Thursday, April 19, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Thoughts on the Season So Far

I thought I would just randomly go through various thoughts on the season so far, no particular order.

Made of Clay

What a nice pickup the Giants had with Clay Hensley, former Giants farmhand who was traded for Matt Herges.  Up until 2010, he was an afterthought because he did not have a lot of success in the majors until then.  Though he had a nice first two seasons in the majors, he, for whatever reason, was not able to continue it.  Then he had an amazingly good 2010 season, but he reverted to past career norms in 2011, which suggests that 2010 was just very fluky.  And the Marlins just released him.

Looking at his stats, his 2011 was influenced by him going back into the rotation, where he was apparently exposed once batters got multiple looks at him.  They really killed him by the third time they saw him.  Still, it was not like it was a repeat of 2010, as a reliever in 2011 his ERA was 3.51 and K/9 7.0 vs. 2.16 and 9.2 K/9.  

Looking deeper, his 2010 was marked by a very different halves, he had a 11.5 K/9 and 3.2 K/BB in the first half vs. a 7.0 K/9 and 2.1 K/BB in the second half, which is very similar to his work as a reliever in 2011, 7.0 K/9 and 1.7 K/BB.  And his 2011 was hurt by very bad numbers by RH batters, his BABIP was horrible, whereas during this career, he has been pretty good against RH batters, making 2011 look a bit fluky.

Which is not too surprising, relievers stats are notoriously volatile due to the small sample size issues due to the low IP.

Generally, good pitchers can keep their K/BB ratio above 2.0 and have K/9 greater than 6.5.  As a reliever, he has been easily over that, particularly in the past two years.  This seems to coincide with his demotion in 2009, when he spent the whole season in AAA, not playing in the majors at all.

This brings to mind a quote I recall from Tim Worrell, a good reliever we got for Bill Mueller.  He basically said that he didn't become a good reliever until he mentally gave up wanting to be a starter.  He was holding himself back, he felt, until he embraced being a reliever.  That appears to be what happened to Clay, he was successful as a starter that one year, but then got shoved into the bullpen when he could not sustain that.

Give Me A Belt, not a belt

I've already covered a lot about my thoughts about Brandon Belt on a prior post, but I've been discussing various points which I haven't covered yet on this post on Fangraphs regarding Belt.

The biggest problem I've had with the Belt lovers is that all of them assumes the best world scenario:  hey, Belt hits like we think he can!  Nobody has given me an answer as to what do we do if you install Belt as the starter and you jettison Huff (which most Belt lovers want to do; very evolutionary driven, get rid of the person most likely to prevent Belt from playing), but then Belt continues to hit at the same rate has he has been as a major leaguer so far.  If you have an answer, I would love to see it, please convince me.

Here Goes Buster!

Wow!  Buster Posey just comes out and doesn't miss a beat.  And he's hitting like he was in 2010, not that poor start he had in 2011.  He even stole 3B!  Is there anything he can't do?  He's striking out a little too much, but much too soon to be worrying about a slightly off percentage (unlike Belt, 5 K's in 10 initial AB's is pretty bad).


I guess baby steps.  While he's not hitting very well, his defense, despite all the errors, has sounded like it has been pretty good, stealing a lot of hits.  Plus, he has made his hits count so far, he has 7 RBIs, second on the team, which offensively has been producing.  Brandon Crawford has been good enough so far, I think.


He is what he is, and he hasn't changed.  Even light power, say, 100 ISO, would make Emmanuel Burriss a playable starter in the bottom of the order.  As much as they like his speed off the bench, I think the only reason he sticks around when Franchez returns (reports say maybe sometime in May; remember, there are 31 days) is because the Giants would not want to carry just two MI on the bench.  I think the Giants might have to chose between Belt and Pill from the bench at that point.


