Pablo Sandoval has battled weight issues his whole career. He’s never been characterized as “skinny” or “athletic,” but, at the beginning of his career, Sandoval was able to find a way to produce at a high level, despite his weight.
Sandoval broke into the big leagues in 2008 and was listed at 240 pounds at the time. In his first full rookie season in 2009 and at the young age of 23, the Kung Fu Panda batted .330, hit a team-high 25 home runs, and had 90 RBI’s. Sandoval was about 282 pounds though his rookie season, so the Giants knew that their 23 year-old star had to lose weight in order to perform well for a long period of time. Otherwise, he could easily suffer leg injuries or put himself at risk for some serious health problems later on his life.Mar 20, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) in the dugout during the third inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
After his rookie season, Sandoval was admitted into Camp Panda, even if he might not have liked it. Giants head trainer Dave Groeschner and strength and conditioning coordinator Ben Potenziano created this three and a half week-long training and nutritional program in order to help Panda reach a target weight of about 250 and to teach him more about healthy eating during the baseball season. Sandoval’s daily routine would look something like this (courtesy of Henry Schulman’s article about Camp Panda):
8:40 a.m. – Breakfast in the training office: English muffin, Cheerios, coffee
9:00 – Tossing a football and stretching
9:15 – A 45-minute cardio workout on a Spinner stationary bike
10:10 – Eighty minutes of weight training with free weights and resistance machines, focusing on the back, biceps and core
11:20 – Snack (one power bar), and a short break
11:40 – Thirty minutes in the batting cage
12:15 p.m. – Thirty minutes on an elliptical trainer
1:00 – Dunk in a cold tub and shower
1:30 – Lunch
2:00 – Done
Sandoval would do variations of this routine on Mondays-Fridays. He would then walk for an hour on Saturday and rest on Sunday. Sandoval lost 12 pounds in the first 10 days of Camp Panda, and said, “I’m going to work hard to keep the weight off.”
Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Sandoval lost about 45 pounds from Camp Panda, and at spring training before the 2010 season, he weighed in at 237 pounds, which was great to see for the Giants’ coaches, management, and fans. During the 2010 season, though, Sandoval re-gained much of the weight he lost in Camp Panda. Sandoval struggled to make plays defensively because he lost much of his “quickness” with his weight gain. During the stretch run and the postseason of 2010, Sandoval lost his starting role to Juan Uribe who moved over to third base from shortstop, and Edgar Renteria took over at shortstop. The Panda had barely any impact at all on the Giants winning the World Series in 2010.
In the offseason of 2010, the Giants decided to put Sandoval through Camp Panda again. Brian Sabean even threatened to send Sandoval down to the minor leagues if he didn’t lose the weight. In the second annual Camp Panda, Sandoval lost 38 pounds and got down to 240 pounds again because of another intense workout schedule and high-carb, low-fat diet.
This time around, Sandoval’s daily diet looked like this (courtesy of Stan McNeal’s article):
7:00 a.m. – Breakfast: Eggs and bread
10:00 a.m. – Second breakfast: Omelet with vegetables
1:00 p.m. – Lunch: Rice, vegetables, small portion of beef
4:00 p.m. – Second lunch: Chicken or beef (seven ounce portions), sweet potato
7:00 p.m. – Dinner: Chicken or beef (seven ounce portions), salad
Sandoval had three workouts during the day, which included: taking ground balls in the early morning, baseball activities and weightlifting in the late morning, and lifting and cardio in the afternoon. This second version of Camp Panda also stressed the need for discipline in his diet. Sandoval was instructed to keep the weight off in the season by continuing to work out in the morning and employing the same chef.Sep. 25, 2011; Phoenix AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants batter Pablo Sandoval (48) throws the ball to first base in the second inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY Sports
The Panda mostly kept the weight off in the 2011 season and performed well despite a few injuries. In 2012, Sandoval broke the hamate bone in his left hand and was on the disabled list for six weeks, which caused him to re-gain the weight yet again.
However, in the Giants’ postseason stretch, Sandoval was much more effective than in the the 2010 season. In September, he hit .298, hit four home runs, had 17 RBI’s, had a .383 on-base percentage (OBP), and a .851 OPS. In the postseason, Sandoval hit .364, hit six home runs, had 13 RBI’s, had a .386 OBP, and a 1.098 OPS. Also, every Giants fan remembers how Sandoval hit three out of those six home runs in Game 1 of the World Series, two of them against Justin Verlander. In addition to his offensive prowess, Sandoval didn’t appear to struggle defensively as well.
