If some unknown ruffian were to suggest that our collective internet crush on Pablo Sandoval was an overreaction, I would kindly direct them to this post:
C - Doug Mirabelli
1B - Damon Minor
2B - Deivi Cruz
SS - Royce Clayton
3B - Bill Mueller
LF - Marvin Benard
CF - Chris Singleton
RF - Armando Rios
Fred Lewis probably pushes Benard out of the lineup now. Even after his horrific second half last year and his defensive foibles, John Bowker probably pushes Minor out. Things are looking up! Team of the decade!
So when a rotund, fully developed hitting machine emerges from the River Styx to hit .340, we're going to notice. Here's a fun link: 22-year-olds (or younger) who put up an average over .300 in more than 200 plate appearances. It's premature to include Sandoval here right now, as he's still in the middle of his season. He could slump horribly. If Sandoval slumped his way down to a .300 average, he'd still join a list of pretty good players -- Dan Driessen, Kent Hrbek, and Gary Matthews. There are some non-stars, of course. Juan Uribe's there (Coors-aided) and the spectre of Jeff Francoeur always seems to follow our hero around.
If Sandoval were to keep his average as high as it is for a full season, he'd be in the company of guys like Jimmie Foxx, Al Kaline, and Hank Aaron. And, uh, Ron Fairly. But it's hard to hit even .320 as a 22-year-old without following it up with a sustained, high-level peak.
But average is kinda sorta useless on its own. Pablo Sandoval's OPS+ right now is at 149 -- if he were to sustain it, he'd join some ridiculous company. It's far, far more likely that Sandoval ends closer to the league average than at a historical level, which would still be impressive. If you're not a fanboy, it's more likely, that is. But I'm a fanboy. Sandoval's the same age as a lot of the college draftees from last year -- Buster Posey, Justin Smoak, and Gordon Beckham -- but he's tearing up the majors right now. If that doesn't mean he's the result of a laboratory experiment to splice the genes of Tony Gwynn and Mel Ott, then I'm not sure if I believe in anything anymore.
Here's what impresses me more than the bucket of historical stats, though: Sandoval already seems like he's adjusted his approach. The first couple of weeks, Sandoval was swinging at everything. Even when he slumped to start the season, he hacked his way out. Then someone said something like, "Have you ever tried not swinging at pitches above your head?", and Sandoval thought, hey, that's a good idea. Since then, he's actually taking an occasional walk. If he walks twice today, he'll lead the freaking team in walks. That kind of makes me want to punch something, but it also makes me feel like Pablo has already improved in-season. Sandoval doesn't need to walk to be a great player -- he just needs to walk enough to make the opposing pitcher know it's a reasonably possible outcome for any at-bat.
Pablo. Pablo. Pablo. Pablo. Pablo. We've waited a long time for a homegrown hitter to excite us like this. I'll set the over/under at 3,000 hits. Next year, he could have even more.