Braves 2021 Player Review: Pablo Sandoval

Sad Panda Needs Hugs

Hello. My name is Jonathan, and I am a curmudgeon.

I like to think I’m an amiable curmudgeon and that my jaundiced view of almost everything is not something I seek to export, but I’m not going to hide my fundamental dislike for everyone else’s sunny dispositions and good feelings.

The surest way to get me never to see a movie is to describe it as a “feel-good” movie, or even worse, “the feel-good movie of the year.”If there is one sure-fire way not to make me feel good, it’s to show me something intended to make me feel good. My favorite movies are those where everyone dies tragically, and, if possibly, senselessly. (Spoiler alerts: my favorite movie is Pan’s Labyrinth, but Melancholia gives it a run for its money.)If not death, at least emotional despair and thwarted expectations. I have literally never seen a movie whose worldview I would describe as “too dark.”

When I describe my many problems with Chip Caray, I leave out his extreme fondness for the “feel-good” story.I leave this out because my antipathy for this is so personal. It colors everything else about him, in my opinion, but I try to focus my critique on things which are far more universal, like the inability to tell a fly ball from a home run, inane statistical ramblings, strategy considerations which make no sense, and a manifest inability to honestly report who was a first-rank candidate for NL MVP, employing motivated reasoning so far up his ass that it substitutes for his upcoming colonoscopy. But his fondness for the feel-good story is a huge part of who he is, and, I suspect, a large part of why those who like him can tolerate him.

To Chip, Pablo Sandoval was a “feel-good” story just waiting to be written.And he kept writing it, rewriting, and polishing it until the only thing left was lies. Pablo Sandoval contributed almost nothing to the successful Braves 2021 season. He was not a net negative… or at least not a big net negative — he was just about nothing. To get him to zero, I’m including the Panda-head hugs in this, which, when they disappeared, were not missed at all! Imagine that! (Curmudgeons dislike almost all of the ‘let the kids play’ stuff, particularly when not performed by kids. That includes Panda-head hugs, umbrellas in the dugout for Donaldson, towel rack rides in Boston, and the rest of the crap. But I’m a curmudgeon. Just ignore my distaste for that stuff.\Apparently it makes people … [suppresses retch] …feel good.)

I’m also including in my assessment the fact that Sandoval did a lot of counseling and advice; maybe it was insanely valuable, but however valuable it was, it was less valuable in terms of wins than getting Eddie Rosario, who people keep insisting he was traded for. All things equal, I’ll take Rosario plus young-guy-cluelessness over a great mentor who leaves a team below 0.500 only to see it recover and win a world championship without him.

Anyway, you all know about the pinch hit homers early in the season, which apparently hold some mystical feel-good sentimental value outweighing the next four months of utter futility and, finally, release. When Sandoval was signed at the start of the season, AAR quite rightly questioned the move. When he did, I pointed out that if there turns out to be any need for Pablo Sandoval on the Braves’ roster, $1MM was a small price to pay, and if there wasn’t any need, $1MM is a small amount to waste… about the cost of two greenhorns. In fact, had Sandoval not been on the roster, his place probably would have been taken by Johan Camargo, who probably would have had virtually the same offensive season. I’ve got a piece coming up about the Mystery That Is Camargo, but this isn’t the place for it. But it’s not as if Sandoval’s place would have been taken by a suddenly-competent Pache. I don’t think having him on the squad cost the Braves very much at all. And when you WIN THE WORLD SERIES (Do people remember that we won the World Series? Even curmudgeons smile occasionally) how much could it have cost you?

Pablo apparently still wants to play another year. Maybe Steven Cohen can be convinced of his mentoring abilities and pay him $7 million. I begrudge the man nothing. I may be a curmudgeon, but I’m no Scrooge. That said, Bah. Humbug.

