Sandoval's swing problem

Panda's newfound patience early in the count is causing his stats to nosedive

Updated: April 29, 2014, 2:24 PM ET
By Justin Havens | ESPN Insider

Pablo SandovalThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesPablo Sandoval is slugging just .301 thus far in the 2014 season.

Part of what has separated Pablo Sandoval from other hitters has been his innate ability to make good contact on pitches out of the strike zone. While Sandoval might not have been Vladimir Guerrero in that regard, he has an extended track record of being among the league leaders in hard contact against pitches out of the zone. To this point in the season, that skill has evaded him, and when you combine that issue with a seemingly confused and deteriorated approach at the plate, it's easy to understand why he's hitting .172 with a .553 OPS entering Tuesday's action. Those are not the kind of numbers you want on your baseball card heading into your free-agent walk year.

As you can see in the table to the right, Sandoval has an extended track record of crushing pitches outside of the strike zone, but his numbers are trending in the wrong direction.

Not only has Sandoval been robbed of one of his unique skills, but his approach has been confusing at best. First, Sandoval has been oddly patient on the first pitch. He's swinging at the first pitch 25.2 percent of the time, a stark departure from his approach in previous seasons: Sandoval swung at the first pitch over 40 percent of the time each season from 2009 to 2013.