Sandoval reported to this season’s spring training heavier than usual, according to several sources. Within the first week of spring training, Bruce Bochy even threatened to bench Sandoval until he lost a considerable amount of weight.
“This year he’s got to lose a little bit, and he knows it. He’ll be up there doing his conditioning,” Bochy said. “Not long ago, guys used spring training to get in shape. They had other jobs in the offseason. Pablo’s one of our exceptions now. We’ll use the spring to get him in shape.”
Sandoval was somehow able to shed about 14 pounds before the Cactus League opener, but now that the 2013 season has officially started, he still appears to be overweight. Although, it’s unclear what Sandoval’s real weight is.
Wendy Thurn of Bay Area Sports Guy writes that according to Andrew Baggarly of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, the Giants 2013 media guide lists Sandoval at 242 pounds. However, ESPN lists Sandoval at 262 pounds. It remains a complete mystery what Sandoval’s weight is, and, frankly, that might be just how Bruce Bochy wants it. Everyone can see that Sandoval weighs more than last season, but if Bochy or Brian Sabean were to put a number to Sandoval’s weight, it could potentially cause more harm than good, meaning, it could cause fans to worry much more than they should.
Even without knowing Sandoval’s exact weight, fans already are worried about how much of an issue his weight is or will be in the future. The Panda is only 26, almost 27, 5’11”, and appears to be roughly 280 pounds. From a health and wellness standpoint, this cannot be healthy. As worried as fans are about how his weight will affect his play, the fans and the Giants organization as a whole need to be concerned about his future as well. As mentioned before, if he doesn’t take control of this weight issue soon, he could face some serious health problems and could risk his ability to play baseball in the future.
Recently, he claimed that he would start to lose weigh t… two seasons from now. Sandoval is arguably the second most important position player to the Giants (behind Buster Posey), and this must be at least a little concerning to the Giants organization that he wants to put his weight issues aside for now and will deal with them eventually. Sandoval claims that his lack of conditioning could start to take a toll on his play when he turns 30, so he’s giving himself two seasons, and a grace period for slip-ups, to address and fix his weight issue.Oct 28, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) holds up the MVP trophy for the 2012 World Series at Comerica Park. The Giants won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
“I’ve got this year and next year to change all the things,” Sandoval said. “It’s going to take me a while, but I can do it. I know I can do it. You need to learn. You need to grow up. You need to step up and know the difference between what you can do and what you can’t.”
Sandoval might say that he’s committed and say that he understands he needs to step up and grow up, but his history doesn’t suggest he actually does understand. In the offseason, Sandoval usually goes back home to Venezuela, doesn’t maintain healthy eating habits, doesn’t maintain a consistent exercise routine, and gains a lot of weight.
Another issue the Giants organization must be concerned with is his lack of commitment. Perhaps the Panda will truly become more diligent with his weight loss after these two upcoming seasons, but it’s not a good sign that whenever he says he’ll lose weight and does, he’s always gained it back. As an MLB player, he needs to show that he’s a true professional and take his conditioning seriously. He could follow in the footsteps of Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, and Andres Torres who are known to be workout fiends. These guys stay in excellent shape and are always looking for ways to improve their conditioning. Perhaps Sandoval could start Hunter Pence’s paleo diet? Not likely, but he could at least watch their work ethic and try to imitate that in his own weight loss and conditioning program.
It doesn’t seem as though Sandoval’s weight issues has affected his play last season or this season though. The Panda has played in 12 of the Giants’ 13 games this season, and he has had 47 at-bats so far. He’s hitting .298, has two home runs, and 10 RBI’s.
In addition, he has only committed one error (fielding) and has a .971 fielding percentage, which is greater than the fielding percentage of the league at 3B, which is .953.
Because of Sandoval’s success offensively (for most of his career), there has been a lack of incentive for him to change the way he goes about the season. This is exactly what needs to change. In terms of this season, as long as Sandoval continues to hit well and play solid defense, I don’t think his weight issues need to fixed immediately.
In the long run though, the Giants organization needs to ensure that the Panda loses weight, keeps the weight off, conditions consistently, and is more disciplined in his eating habits. Before the 2012 season, Sandoval signed a 3-year/$17.15 million contract, so he will become a free agent at the age of 28 and after the 2014 season. Sandoval will have to show more commitment to his weight loss, his conditioning, and his future if he wants to get a contract extension with the Giants.