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

38 thoughts on “Braves 2021 Player Review: Pablo Sandoval”

  1. @1: Happiness, Magnolia, Oldboy, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Chinatown… I have no shortage of movies to help me get through the holiday season. I can even watch It’s A Wonderful Life, as long you shut the movie off as soon as George tells Clarence he wants to live again. (I have a fantasy in which Capra ran out of money right after that scene.)

  2. #3
    Of course, you did.

    Funny, I just watched “Chinatown” again recently… really one of the great films. And yes, that ending is an all-timer… and let’s not forget the director’s messy on-screen cameo.

    But it occurred to me that I saw that movie in the theater when I was about 11 (my mom took me). Bad parenting, leading to a life of cynicism? Or a case of “welcome to the complicated world of art, kid — deal with it…”?

    FWIW, and I’m probably late to this, but I just saw that Jim Kaat & Tony Oliva got into the HOF. Kaat… a good & very long career (for me, no). Oliva… terrific, but injury-shortened career (I’d lean his way)… still, after Harold Baines, does every borderline case get in now?

  3. I could see voting for 20 maybe 24 candidates on the 2022 ballot if Baines is the standard. I think I’d actually vote for 8.

  4. So, if Pablo Sandoval’s feel-good first few weeks and pinch homers made you gag, surely his wretched tragic Greek hero comeuppance in the following weeks made you feel better? As though Prometheus, having stolen fire from the gods, was doomed to be strapped to a mountain where an eagle ensured he could literally never again hit a fastball into fair territory?

  5. Pablo Sandoval basically single-handedly won us a couple games (I don’t really feel like going back through and looking to see how many game-winning, pinch-hit homers he actually had back in April, but it was more than one), we paid him peanuts and he served as a cartoonish team cheerleader on the bench. He was terrible after the first few weeks, but I think it’s difficult to say he cost us anything. Our bench was terrible, so arguing that, like, Camargo would’ve done better in any of those June or early July pinch-hit ABs would be kind of a tough sell. His contract was then traded for Eddie Rosario, who won us a pennant, and Heredia seamlessly slid into the cartoonish cheerleader role. So as far as I’m concerned, we gained a couple wins by having him and didn’t really lose much of anything. And we were then able to trade his zombie corpse to Cleveland for one of the most important pieces of our championship run. All of that to say that he clearly sucked, but I don’t really have anything bad to say about him. I hope he gets a World Series ring.

    NOTE: I’m totally always up for a good depressing, everything-is-crap, noirish movie BTW.

  6. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/jaws-and-the-2022-hall-of-fame-ballot-billy-wagner/

    HOF talk – Jaffe is doing his breakdown of the candidates and today’s article is about Wagner. I was initially against his inclusion as I have a very high bar for relievers given that they don’t pitch enough innings, but have found myself persuaded by Wagner’s sheer dominance in the innings he did pitch and the voters have seemed to have a similar change of heart as his percentage has grown from 10.5% to 46.4% from the BBWAA.

    All of that said, I never realized how horrendous he was in the postseason. 11.2 innings, giving up 13 runs and 21 hits across 8 postseason series (all but 1 series his team lost). Compare that to Will Smith this year. 11 IP, 5H, oR. I point this out to say both how amazing Will Smith was and to say that I honestly think that performance when it mattered most disqualifies Wagner from my HOF list. For an already flimsy case, the postseason carries enough weight with me to say no to Wags.

  7. @9, have you seen D.O.A.? Free on Prime, and it is super cool. Opening scene is a guy walking into a police station to report a murder — him! He just found out he was poisoned, and he wants to solve the crime before he drops dead.

  8. Pablo directly won 4 games for the Braves, the last being on May 8th. From there, he carried an .095 batting average as the primary pinch hitter in 42 of the 44 games he appeared in.

    Does carrying an .095 batting average as the primary PHer for 42 games outweigh directly winning 4 games for the team in the first 40 games? In the games he was the primary PHer, the Braves went 21-21.

