The 2020 season has not gone as planned for San Francisco Giants first baseman Pablo Sandoval and his playing time is beginning to slip.
The long-time Giants switch-hitter was brought back on a one year, $2 million contract to bolster the Giants lineup against right-handed pitching.
Throughout his career, the fan-favorite has slashed a .290/.343/.476 against right-handers, so it made sense why the Giants were interested in bringing him back, especially as manager Gabe Kapler continues to lean heavily on platoon matchups.
The 2020 Season so far
That said, Sandoval has struggled out of the gates in 2020. In 50 plate appearances, he has posted a .159/.240/.159 line (16 OPS+) while being worth -0.5 WAR.
Yes, you read that line correctly. Sandoval’s batting average and slugging percentage are the same meaning that he has not recorded any extra-base hits.
It is a small sample and the season is young, right? Well, thanks to a condensed 60-game season, the Giants have already completed over one-third of the games on the schedule.
We do not know how a shortened season will impact decision-making, but it is tough to continue riding out veterans when there are so few at-bats to go around.
Even more concerning is the fact that Sandoval has generated a meager .346 OPS against right-handed hurlers, so the Giants are not reaping the benefits of his extreme platoon splits.
Sandoval’s Usage is Changing
On top of this, the 34-year-old has not seen an inning of work at third base yet. This has been one of the many surprises of the 2020 season. In 2019, Sandoval saw 338 innings of work at the hot corner and was worth -2 DRS.
He was a below-average fielder, but still serviceable last season. This year, the Giants had watched both Donovan Solano and Wilmer Flores struggle at third base before Evan Longoria returned from the injured list.
The fact that the new regime will not even give Sandoval a shot at third base is a telling sign. To compound the matter, he is not hitter nearly enough to function as a first baseman/designated hitter-type.
Sooner or later, the Giants will have a decision to make on Sandoval.
The switch-hitter is beginning to see a dip in his playing time. The Giants have played 13 games in August, and Sandoval has started six of those games.
This past week, he only saw one at-bat in the three-game series against the Houston Astros. The concerning part is the Giants faced off against three right-handed starters in Lance McCullers Jr., Brandon Bielak, and Zack Greinke.
The Giants managed to only find a total of one at-bat in that series for Sandoval.
On Friday night, he was in the lineup against Oakland Athletics southpaw Jesus Luzardo. He went 0-5 in that game, and it just looks like the Giants are trying to exhaust all options before coming to a decision.
Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group recently addressed Sandoval’s usage and the decision that may be looming:
"“It’s difficult to see how the Giants can continue to justify holding a roster spot for Pablo Sandoval if he’s not going to start in the DH spot against right-handed pitchers… It would be really disappointing for Sandoval and for Giants fans to see his tenure end during the season if the club simply runs out of room for him, but the way he’s been used recently doesn’t bode well. For his sake, let’s hope everything is okay with his family and that Sandoval gets to enjoy playing again.”"
The long-time Giants third baseman has appeared in 11 seasons with the Orange and Black, and the front office knows how the fan base appreciates his contributions during the championship run. With 39 games remaining, this is becoming a delicate and tough situation to watch.