In 2009, Pablo Sandoval was the only hitter worth watching on the Giants. Well, there was Juan Uribe's surprising season, but among the players who got the most at-bats for their position, it was all Panda, all the time.
That's the kind of table that'll make you put Kahlua in your cereal in the mornings. Just gross. And it's always, always worth repeating that if you were told that Pablo was going to have a down year in 2010, you probably would have just skipped the season and caught up on your reading. Anything that was good about the Giants' offense had to do with Sandoval. Without him, the whole fetid enterprise would sink into the bay.
Pablo Sandoval played in six games during the playoffs last year, hitting .176/.263/.235 over 17 at-bats. And the Giants won the World Series. In the regular season, he wasn't that much more productive when he played than Travis Ishikawa was. And the Giants won the World Series. So, so counterintuitive.
And that was one of the reasons a lot of us -- myself included -- were so danged optimistic before this season. Imagine if the Giants had a real first baseman (because Aubrey Huff was so awesome), a real catcher (because Buster Posey was going to be around ♥♥4eva♥♥), and our regular Pablo back! That team was going to be awesome.
As such, projections for Pablo were done with the heart instead of the brain:
Turns out the brain is a stupid, cynical organ that deserves to be ignored. The heart, baby. The heart had it. And the heart even undershot Pablo's power by quite a bit -- he came close to a career high in home runs even though he missed close to 40 games. The Giants had a miserable offensive year, and just like 2009, there were only a couple of players worth watching, but Sandoval was one of them, and it was awesome to watch.
He's back, and he's also back to being a unique hitter. Here's a list of hitters who played more than 400 games before they were 25 with a 120 OPS+ or better. Dig through the list, and look at the names. When you get to Ben Grieve's name, say three Hail Marys and make the sign of the cross, but apart from him, the whole list is filled with Hall-of-Famers and Hall-of-Very-Gooders. From Sam Crawford to Andrew McCutchen, when a player comes up as young as Sandoval was, and hits like he has, the odds are pretty good that he'll be a ridiculously productive hitter for a long time.
If he had another year like 2010 and the Giants had a season like they did this year, the offseason would be a pretty miserable place. As is, they have at least a start on a middle of the order. They have Pablo Sandoval, who is a rare talent. I like that guy. Think he'll be around for a while.