  9. Dusty, I think that makes sense. He failed in almost all of his PAs after May 8th but winning 4 carries a TON of weight.

  10. Those were my thoughts as well. I like WPA for telling you what happened and it works especially well for relievers and pinch hitters, adding context to how many wins or losses they actually contributed to.

  11. He did not “directly” win 4 games. And I’m willing to argue that he was a small net positive, with his WPA outweighing his WAR. His 2 out 9th inning homer off Hector Neris avoided a loss, but he had nothing to do with the winning run. So he took the probability of winning from about 0 to about 50%, but the rest of the team created the rest of the win. His two run homer in the bottom of the 7th off Tanner Rainey were the only runs the Braves scored on April 7th, but again, without it the game goes to extra innings. His three run homer off Zach Pop came in the 6th inning of a game that required the Braves to score two in the 9th to win. And of course his opening day homer off Aaron Nola came in a loss.

    And the two run homers in the ninth have to be weighed against the lineout in the ninth stranding the tying run on 2nd against Edwin Diaz, etc, etc. It’s a net WPA positive… but NOT by a ton. In fact, if you subtract his biggest WPA hit, the hit off Neris, he’s net negative in WPA as well…

  12. Valid points JonathanF, though if you take away his hit off Neris (0.489 WPA) he is still positive for the year (0.314 WPA left) so not sure what you meant there.

  13. I meant that I have no math skillz.

    (What actually happened is that I turned 0.7 into 0.4 in my head while typing.)

  14. Ha… and I turned 0.8 into 0.7 while typing THAT comment. I am approaching the truth, as I always do, asymptotically.

    @21: Of course he can. Obviously you don’t expect a pinch hit every time, but a guy who goes 0 for 20 as a pinch hitter (looking at you, Johan) lost some games.

  15. The picture above is of a pretty small panda so it is hard to compare weight. However, I wonder which has the the higher BMI, Pablo or the panda above?

  16. Jonathan…

    Familiar type errors here…check all valves are fully closed…then refuse to believe anything you can still see.

    Best, blazon.

  17. If you can see it
    don’t assume that it might be it
    it might very well be not
    or, rather, have you simply forgot?

  18. to Eddie and Jorge

    don’t sit under the apple tree
    with anyone else but me
    where defying all convention
    we know exactly what we’ll mention.

  19. Delivered hermetically sealed
    will this contract be ever revealed?
    for debate by the masses
    the lads -and some lasses
    whose passions have not yet congealed.

  20. I wonder if there’s a good example of a guy Atlanta could snag that in a normal offseason would get a major league deal but would take a minor league deal, which are currently allowed, for the security of knowing which organization he’ll be working for at this point in the offseason.

    For instance, would Joc Pederson go ahead and take a minor league deal with incentives to know he’s coming back to Atlanta vs. maybe getting lost in the shuffle when all major leaguers can sign again? That might seem crazy, but Joc was basically a replacement level player last year. He had 0.2 bWAR for Atlanta last year and a .752 OPS, and that was after his abysmal first half with Chicago (-0.3 bWAR). One would assume that there are people that, just like in every offseason, they’d like to know who they’re going to play for by January.

  21. @32

    I would guess the union would not look especially kindly on that gambit. And since teams are currently acting like players don’t exist on their websites and MLB Network and whatnot, I’m guessing the team wouldn’t do it anyway.

  22. Recommendation of another decidedly anti-happy film that offers thwarted expectations & worse:
    “The Power of the Dog,” a new entry on Netflix. Quite the ending, too.

  23. @32

    I am not sure I would do that if I were the Braves. I think we should go in on Rosario and Soler (as DH*) An OF of Roario, Duvall and Acuna with Heredia as the 4th would be fine. We can always pick up a 4th OF if Heredia stays a pumpkin. Even if Acuna needs to DH for a bit, we can let Soler play RF.

    This assume we move Ozuna.

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