The Giants could use a little ’09 Panda right now

Aug. 10, 2010 - San Francisco, California, United States of America - August 8, 2010: San Francisco Giants IF Pablo Sandoval.

For all intents and purposes, Mike Fontenot was a great late-season pickup by the Giants’ GM Brian Sabean. He can play multiple infield positions, he can hit right-handed pitching and I swear that his hair is made of hay. (I don’t know how that helps the Giants, but it just does, ok?)

But he’s also Mike Fontenot. Mike, .280 with zero pop Fontenot. He’s fine. He’s meh. He’s Mike Fontenot.

As the Giants gear up for Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday night against the Phillies, the plan is pretty simple: Pitch well, score just enough runs to eek out four wins and then head to the World Series. It doesn’t take a blogger at The Scores Report to figure out that San Fran will rely on its pitching staff in order to lift them into the Fall Classic.

But this club could sure use a little dash of the Panda right now. And not that still-lovable, yet very destructive creature that roamed AT&T Park throughout most of this season, but the very effective swing-at-everything-and-yet-still-hit-.330 beast from 2009.

Compared to the season he had last year, Pablo Sandoval was the equivalent of having a rock in your shoe this season. He batted .268 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI (despite hitting .330 with 25 dingers and 90 RBI in ’09), yet showed flashes in April and August that made you still think he was the same hitter from a year ago. Whether it was his weight, his divorce, or the fact that he may or may not have sent lewd text messages to Jenn Sterger, he didn’t perform.

But Giants fans know what kind of talent this 24-year-old kid has. He’s a pure hitter in every sense of the word and when he’s on, he’s a much heavier clone of Vladimir Guerrero. I once saw Sandoval swing at a pitch that bounced before it came across the plate and he still lined it into the outfield. He can it – he just hasn’t been.

In the last 25 regular season games, he batted just .214 with one home run. He was benched after Game 2 of the NLDS and it remains to be seen whether or not it’ll be him or Fontenot who starts tomorrow night in Philadelphia. Given San Fran’s opponent in the NLCS, it would be nice if Sandoval could show a glimpse of the hitter he was last year because again, Fontenot is Fontenot. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the former Cub gets the best of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

Yet something tells me that Sandoval can still be a weapon in the Giants’ fickle lineup and I’m willing to bet that they would overlook his shaky defense if he could re-establish himself as an offensive force. But if he continues to flail at pitches in the dirt, over his head and in the on deck circle, then “meh” will have to do.

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