I’m not sure what is more surprising: the San Francisco Giants actually winning the World Series last season, or the Giants having a successful season despite a major dropoff from Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval, who hit .345 in only 41 games in 2008, broke out with 25 home runs and a .943 OPS while becoming San Francisco’s best hitter in 2009. The “Kung Fu Panda” movement was born that year, and Sandoval became an instant fan-favorite.
A year after bursting onto the scene, Sandoval stumbled and became one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. He had a torrid April, but followed that up by batting .234 the next two months. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Sandoval found himself on the bench, replaced by Juan Uribe at third base. Uribe’s now a Dodger, meaning the Giants will need Sandoval to regain his 2009 form. They’ve even talked about the possibility of demoting him to the minor leagues if he doesn’t turn things around.
Many critics blamed Sandoval’s struggles on him being overweight and out of shape. True, Sandoval is 5’11″ and easily over 250 pounds, but that didn’t stop him from tearing it up in 2009. Regardless, people look for reasons and the weight issue is an easy target. Sandoval has been trying to get in shape for some time and it appears as if he’s finally done so this off-season.
Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke to former Giant Rich Aurilia
whose sister’s boyfriend saw Sandoval pass out at 31 Flavors last night who saw Sandoval in Phoenix and said Pablo had slimmed down. Sandoval told Aurilia he has lost 17 pounds this winter, with the goal of losing seven more. I’ll believe it when I see it, but the good news for Pablo and Giants fans is that the Panda seems serious about regaining his top form.