Not only is Belt not doing anything, neither are two other spring training darlings, Gregor Blanco or Hector Sanchez, offensively.  Sanchez, however, has done so well so far being Zito's personal catcher, that I can't see the Giants sending him down at any point.  In fact, that is one reason I had not seen mentioned yet about why the Giants should have kept Hector on the 25-man roster.  Barry Zito raved about having him as his catcher when he was in rehab pitching in AAA, and we all know how Zito has to be in that right Zen spot in order to be productive, so if, at least in Zito's mind, he can be in that spot with Hector behind the plate, that would be a very strong reason, besides his hitting in spring and last year, to have him as our backup catcher.

In addition, Angel Pagan has fizzled so far as our leadoff guy, but I'm willing to cut him a break.  He was pretty bad his first week with us, but he has turned it on in the past 5 games, so it could have been that he was just gripping the bat too much, kind of like Huff last season, and did better once he started to relax and play ball.  The key thing I would note here so far:  4 walks vs. only 2 strikeouts in 50 AB, which is a great BB/K ratio and very low strikeout ratio, meaning he's been locked in on the pitches and not striking out, just not doing anything with them so far.

Nate has been Great

Despite "losing" his starting spot, again, in spring training, Nate Shierholtz has pretty much regained it with Belt's pressing at the bat.  One thing I've noticed that I love about the offense right now is that, besides Belt, nobody is really striking out that much, BCraw is the worse among the starters with roughly 80% contact rate, which is not bad, except for Belt who is very low due to all his strikeouts, even Huff is very high, around 90%.  At some point the balls will start falling in.

Melky Cabrera is doing well too, his BABIP is roughly what it was last season, which is much higher than it was before, showing that he is better utilizing his speed to elevate his BABIP.  One commenter on Fangraphs noted that it was Melky costing Belt playing time, not Huff, because of Melky's fast start and thus he's taking time because his career numbers are so much worse than it was in 2011 or now in 2012.  But his strikeout and walk rates are right around career norms, so is his HR/FB ratio, if anything GO/AO is elevated and it going down should result in more HR's hit by Melky.

Big Time Timmy Jim hasn't Been

Amazingly, the weak link in our rotation hasn't been Zito, but Tim Lincecum.  While both Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner (FYI, he hates MadBum as a nickname; I'll use Maddy from now on, one of his family members called him that in an article) came out with pretty good starts in the wake of their record breaking contracts that they signed, Timmy has been struggling in his three starts so far.

The good news is that he basically got things going after his disastrous first inning in his last start, very Timmy-like in production, so I think he's pretty close to where he needs to be.  I haven't been happy about it, but he will occasionally be very lost for a while and then figure it out, anywhere from 3 starts to a whole month of starts, and there is at least one every year.  Then he rolls out 10-20 totally dominating starts.  I'll start to worry about this in May, all our other starters have been good, we rarely have all five pitching great anyway.


  1. For some reason, even though I had this scheduled to post last night, it didn't, I had to manually post this now.

    Just read an article on Hensley and apparently he had some sort of rib injury that hampered him in 2011, which would also help explain his poor season relative to 2010, and why 2012 might be more like 2010 than 2011.

    And I forgot to mention that while Huff's batting line is noting to be proud of, he not striking out much, very well, in fact, and more importantly, he's taking a lot of walks. He's just having bad BABIP issues, and his power is there, per his high ISO, so it is not a matter of weak hits, the balls have just not been falling for him. I would also note that he hit poorly in April 2010, then turned it on.

    1. That's not to say that Huff will necessarily do well, just that things look good so far with him, nothing I would worry about this early in the season.

      I still don't understand the people who just think that starting Belt and letting him play will magically transform him. And nobody has given me a good backup plan for what happens if they dump Huff and Belt continues his career batting line (or worse).

      And starting Posey at 1B and Hector at C is not going to happen.

      I like Pill, but as one person aptly noted on one of the sites I went to (not sure, Fangraphs?), he ain't much of a prospect. Still, as I noted in response, both Minor League Baseball Analyst and Baseball America likes Pill as a prospect, the former noting that his potential is that of an average starting 1B - so there is some prospect value there - and BA noting that he's a nice hitter (with some flaws obviously) with power and good defense at 1B.

