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A Response to How Jonah Keri Evaluated Pablo Sandoval Like a Week Ago

December 2, 2012

Chaucer is daunting right now, so I’m trying to take a break by writing about something easier for me. Jonah Keri made trade rankings, ranking the top 50 players by how valuable he thinks they are in the trade market. It’s a Grantland gimmick at this point. Still, I read it, because Jonah Keri wrote it. I guess that’s a personal rule of mine, though I’d never thought about it before.

Anyway, let’s talk about Pablo Sandoval, because that’s who the people care about. Keri said this to justify leaving Panda off the list:

Excluding Sandoval was excruciatingly tough. The Panda is 26 years old, owns a combined 123 OPS+ over the past three seasons, and fields his position well. Oh, and he’s the defending World Series MVP, after doing something only Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols had ever done before. Problem is, Sandoval offers only two years of team control, albeit at a very team-friendly price of $14 million. If we could reliably predict Sandoval’s stats in 2013, that would probably be enough to bump Panda up a few spots on this list. But check out these stat lines from the past four seasons:

So what are we getting next year? Should we expect 150-plus games played, or multiple trips to the disabled list? A .300 hitter, or something less? The massive power threat we saw in Game 1 of the World Series, or the guy who hit just 25 homers combined in 2010 and 2012? Someone who produces at a near-elite level, or a player who’s a shade above average, after factoring in both numbers and playing time? We don’t know, so Sandoval falls a bit short.

I think Keri unfairly uses the generic “injury-prone guy” label here. These  are some things from the World of Facts: since 2009 Pablo Sandoval has been “acquired” by the Disabled List three times, he has been considered day-to-day for six other ailments, and he has missed about 30 games a year. Keri has been correct to note that Sandoval has been inconsistent in his first four full seasons, but I think the things that caused this inconsistency are non-issues now and, indeed, evermore!

Sandoval broke both of his hamate bones (there’s one in each wrist), once this year and once in 2011. Players often injure their hamates because they hold the bat by the knob. Yoenis Cespedes had to sit out this year, too, for the same reason. (Sandoval is a swtich-hitter, hence two broken hamates.) Each time he broke a hamate, he had surgery to get it removed, which kept him out for about a month, then suppressed his power for about a month after he returned. In the first month back from the injury in 2011, Sandoval had a .482 slugging percentage, which is good, but still .070 worse than his slugging percentage for that entire season. Same info for this year: .464 slugging in that first month, .015 better than his slugging for the season. In the first month after returning from his hamstring (Two different hams. COINCIDENCE?!), Sandoval slugged only .263. So the hamate-bad hitting connection wasn’t as strong as I originally suspected, but the more important thing is that Sandoval can from now on play without having to worry about his hamates, because they’re in a proverbial jar on his dresser next to a family photo.

I think the other thing that negatively impacted Sandoval’s game was his weight in 2010. At least, that’s the narrative the Giants and local media have taken. Sandoval now keeps to a diet, so situation remedied.

Going forward, Sandoval is no more of an injury risk than any other position player. At least, I would be dubious of calling him an injury risk, because his vulnerable body parts are poof! gone.

***

A song that doesn’t complement anything I just wrote:

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