, he even plays a solid third base, weighing in at exactly major league average for the position by most measures (career UZR/150 of 0.00).
All the old doubts about Sandoval still remain to some extent. His big frame still makes you wonder how long he can stick at third base, his flat swing makes you wonder if he really can be a power hitter, and his peppy .367 BABIP still looks unsustainable in the long run.
But whichever way you slice it, for a man to play the game of baseball this well at age 22 suggests that the Giants have found themselves a top-shelf hitter, which would be a first for them since Barry Bonds retired two seasons ago.