On Monday, Pablo Sandoval became the first player to pitch in a game and hit a home run and steal a base since Mudcat Grant did it in 1964. Sarah Langs found that he was the first player to do this in a scoreless outing since Christy Mathewson in 1905.
Pablo Sandoval is the 2nd player in Modern MLB history (Since 1900) with a HR, SB and scoreless pitching outing in the same game— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) May 6, 2019
The other was ALSO a Giant and ALSO vs the Reds: Christy Mathewson on May 23, 1905, who threw 9 shutout IP, plus hit a HR & had a SB
Sandoval displayed a feat of power, speed, and precision that few players have done in the last century. Truly, he is a virtuoso capable of performing any role the Giants might need. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Sandoval catch an inning or two this season.
But there’s one thing Sandoval hasn’t done yet this season. He hasn’t drawn a walk.
Sandoval’s never been big on drawing walks. His career walk percentage is just 6.9 percent, but he has never made it this far into the season without drawing at least one free pass. He’s the only player in the majors with at least 50 plate appearances that hasn’t walked yet.
So far this hasn’t been a major problem for Sandoval. A .250 OBP isn’t great, but he’s leading Giants in slugging at .533 (again, min. 50 PA). But this is weird. It’s not as if pitchers are pounding him in the strike zone or that he’s chasing pitches outside of it more often than usual. He’s chasing roughly half of pitches, but that’s typical for Sandoval.
Last season, Sandoval decided not to swing at the first pitch, and it’s hard to say what kind of effect that had on his performance, but his walk rate did rise to its highest mark since 2013. That might be a coincidence or Sandoval’s refusal to offer at the first pitch meant that he got into a 1-0 count roughly half the time and drawing a walk from there is much easier.
That hasn’t been the case for Sandoval this year. He’s back to swinging at a league average amount of first pitches (32.1 percent). Pitchers and teams read that FanGraphs article, too, so Sandoval couldn’t just take the first pitch every time. Otherwise, he’d be finding himself in an 0-1 count almost all of the time.
Sandoval swinging at the first pitch a normal amount might explain why he’s walking a smidge less, but it doesn’t explain why he’s not walking at all. Even the fact that he’s swinging more at all pitches doesn’t quite explain it. The only player who has swung more than Sandoval is folk hero Willians Astudillo, but even La Tortuga has walked at least once.
Sandoval has only found his way into one 3-0 count and that came in the first series of the season. With the way Sandoval is slapping the ball all over the field, he might be having a great season. Here’s hoping the walks come before the doubles and dingers go away. I suppose we can cut him some slack. After all, he’s never walked anyone that in his short but illustrious pitching career.