Back to strong form, Sandoval gets Aaron nod
Renewed commitment to fitness helped third baseman thrive
SAN FRANCISCO -- Imagine what Pablo Sandoval might have done had he played a full season. As matters stand, he has accomplished plenty.Sandoval missed 40 early-season games after fracturing his right hamate bone and recovering from the accompanying surgery. Since he rejoined the lineup on June 14, he steadily regained his status as the Giants' best all-around hitter. Because of this, he was the club's nominee for the Hank Aaron Award, given to the overall best offensive performers in each league. Fans can vote online for the award, which has been given out annually since 1999. Sandoval finished the season leading San Francisco in most significant offensive categories, including batting average (.315), home runs (23), RBIs (70) and slugging percentage (.552). This represents a considerable turnaround for the 25-year-old switch-hitter, who endured a colossal slump last year. Sandoval's average tumbled from .330 in 2009 to .268 a year ago. His home run total dwindled from 25 to 13. His RBIs declined from 90 to 63.
Having ballooned to approximately 280 pounds, Sandoval was benched for the World Series, save for a Game 3 start in Texas as San Francisco's designated hitter.This across-the-board dropoff drove Sandoval to reestablish himself. He lost approximately 40 pounds last offseason, which improved his range defensively, quickened his swing and boosted his confidence overall. "When you're working hard in the offseason, everything's going to pay off," Sandoval said. Said Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum, "Watching him get back to who he is and who he wants to be is a lot of fun for all of us." Sandoval's fun began when he built a 22-game hitting streak that ended July 15 in San Diego. His streak was the fourth-longest by a Venezuela-born Major Leaguer, trailing Melvin Mora's 23-gamer for Baltimore in 1995, Chico Carrasquel's 24-game streak for the Chicago White Sox in 1950 and Victor Martinez's 25 in a row for Boston in 2009. Sandoval's previous best was a 10-game streak last season. Sandoval earned his first career Player of the Week honors during the period of Sept. 12-18, hitting .440 (11-for-25) with a double, two triples and four home runs. In the middle of this stretch, Sandoval hit for the cycle Sept. 15 at Colorado, becoming the 10th Giant to do so since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. Though Sandoval tried to exercise more patience at the plate, he remains a naturally impetuous hitter who's eager to swing.
"[Opponents] can pitch him outside the [strike] zone because of that," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "But he has the remarkable ability to keep his hands back and hit pitches. You don't want to take it all away from him. That's part of his thing. The reason he's had so much success is, he is aggressive. He just has to control it."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.