LOS ANGELES –- Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn’t mind Pablo Sandoval’s first at-bat Thursday night. He loved the second at-bat, which involved a very Panda-like swing and a double to the opposite field.
“It seems as the game goes on, the more movement he gets,” Bochy said. “He’s working on it hard. He worked on it today, to quiet things down.”
As Randy Winn broke down so well on our CSN Bay Area pregame show last week, Sandoval’s main mechanical issue is that he isn’t getting his foot down. As a result, he’s unbalanced. And his head is moving too much, which makes it difficult to tracl the pitch.
There might be a reason that Sandoval gets more eager as the game goes on. He’s taken more peeks at his batting average aglow on the scoreboard. He’s at .175 entering Friday night’s game. That would be a trigger for any player, let alone one in his walk year with a lot of money at stake.
“You look up at the numbers at this point and you can’t help but put pressure on yourself,” Bochy said.
Pressure really is a fascinating thing. Some players thrive on it, others go in the other direction. And there are different kinds of pressure, too. Sandoval never seemed to let the pressure of a big game affect him. This is the same guy who hit three homers in Game 1 of the World Series, remember.
But that’s the kind of pressure that exists entirely in a baseball context. That’s about the competition, the game, the outcome. Sandoval always has shown an exuberance for playing the game. It’s what made Barry Zito call him the Kung Fu Panda. He’s always up, always energetic.
The pressure that comes with setting yourself up for a monster deal? That doesn’t exist entirely in a baseball context. That’s about agents, the union, and the intersection of place and time that even if a ballplayer is fortunate enough to encounter, he’ll encounter it just once.
I really couldn’t tell you if free agency is messing with Sandoval’s mind. But Bochy obviously believes so. He has taken Sandoval aside several times, advising him to loosen up and have fun on the field again. The sooner that happens, the better both he and the Giants will be.
Quieting down his swing will help. So will quieting down his mind.