Hitting three home runs in a single World Series game is, to say the least, unlikely. The company Pablo Sandoval joined last night speaks to that very fact: Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, and Reggie Jackson are the only other men to blast three homers in a World Series game. They also rank among the very best sluggers in the long history of the game.
As Rob Neyer points out, Pablo Sandoval is far from a singles hitter but he isn’t exactly the kind of player we expect to see drilling three home runs in a single game, especially against Justin Verlander and in spacious AT&T Park.
Much is made of Pablo Sandoval’s free-swinging ways. The graph-heavy Baseball Analytics site penned just such a post today, noting that Pablo “hacked” his way into history with a highly unusual approach.
The three home runs hit by the Panda run the gamut of skills and abilities. He rode out a high, hard fastball to centerfield, laid off two tough change ups before pounding a low-and-away fastball out the opposite way and, finally, stayed with a tough slider down and in for his third and final shot, another shot to center.
The first home run was the one that grabbed my attention. Watching the video above, you cannot help but hear Tim McCarver’s astonishment over Sandoval’s ability to get on top of that high, inside fastball. Parkes’ linked to the pitch f/x chart of that at bat earlier today and it the pitch was not nearly as inside as it looks on TV. The pitch, in fact, was pretty much center cut.
Regardless of up and in or just plain up, that is still a very difficult pitch to hit. Especially with the count 0-2 against a pitcher of Verlander’s quality. How difficult? Next to impossible, really.
All the left-handed batters in baseball hit .204/.235/.321 on that pitch in all counts, good for a .242 wOBA. Only 31 lefties managed to hit home runs on pitches in this location period. In two strike counts, that slash line drops to .161/.159/.274 with only three home runs.
From the start of last season until today, which player do you think has the best wOBA among left handed hitters against this type of pitch? Why Pablo Sandoval, of course.
Over the past two seasons, Pablo Sandoval has four home runs on pitches thrown up in the zone like this, the most in the National League. His free swinging ways might betray him in other situations but his incredibly fast hands and natural power allow him to go up and get this pitch like very few others can.
As much as Tim McCarver asserted this pitch was thrown “exactly” where Justin Verlander intended, we can safely assume the pitch got too much of something: too much of the plate or too close to the letters. A little higher or a little more inside (or outside, where Avila set up) and perhaps things are different.
But they aren’t and so here we are: praising Pablo Sandoval’s ability to go up and get the high fastball like few other big league hitters. Numerous factors played into the Panda’s historic night, his otherworldly plate coverage most of all. A clinic in power to all fields from the Giants third baseman.