      But I put him up there with Ellison, Niekro, Linden, Ortmeier, Frandsen, Ishikawa (though I would rate Travis higher than Pill in terms of potential at the same age), prospects who showed a little something, something, in the minors, who did enough to earn a chance for the Giants to see how well they actually play in the majors, but mostly likely will not turn out. But you never know, and that, as they say, is why they play the games.

      That is not a good backup plan, in any case, for starting Belt and covering your ass at 1B with Huff gone (Molinaed as someone put it recently; I think I might have used the term too) should Belt continue to suck as a MLB hitter.

      I saw someone say that it's better to have Belt up here, as he had nothing to learn in AAA. Baloney. He's striking out 30% of the time against pitchers who should, by rights, he should be dominating. His great batting line comes from all the mistakes they make in the zone; those mistakes don't happen quite as often in the majors (talk to Barry Bonds about that; look at Belt's batting line for the evidence).

      And I'm sure it is not just 30% of the time, they probably got him into bad counts only to lose him to a mistake, so I would put it more like 30-50% of the time. So he would be getting plenty of lessons learned in the minors should he go down.

      But I'm fine with Belt up if the Giants think that he is that close to figuring it out. Even if he gets sent down eventually, I would not view that as a failure, which many fans will undoubtedly see this event as. There is no failure in trying and finding out you were wrong.

    2. I think the process of handling Belt was fine. If the Giants experts thought he was close, you would be stupid not to keep him up and see if he can fly out of the nest. That is how it appears from the press interviews I've seen.

      Him failing to figure it out is just a bump in the road, not a failure. People act like this is a story we know the ending to: Belt the magnificent Hitter, come forth to save the Giants middle order. It is not a fait accompli.

      Now, most of the evidence suggests that he should be a very good hitter in the majors. But the evidence has been wrong (Sean Burroughs, Andy Marte) or wrong by time (Weiters took two years to show the hitting he was supposed to be showing from the get-go), so there is no guarantee that Belt will ever figure it out, let alone figure it out this season.

      Backup plans and risk mitigation is what's needed, if you hope to compete as strongly as possible for the playoffs this season.

      I see a lot of people who support Belt while also crying about the Giants window of opportunity. If Belt hits like he has for his short career so far for the 2012 season, that could cost us our window of opportunity for this season.

      Yet none of these people see this dichotomy between what they say about Belt and the window, they never bother to think about the consequences of any of their GM actions that they advocate.

      There are dominoes pushed over based on their decisions that they suggest, and this is a chess game that you have to look many moves ahead in order to maximize your chances of winning this season and getting into the playoffs. These people are barely looking beyond their face.

  2. OGC - there is a new term during this hectic debate: Belt Neutral. My interpretation of that is "let's see what Huff does, Belt may or may not hit, and he'll get his chances". If you take the long view, Huff is gone next year anyways, Belt will get plenty of chances.

    My views on this Belt debate trend towards yours and DrB's, but I think both of you were being a bit unfair to Eno Sarris in that fangraphs piece. My interpretation of it was he was pointing out the Giants public stances and how they don't make much sense. I thought it was fairly balanced, although I didn't agree with his conclusion that Belt should play and is a clear upgrade from Huff. Nobody knows that until Huff gets his chances. And he deserves that chance.

    Early on, but Huff has not been K'ing, he has been BB'ing, and his .192 babip will most likely rise on up. It is way too early in the game for Huff's Ship has sailed arguments.

    Some folks are saying the real competition is between Belt and Melky. Not sure if I agree with that one. I'd say its closer to Nate, but really I think its about squeezing enough ABs for Nate, Huff and Belt. And actually I think that might be do-able. Between subs for Huff after 6, spot starts and what not, it can happen. Bochy needs some time to juggle things around.

    I think you make a very good point about Belt's K tendencies. I have kept that one in the back of my head for all this brew up. He does have an excellent OBP to go with the K's in AAA though. I don't know if he has anything to prove in AAA or not, but its a good point you make. More likely the Giants have decided AAA won't do him enough good. So he has to make the most of his chances. If he is pressing, that's on him.

