Is Pablo Sandoval Ready To Come Back?

After last season, many people didn’t have high hopes for Pablo Sandoval. His 2015 season was mediocre. He only hit .245 in 126 games. He made fifteen errors for a .949 fielding percentage. Sandoval arrived at spring training this year overweight. Then there was the belt buckle incident. In seven at-bats this season Sandoval collected NO hits. After surgery in May, Sandoval disappeared. Now, according to Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe, Sandoval has lost fifteen pounds and will rejoin the team in Tampa. So is Pablo Sandoval ready to come back for good? If so, will we see a different Pablo Sandoval ready for action?

In my first post, I mentioned that it wasn’t fair to poke fun at Sandoval’s weight. HisPablo Sandoval Ready body weight at the time was supposedly 17%, but it quickly became obvious that number was false. Sandoval was then mysteriously placed on the DL for a shoulder issue. Some speculated that he was put on the DL to get his weight under control. This idea makes much more sense, even if it’s unverified. In fact, I’m more likely to believe the latter scenario. The Red Sox obviously didn’t want to give someone time off to get their weight under control when he had all off-season to do so. But after making a deal to pay Sandoval $72.4 million over four years, the last thing the team wants to do is see that go to waste.

There’s little we actually know about whether Sandoval is actually going to rejoin the team this season. He’s a third baseman, and it’s possible that Farrell is thinking of plugging Sandoval at third base, especially with the way Travis Shaw has been hitting lately. Aaron Hill isn’t doing much better either. Has Sandoval truly worked hard to shed the pounds and rehab his arm? If so then it’s only logical to put him in and see if he can help the Red Sox reclaim first place.

Is Pablo Sandoval Ready To Finish His Career In Boston?

Sandoval is 30 years old. Surely he has a few more good years in him, but it’s not likely any other team will pick him up after his contract is up in two years. So Sandoval will have to do some hard thinking about what he wants to do in the next few years. Does he want to buckle down and get back to the field? Or does he want to sulk and cash his checks? If I were him I could see the temptation in staying on the DL. He’s more or less guaranteed that money, so why should he rush to get back? Honestly through, I don’t think Sandoval is that kind of guy. I genuinely think he wants to get back to the field as soon as he can. But he’s going to have to be realistic about what his career has left for him.

Right now, Dave Dombrowski is probably looking at Sandoval the way Billy Beane looked at an aging David Justice in Moneyball (one of my favorite movies). There’s the scene where Justice is in the batting cage talking to Bean in a disrespectful manner. After a strong rebuke, Beane adds, “I want to milk the last ounce of baseball you have in you.” Like Justice, Sandoval isn’t the player he used to be. So will we see Pablo Sandoval ready for action soon? Can he squeeze a little more effort out of himself? Maybe. But if Sandoval wants to contribute, then he has to be completely serious, and give all he has.

In other words, Sandoval can’t afford to break another belt.

Relying Less on Analytics Will Benefit Players Like Bradley Jr.

John Henry’s recent comments about the team’s reliance of analytics came as a shock to many, especially since the team has employed Bill James since 2003, the father of saber metrics who was made famous by the book Moneyball and its subsequent film.
analytics
The Boston Sunday Globe quoted one scout who, after hearing Henry’s declaration said, “Finally, someone who realizes that human beings play the game, not numbers…” While in many cases analytics has proven to be a very useful tool that owners have used to build championship teams, focusing less on the numbers could bode well for players like Jackie Bradley Jr., whose own numbers do not capture his talent and potential.

Many saw Bradley Jr.’s performance in the 2014 and 2015 seasons as promising but inconsistent. But if you set his numbers aside for a minute, you see a 2014 Gold Glove nomination. In fact, Bradley Jr.’s defense led Red Sox great Bill Lee to say in August 2015 that he reminded him of Willie Mays from the waist down. That same month, Bradley Jr. became one of only eight players to accumulate five extra-base hits in one game. In a match against the Seattle Mariners, Bradley Jr. hit two home runs and three doubles in six at bats as the Red Sox won 22-10. So does Bradley Jr.’s 2015 .249 batting average represent his abilities? I think not. Now that the Red Sox are taking a step back from analytics, there will be opportunities for people to focus more on what qualities Bradley Jr. does posses that can’t be categorized using analytics. This step back will be good for other players like Brock Holt and Rusney Castillo, players whose true potential may be unfairly overshadowed by analytics.

Should We Toss Analytics Aside Altogether?

I’m not saying that analytics should be completely discarded. After all, it played a role in the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 after an eighty-six year drought. But focus on numbers, statistics, and projections has done a lot to drain the humanity and excitement out of the game. When I see Bradley Jr. take the field next season, I won’t be thinking about the previous season’s batting average, or what Bill James’ thinks his batting average will be. I’ll be thinking about whether I’ll be lucky enough to see Bradley Jr. make an outstanding defensive play.

Analytics remind me of a story about my time in graduate school. One of my professors told me that the best indication of how well a student will do in graduate school, is to see how well they actually do in graduate school. In other words grades, GPA, and test scores can only do so much to predict how someone will do. Seeing how they actually do in a graduate class is the true indicator of someone’s abilities. With that said, we should follow John Henry’s lead and step back from analytics so that we can focus more on what we see on the field, instead of what we read in a statistical analysis. After all, it’s possible that Bradley Jr.’s performance this upcoming season could blow the lid off any predictions anyone’s made using analytics.