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Community Projection: Pablo Sandoval

Here’s the easiest projection of all:

My projection1: .342/.392/.599, 28 HR

Sandoval’s actual 2009 .330/.387/.556, 25 HR

My projection2: .287/.309/.439, 13 HR

Sandoval’s actual 2010: .268/.323/.409, 13 HR

So prescient. So insightful. I don’t know why I’m not charging for this stuff yet.

Remember how it all revolved around Pablo Sandoval? Any hope the Giants had for contending in the short- and long-term was based on Sandoval building on his breakout season, becoming even more dangerous. Maybe he would add some plate discipline to his already impressive repertoire. The sky was the limit -- this was a 22-year-old kid who had just finished in the top-ten in MVP voting. He was a preternatural talent. He was a good start, the only high-level hitter in a miserable lineup.

Before last year, it was easy to see how the Giants could win a World Series in 2013 or so. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum were going to be there, surely, and when Sandoval turned into the Giants’ version of George Brett3, you could picture the GM who took over for Sabean building a legitimate lineup, and finally, finally, finally San Francisco would have its parade.

Then, just as we all predicted, Pablo kind of stunk, which led to him being benched, which led to the Giants winning the World Series. Of course. We all saw it coming before last year started.

This year, though, the Giants will really need Sandoval to win a championship. Like, seriously this time. No foolin’. The Giants’ offense is much improved over what they started with last season, but a repaired Panda would do so, so, so, so much for this lineup. Posey, Huff, Pablo, maybe some Belt coming up like a Clark out of would be almost impossible to remember what it was like to have a productive Pablo surrounded by seven of the worst hitters in the National League. Almost impossible. For every six hundred times I think about Edgar Renteria connecting off Cliff Lee, a thought about Randy Winn hitting two home runs in 600 plate appearances as a right fielder sneaks in there.

The conventional wisdom is that Pablo will split the difference. He won’t be the wunderkind he was in his first full major league season, and he won’t be the double play factory from last year. Something in the middle, it seems safe to say. And I almost take that bait. Then I remember that Sandoval is still just 24. Chris Carter, the nice looking young hitter for the A’s? Just a couple months younger. Same with that noted non-Posey in Seattle, Justin Smoak. Those are young players who give fans of their respective teams hope, yet at no point did they come close to going completely ape at the major league level. Sandoval has already. We know what he looks like when he's a fully formed, middle-of-the-order presence -- that's what he was when he was 22. And we’ve all seen the pictures that are floating around, confirming that Pablo has really been working hard this offseason. I’m not sure if I’m settling for the middle ground just yet.

For all of the teeth-gnashing about Pablo last year, he really wasn’t that bad. His double plays were plentiful and ill-timed, but he wasn’t a total dirigible accident. He finished in the middle of the pack in wRC+ for third basemen, and as you know, wRC+ is one of the most reliable lower-case/upper-case/plus-sign combo stats available to the general public, so you know it’s good.

People never stopped wearing those panda hats, even when he was going poorly, so he knows he’ll be a local deity if he can find his stroke. He's leaner, and while I'm not convinced that his body was the only reason he struggled last year, he has to be confident. I’m in. Here’s to a rebound season, if only because we all want it to happen:

Pablo Sandoval

AB: 521
HR: 22
AVG: .319
OBP: .359
SLG: .524

1For 2010
2For 2009
3Aesthetically, this would apply if Brett were allergic to bees and had just been stung by seven bees