Before the World Series began, most baseball analysts expected the San Francisco Giants’ offense would be led by catcher Buster Posey. We were wrong. Posey had a very quiet Series, while the man who delivered most of the clutch hits was the Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval.
He hit .429 for the Series, won by the Giants against the feisty Kansas City Royals in a seven-game classic of an October Classic.
It can hardly be called a fluke, given that for his career he has hit .344 with 6 home runs and 20 RBI in 39 postseason games. In 2012 he became the first player to hit a home run in his first three at bats in a World Series.
It’s not just the impressive timely stats but his amazing physical domination. Some of his base hits came against fastballs traveling 98-100 mph. There seems to be no way to blow a fastball past him.
And of course, the dominance is even more incredible considering the nature of his physicality. He’s 5-11 and is listed as weighing 240 pounds. Bet the over on that.
He may have been that “light” in the spring after shedding an estimated 30 pounds in a rigorous off-season training program in his homeland of Venezuela. But he appears to have regained most of the ballast.
And that’s a major concern as he enters free agency. He’s 28 and he’s looking for a five-year contract at a ballpark figure of $100 million. The Giants are reluctant. He’s had injury issues in the past, and everyone wonders how well he will hold up as he ages, burdened by so many surplus pounds.
But who else at any weight plays better third base? And what other third baseman is on the market with a .294 career batting average and above-average power?
Further, he’s a totally positive influence on the team. As fellow World Series star Hunter Pence put it, “He’s got so much charisma. He’s so much fun to be around.”
Not to mention, he makes it fun to be round. His big-bodied athleticism makes him a gate attraction.
The Giants realize they would not have gone far in the postseason – probably would not have even gotten there – without their Panda. They’ve already made him a hefty offer of $15.3 million for the 2015 season. He rejected that within a day.
Last March the club reportedly offered him a three-year package at $40 million. He quickly said no to that.
His market is rising, and it’s his good fortune that one team looking for a third baseman is the very prosperous Boston Red Sox. A bidding war is expected between the Giants and Sox.
Sandoval could not have chosen a better time to enter free agency. A still young World Series star in a year when the free-agent market offers, for the most part, slim pickings.
Detroit first baseman Victor Martinez has better overall numbers — .409 on base, .974 on-base-plus-slugging. But he’s about to turn 36. Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche has an OPS of .804 for the past three years. But he turns 35 this week.
The Panda is in his prime. The Giants can hardly afford not to pay him.