Brandon Belt broke his left thumb yesterday on a Paul Maholm pitch that missed its target big time, and now the Giants are looking at their options for a replacement for somewhere around six weeks. The beat writers talked last night about the possibilities of whom would be manning first base: Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, Michael Morse, and current Fresno Grizzly Adam Duvall. Recently, Brandon Belt just went through a slump where he was ice-cold, and so it my give the impression to the casual fan that losing Belt may not be a big deal. Overall, I’d say losing a .357 wOBA, 9 HR/3 SB regular is going to put a dent in the scary factor of your lineup. Belt’s defense is very good as well, the only one that might be able to match him is Posey, but then you lose a better than average catcher behind the plate. There are some names that can step up in Belt’s absence until the thumb of the taller Brandon is all healed and ready to go, and we’ll begin with the most obvious.
Surprise! Pablo Sandoval‘s .171/.250/.276 line with a .235 wOBA and 49 wRC+ are all well below career averages, and having Sandoval average all of that out would be a treat to the Giants lineup, probably helping them continue their winning ways despite the loss of Belt. If everything else stays constant with the offense and Pablo puts it together, watch out. However, asking everything to stay constant might be a little bit to ask of players like Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford.
I know, it might be surprising to see this player on this list, but knowing what he’s capable of, that’s why he’s here. A .252/.342/.374 line with a .321 wOBA is probably OK for a decent extra OF with great defense, but I’m sure the Giants were hoping for a little more from the bat. Pence is still playing everyday, currently holding the longest consecutive games streak in the NL, but that wOBA is about 30 points below his .352 career average. Now, his walk and strikeout rate are well below career averages, as is his BABIP (.284 to .318). Hunter Pence could be due, and if he continues to be in the 2 spot, that could mean more early leads, which the commentators have noted lead the Giants to more wins.
This one is definitely a question mark because who knows if he gets called up. You hope that his destruction of Triple-A pitching continues into the bigs, as he’s put together a .259/.329/.541 line with 11 home runs. The question with Duvall has always been his glove, so I wonder how effective Duvall would be in his first taste of baseball at the Major League level. I figure the bat will show up, but to what level? Brandon Hicks-like? I think it’s unfair to expect a lot out of a rookie in a short time period, but that’s what this would be.
As I was noting earlier, it’s possible Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford could be overachieving a little, so if their cloud of success floats down closer to the earth a little bit, disappointment should be tempered. Buster Posey is swinging at the area of awesome that lines up with his averages, so we’ll see with him. If the Giants are going to continue their winning ways, they’re going to need one of the bolded players to make some bigger contributions, whether in extra base hits, getting on base, or both. Giants fans are just left hoping that Belt’s absence won’t be the beginning of something 2013-ish, and I think it can be avoided if Morse and Crawford keep hitting, and somebody steps up in a big way.