With Longoria out, Giants will turn to Sandoval and nasty left-right splits

Evan Longoria

San Francisco Giants’ Evan Longoria warms up during batting practice prior to a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in San Diego, Thursday, April 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

Ooooh, that looks really bad.

That was my first reaction after watching Evan Longoria get hit on the hand by a Dan Straily pitch on Thursday in Miami.

There are many factors that can lead someone to make a conclusion like that … how the player reacts, the angle that the ball deflects after hitting the player, the location of where the player got hit.

All of those factors with Longoria led me to believe it was bad.

But then Longoria shook it off and headed to first base. The trainer came out to have a look, but Longoria stayed in the game.

Then I felt “Oh, maybe we dodged a bullet there.”

But then while standing on first, I say Longoria gesture to the dugout.

After the game, Longoria said he decided to stay in the game because he didn’t need his hand to run the bases. But as he stood at first, he felt his hand get worse, not better.

So he exited the game and Alen Hanson took over at third base.

Typically what happens in cases like this is the player goes for X-rays. If the report is good, the club will make an announcement a couple of innings later saying that X-rays were negative and the player is day-to-day.

But no such report came. And the game limped on for SIXTEEN INNINGS.

So when the game finally ended and we learned Longoria had a fractured pinkie, it was no surprise.

And now Giants fans are left to ask a question they’ve been forced to ask all season.

Now what?

The 2018 season has been a minefield of injuries. Here’s a look at the top 16 players on the Giants’ payroll and the time they have spent on the disabled list this season.

TimeonDL

Try to find a week when at least three Giants were on the shelf at the same time.

The timeline for Longoria’s stint on the DL is about six weeks. That would put his return around Aug. 1.

With Brandon Belt making a rapid return from an appendectomy, the front line to step in to fill Longoria’s absense falls to Pablo Sandoval.

Bruce Bochy said so much on Friday. But that could be a cause for concern.

The 2018 version of Sandoval is not the same Sandoval from the Giants’ three tile runs. But the Panda has been productive in 2018.

In fact, from one viewpoint, Sandoval has been about as good as Longoria. To date, Sandoval has about half as many plate appearances as Longoria. If we doubled Sandoval’s production to match Longoria’s plate appearance, they are pretty comparable.

EvvPanda

But with any statistical analysis, the deeper you go, the more catches you find.

In Sandoval’s case, 78 percent of his plate appearances have come as a left-handed hitter against right-handed pitching. And that’s because recently his switch-hitting splits have been very wide.

In his entire career, Sandoval has been better from the left side, batting .295 as LH batter and .251 as a righty. Of his 130 career home runs, 111 have come from left season.

This season as a lefty, Sandoval is hitting .301/.359/.484. But as a righty, he’s .160/.276/.200. That horrendous split is the main reason Sandoval has stopped becoming an everyday player the past couple of seasons.

When you consider that more than one-third of the starting pitchers the Giants will face over the next six weeks are lefties, an alternative must be sought.

The first choice would seemingly be switch-hitting Hanson, who has been a bright spot this season as a minor-league signee in the offseason.

Hanson’s splits are better, but not great. Some 77 percent of Hanson’s plate appearances this season have come from the left side, where he’s been very good — .357/.390/.768. But from the right side, it drops to .267/.333/.400 in a very small sample size.

Over his brief big-league career, Hanson’s split have been pretty even, even if the lion’s share of PAs came as a lefty.

So a possible option for the Giants is to have Sandoval start against righties, and Hanson against lefties.

Another option is to recall Kelby Tomlinson and give him some at-bats against lefties. But he’s actually hit righties slightly better this year.

Against lefties, Tomlinson is .209/.277/.256.

One more option is to recall Ryder Jones, who is hitting .286 in Triple-A. But he’s a lefty batter and last year his .312 Triple-A average became a .173 big-league average.

Right now, it’s Sandoval first. We’ll see where that goes.

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