Brandon Belt may be the most polarizing 1B in my lifetime, and is definitely the one I’ve enjoyed blogging about the most, and it may be no secret that I’ve been a proponent of starting the 25-year old Texan over the other camp’s choice in the 28-year old Californian in Brett Pill. Legitimate conversation starters come around every time a so-called “Belt Bash” on social media or sports radio occurs, and I wanted to be sure to showcase some of the points before I got to the meat of my post.
First off, would you take this from Belt in 2013?
If Belt put up a .275/.346/.472 line this season with 18 HR and 78 RBI, would people be ok with that?
— Anna (@SFBleacherGirl) May 31, 2013
Something to think about, because that’s what he’s on pace for, considering you throw out his period of sickness.
Are expectations higher for Belt?
Sometimes I feel like the expectations for Belt are actually higher than anyone else on the team
— Jenny (@jp_on_rye) May 31, 2013
I agree with this, both from the pro- and not-so-pro-Belt sides. A Belt strikeout hurts me more than a Marco Scutaro or Andres Torres strikeout, while his hits feel like a glorious triumph over the haters.
Below are a compilation of seasons from players that have manned the first base position from 1988 onwards. I set the minimum plate appearances to “180” so that Belt’s 2013 season would be included in this pile of numbers. All the numbers wouldn’t fit on one screen shot, so I had to separate them, and coincidentally (really, I promise) the divide is between a positive fWAR and a negative fWAR. So now the question to you becomes: Where do you draw the line for an acceptable season out of a first baseman for your team? Do you expect Will Clark-ian performances every year? Just above replacement level? Suffice to say we all want the best performances ever, but we’re likely not getting that. Think about that as you look as these numbers:
Since 1950, Giants 1B have posted a .349 wOBA and a 115 wRC+ with a .271/.346/.445 slash line. Did you just look up at Belt’s projection? Me, too. Belt’s slash line would have a better average, same OBP, and a better SLG, and I’ll tell you right now his wOBA and wRC+ are not better than the averages since ’50 so in terms of the value according to the more advanced numbers, I know he’s not there yet. However, where did you draw the line? Being aware that not every first baseman is the same — your expectations are different for J.T. Snow than they are for Andres Galarraga — can’t just go by HR or RBI to say “that’s acceptable.” I’d say I draw the line at “acceptable” at the season with the 1.9 fWAR, .355 wOBA, 119 wRC+, I’d live with the defense (getting used to it with the 2013 team). No, Belt is not at or above that season right now, so let’s get that out of the way. I want offensive production out of my first baseman, and the ability to scoop a ball in the dirt would be great, as for me, I’m not so concerned about defensive range. I grew up on the power of Barry Bonds, and I want to see that out of somebody on the team, and I’m going to expect some bombs.
Now, as for who the players were you were judging and for what season they came from:
Sorry, Pedro Feliz. Go away, Shea Hillenbrand. 2012 Aubrey Huff had so few PA he didn’t even make this list, but man, was his 2010 something special. 2013 Brandon Belt is on his way up, since his defense shouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon, it’s going going to help his value in fWAR, while the batting stats slowly creep upwards. Look, I don’t think and I’m not saying Belt is going to be the next Thrill, but I expect Belt to earn his keep this year, and I’m getting the sense from Giants management that they are too. Nothing extremely spectacular, but pretty acceptable.