Only 26 days until live game action…
With 30 days to go, I am going to do a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following. (Ed. note: I shortened the intro from previous versions and I’ll probably eliminate after this week as I’m sure you get the point)
I am way late on today’s countdown offering. In fact, it’s Monday in some places already. I just had one of those days where my body refused to stay awake so I slept through a large chunk of the afternoon after waking up early this morning. Shortly after I woke up from my
nap sleep, I had a birthday dinner for my brother. At any rate, no one cares about that, so let’s talk Sandoval. If you believe in what Razzball terms “Saberhagenmetrics”, then Sandoval is a big time target for you in 2013.
In short Saberhagenmetrics is a hilarious term named after pitcher Bret Saberhagen that describes a player who has a one-up, one-down statistical “pattern” to their career. Saberhagen himself won a Cy Young in 1985 with a 20-6 record, 2.87 ERA and 1.06 WHIP inciting the following see-saw:
He finally snapped the pattern in 1994 (evens were the bad years) with a 14-4 record, 2.74 ERA, and 1.03 WHIP in 177.3 innings. Putting blind faith into these types of patterns will leave you burned more often than not, but if you analyze the underlying factors that led to the underperforming seasons, you should be able to determine whether or not betting on the rebound is worth your time.
Sandoval lost his rookie status in 2008 with 154 plate appearances, but calling that a season is a stretch, since then he has four seasons on his ledger: two full and two injury-shortened but still north of 440 plate appearances. As a 22-year old in 2009, he exploded onto the scene with a .330 average, 25 HR, and 90 RBIs. His 2010 follow-up was mired by fitness and conditioning issues that ate into his production yielding a .268, 13, and 63 season. He eventually lost his job resulting in just 19 playoff plate appearances including just three against Texas in the World Series.
He came back in 2011 with a vengeance and only a broken hamate bone could slow him down. Still, he almost matched his 2009 production despite 167 fewer PAs. He managed a .315 average, 23 HRs, and 70 RBIs. He broke the other hamate bone in 2012 in addition to another DL stint caused by a strained left hamstring and this time he was slowed resulting in a .283-12-63 season in 108 games which was certainly better than 2010 by a good bit (115 wRC+ to 96), yet far from the star turns in 2009 and 2011.
With no more hamate bones to break, Sandoval is poised for another big season. In his 2011 return from hamate hell, he posted a .557 slugging percentage the rest of the way in 375 PA; in 2012 it was just .419 in 338 PA. But if the 2012 playoffs are any indication, his power is already back on track and ready for 2013. Sandoval put together a .364/.386/.712(!) line in 70 playoff PAs with six home runs including three in game one of the World Series against Justin Verlander (*Paul falls to the ground and starts convulsing in a fetal position*).
Sandoval doesn’t need to top 2009’s 25 HRs to be a fantasy stalwart. He just needs to show some consistency at or around that figure and he can become an elite asset in the game. Playing a premium infield position already enhances his value, but the combination of mid-20s power with a huge batting average is rare. Since 2009, Sandoval’s first full season, he is one of just six players with two or more seasons of .315+/23+. Miguel Cabrera leads the pack, completing the feat all four times and Ryan Braun is close behind missing just once (he “only” hit .304 in 2010) while Joey Votto and Robinson Cano join Sandoval.
Those thresholds are admittedly arbitrary, they represent Sandoval’s marks in 2011, but even if you round down to .300/20 he is still in an exclusive group of just 19 players to have completed the feat twice in the last four years. A lot of big names in this list (courtesy of B-ref):
Rk Yrs From To Age 1 Robinson Cano 4 2009 2012 26-29 Ind. Seasons 2 Miguel Cabrera 4 2009 2012 26-29 Ind. Seasons 3 Ryan Braun 4 2009 2012 25-28 Ind. Seasons 4 Joey Votto 3 2009 2011 25-27 Ind. Seasons 5 Aramis Ramirez 2 2011 2012 33-34 Ind. Seasons 6 David Ortiz 2 2011 2012 35-36 Ind. Seasons 7 Matt Kemp 2 2011 2012 26-27 Ind. Seasons 8 Troy Tulowitzki 2 2010 2011 25-26 Ind. Seasons 9 Paul Konerko 2 2010 2011 34-35 Ind. Seasons 10 Carlos Gonzalez 2 2010 2012 24-26 Ind. Seasons 11 Adrian Beltre 2 2010 2012 31-33 Ind. Seasons 12 Pablo Sandoval 2 2009 2011 22-24 Ind. Seasons 13 Hanley Ramirez 2 2009 2010 25-26 Ind. Seasons 14 Albert Pujols 2 2009 2010 29-30 Ind. Seasons 15 Victor Martinez 2 2009 2010 30-31 Ind. Seasons 16 Matt Holliday 2 2009 2010 29-30 Ind. Seasons 17 Shin-Soo Choo 2 2009 2010 26-27 Ind. Seasons 18 Billy Butler 2 2009 2012 23-26 Ind. Seasons 19 David Wright 1 2012 2012 29-29 Ind. Seasons
Let’s be clear that 70 playoff PA isn’t a big enough sample to determine if a displayed skill is something to bet on with certainty, but it did show us what Sandoval is capable of when healthy. With an offseason to heal and no more hamate bones to break, I’d favor a 2009/2011-type season 2010/2012-type especially since the price to do so isn’t egregious as Sandoval is currently the 9th third basemen off the board and 100th player selected overall according to early Mock Draft Central data.
Third base has some depth to it this year so while the superstars will still go early, you needn’t rush to lock one up for fear of being left with Kevin Youkilis’ rotting corpse.