Earlier in the season, Carmen made a bingo card for the San Francisco Giants. It featured a list of things that seemed plausible in any given game. Things like “Giants offense goes down in order”, and “Brandon Belt walks”, and “Close-up of Joe Panik’s rosy cheeks”.
It did not feature “Pablo Sandoval plays second base,” because conventional wisdom would inform you that that would render a few bingo columns unwinnable.
And then Sunday rolled around, and not only did Sandoval make an appearance at second base, but he started there. On purpose and everything! On purpose by the Giants, I should clarify.
In the recap, Kenny depicted Sandoval’s voyage into the middle infield:
Pablo Sandoval started at second base for the first time in his major league career, and the baseball gods cranked the difficulty up to Very Hard. In the inning, he got a ball that deflected off Blach, a ball hit far to his left (which he made a good play on), a ball that pinballed between Blach and the umpire, and another ball that Blach knocked down. Sandoval had a shot at the first one, but I don’t know if Joe Panik makes that play. It’s just unfair to Pablo that he didn’t get an easy grounder to give proof of concept before he had to get his uniform dirty.
While the start was odd, it wasn’t without some semblance of logic. Joe Panik and Alen Hanson are on the DL, making Kelby Tomlinson the de facto starting second baseman. Tomlinson has been cromulent enough, though it’s not hard to make the case that Sandoval is the notably better batter against right-handed pitchers. And it was reasonable to expect that Sandoval would transition half-decently to second base, and, for one short stint, those reasonable expectations were met.
Of course, Miguel Gomez was also available, though, not surprisingly, optioned shortly thereafter. Given that Gomez has been uninspiring with both wood and leather, he’s probably best served getting everyday at-bats at a less meaningful level.
Hopefully we don’t see much of Sandoval at second base. He’s slowed down since his relatively hot start to the season, and is hitting just .247/.306/.377, with a wRC+ of 90. He’s been worth 0.1 WAR, according to Fangraphs. That’s fine for a bench player - not good, but fine - but it’s certainly not something that warrants Bruce Bochy contorting a lineup card to make room for the Panda.
Panik should be back this weekend, with Hanson not far behind. So Sandoval’s time there may be thoroughly over.
Still, the fact that he can hold down the position in a pinch is valuable. Sandoval entered the season as a backup third baseman and first baseman. In training camp he established himself as the third catcher. Once the season began, he proved to be a stunningly capable emergency reliever. And now he’s proved an ability to play second base. And even more!
Pablo Sandoval took the lineup card out for the Giants because he apparently does everything around here these days. pic.twitter.com/On5sRkMt1k— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 29, 2018
If nothing else, that should give Bochy the opportunity to max out his roster. How often have we seen the Giants not use their best pinch-hitter because they didn’t want to forfeit their backup catcher? Or fail to use a pinch-runner because it would be limiting their defensive options if someone got hurt? Or kept the bullpen fresh in the 14th inning, in case there were more to come?
Sandoval shouldn’t get playing time at second, or at catcher, or on the mound. But the fact that he can still holds a fair amount of value for a team that needs to extract every ounce of impact available.