I don't want to jinx him, but it's clear by now that Pablo Sandoval is having a hell of a season. He's running out a very handsome .329/.371/.531 .902 OPS line, with 28 extra base hits. That .329 batting average is second only to league leader David Wright for third basemen, and is the fifth best batting average in the NL. His .902 OPS ranks as the fifteenth best in the league, right between Chipper Jones and Hanley Ramirez –two of the best players in baseball– which is pretty good company.
Marc Normandin, at BP, has some nice things to say about Sandoval as well:
…. Sandoval is just 60 games into the year, but his line is very similar to PECOTA's most optimistic forecast. He is currently hitting .329/.371/.531, with walks in 5.5 percent of his plate appearances and a .205 ISO. He's become more patient, which is the kind of thing that turns someone with Sandoval's contact skills into a dangerous hitter.
…. Pitchers have also begun challenging him later in at-bats now: he saw first pitch strikes in over 70 percent of his plate appearances last year, and is down to a more league-average 58.9 percent this season. This may be partially due to his hitting .345 with a .621 slugging percentage on first pitches last year. That success has carried over, as he's hitting .350 with a .600 slugging percentage on first pitches in 2009. Starting him
out with a ball on the first pitch hasn't helped either, as he's hit .398/.459/.682 following a 1-0 count. The only times that it seems like Sandoval struggles at all is when he is behind in the count with two strikes, but good luck making him sit still long enough to get there.
His only real weakness as a hitter right now is his lack of walks, something that perhaps isn't easy to learn, but then again, hitting as well as Sandoval isn't easy either.
All in all, for a 22-year old, he's having a terrific season. Over the next year or two, it's up to the Giants to figure out where to play him, and make sure he learns how to play there. My guess is this year is the last one he spends bouncing around, and he settles in behind the plate. My hope is that the team –are you listening, Sabean?– realizes that a player with this much offense in him needs to learn to play first or third base, so that he can focus on hitting, and not get beat up so much.
UPDATE: As of Sunday night, Pabo Sandoval is batting .338, good for second in the entire National League, and third in all of baseball. It should go without saying that the Giants haven't had a player rank in the top of any offensive category since Superman was around, so, it's an accomplishment worth noting.
His overall numbers, .338/.386/.543 with a .929 OPS are simply outstanding for a 22 year old, and without question, bode well for his future.