A picture can tell a whole story sometimes, and here the story is pretty obvious: Stults walked Sandoval on five pitches, coaxing the famously eager hitter to swing at one pitch Sandoval probably wishes he hadnâ€™t (the 2-0 curve at the lower-inside corner) but otherwise pitching him carefully and losing him to baseballâ€™s strict four-balls rule.
Thatâ€™s not the story at all, though. What actually happened is that Pablo Sandoval swung at all five of these pitches. Stults threw five chase pitches in a row, Sandoval chased all five, and on the fifth he hit a changeup that was
otherwise going to get scuffed and thrown into the batting-practice bucket. He got a hit, and the run scored. This is what Sandoval does. I canâ€™t surprise you with descriptions of Pablo Sandoval. But what I can do is go through the most Pablo Sandoval at-bats of Pablo Sandovalâ€™s career. These are they!
[The methodology is as such: We measured how cumulatively far from the center of the strike zone Pablo Sandoval’s bat traveled in each at-bat of his career. If he chased a pitch that was two feet higher than the center of the zone, and then a pitch that was 21 inches low-and-away from the center of the zone, he would have covered a total of 3.75 feet. Only swings at non-strike zone pitches were counted, so he is not ‘penalized’ for pitches within the strike zone that he swung at.Â AÂ 10-pitch at-bat that included only two swings at pitches outside the zone is counted for our purposes as a two-swing at-bat. We used a normalized strike zone (so his zone from the left side, for instance, is different than from the right side) and we adjusted for each ballparkâ€™s PITCHf/x calibration.]
Pablo Sandovaliest At-Bat, One Wild Swing Category
Aug. 23, 2009, against Ubaldo Jimenez
Distance: 4.48 feet
The story you’d expect from that picture: Ubaldo Jimenez went right after Sandoval, who fought off strikes until Jimenez misfired and hit Sandoval on the foot.
The actual story:Â
A theme of these screengrabs is you’re going to look at them and then ask me where the ball is. The answer, for all of them, is “way over there.”
This isnâ€™t the farthest Pablo Sandoval has ever traveled for a swing, but itâ€™s close. The farthest is 4.8 feet, against Charlie Morton. Guess what: youâ€™re going to get to see it! This curveball from Ubaldo Jimenez is, however, the fourth-worst pitch he has ever swung at. The 42 worst pitches he has swung at have all been sliders or curveballs, so at least thereâ€™s some logic to these swings.
This was, of course, a checked swing, and umpire Derryl Cousins ruled that he went around. Or did he? Perhaps he wasnâ€™t making a ruling at all, so much as pointing at Pablo Sandoval and laughing: â€œLOL look at what you did.â€ â€œLOL,â€ Ubaldo Jimenez adds. â€œLook what he did.â€ Same result either way, I suppose.
Pablo Sandovaliest At-Bat, Two Wild Swings Category
July 18, 2009, against Charlie Morton
Total distance: 8.39 feet
Average distance: 4.19 feet
The story you’d expect from that picture: After getting ahead with a changeup, Charlie Morton came too far inside on Sandoval. Both teams had already been warned about inside pitches because of some lingering tension over a series of hit batsmen the night before, so Morton was tossed from the game, along with his manager John Russell. The third pitch of the at-bat was thrown by a reliever, which is why it doesn’t appear on this plot.
The actual story:Â
That’s the third pitch of the at-bat, wild enough apparently not to appear on the matchup plot above. Here’s how the Pirates announcer responded to Sandoval’s swing:Â