    He needs to take a step back, not buy into all the hype from fans, and do his job when called on. Prove out rookie. Not necessarily fair, but that's been going on for a long time in the majors. Teams in contention don't have the luxury to bring somebody along at all times.

    Its a mixed bag, and the debate seems to shift around. I'm trying to stay consistent with my Belt thoughts, but I have to say its pretty hard to do that, chaotic situation. I feel a bit for Bochy. He has way too many lefties to juggle, the matchup argument doesn't work very well. But I also think the Giants message on Belt is completely muddled and inconsistent. They need to figure out another tact. Or somebody will just hit well and solve the problem for them.

    1. So you have no problem with his last two paragraphs? And did you see the line of discussion with DrB and Enos?

      He did point out what you saw as inconsistencies. But he clearly thinks that Belt should be starting right now and can hit very well, thank you. That's where I've been having a problem with his line of thinking.

    2. I thought it was a good discussion, yes I did see the lines down below. I think he took the time and gave you guys both thoughtful replies, and it became a agree to disagree type deal. There might have been some freebelt arguments that weren't his being attributed to him.

  3. One quick note: you've been quoting 30% as the K rate for Belt.

    Here's the fangraphs link, they have the %'s across the board:

    2010: in Single A he has a 17.4% BB to go with a 15% K. Obviously we love that. AA dips to 10.9% BB to go with 16.9% K, we also love it. AAA in 2010 was only 61 PAs, he gets a 21.3% BB and 24.6% K. Small sample, but the K% is high.

    2011: AAA is 19.8% BB and 22.2% K. Its high, but not to the 30% rate you've been quoting. 212 ABs.

    In the majors its quite high: 9.6% BB and 27.3% K in 209 ABs. The struggles with inside fastballs are a big concern. As is letting balls by that are tight strikes. In his defense are 2 factors: 1, no umpire is cutting a rookie a break, and 2, the Giants have actively encouraged him to swing, be aggressive, let it loose. Mixed bag for me.

    I am not completely convinced he has a hole in his swing. Worth monitoring of course. Its a strange thing for the team to declare. If its a public nudge because he's not making adjustments, OK. But this from a team that very publicly changed his swing, and a pliable kid who has agreed to do everything they've asked, willingly and quickly? I'm just not sure I can buy this one.

    1. That's where I get bit in the rear, straddling between the way I think the the way most people interpret stats.

      I'm a Ron Shandler Baseball Forecaster saber, through and through, if I'm to be labelled anything. He uses the term contact rate, which has a lot of strong research behind that, that his company has done.

      Also, I did make clear somewhere that I'm talking about Belt's AAA and majors results, that he was very good below.

      In 2010, in AAA, yes small samples, but consistent with his results in the majors and minors in 2011, he had a contact rate of 68.8%. Hence why I stupidly said 30% strikeout rate. But I forgot about the walks, which resulted in a strikeout rate of 24.5% per my BB-Ref #'s (I use them mostly).

      In 2011, contact rate of 71.5%, but K-rate of 22.1% in AAA, 69.5% contact rate in majors, K-rate of 27.3%.

      So far in 2012, 63.2% contact rate, K-rate of 30.4%.

      The good hitters threshold is 85% contact rate, so you can see that he's pretty horrible in making contact.

      Given his inability to make good contact regularly, it don't really matter how many walks he gets unless you are talking outlier 15-20% walk rate, as I analyzed on the Fangraph comment area. A walk is big deal to me, Bocock got a lot of walks, it is hitting that we want Belt to do, not take walks.

      That was another thing Enos kept on hammering on, he didn't even address Belt's strikeout issues, as if walking 10% (which is not really that great, frankly) warrants a player a starting job.

      If he doesn't have a hole, then why is he striking out so much and not making contact at a regular basis? If you can give me a good answer, I might join your neutral band of followers.

    2. We merry few, we band of neutrals? Hah.

      Just pointing it out to you, I know what you mean but you might get caught into a semantics statistics debate with others.

      We don't know yet for 2012. Too small a sample. He hits a hot streak, you know...

      I don't know exactly how the contact rate is getting calculated, so I can't comment on that.

      My answer on Belt is a mixed jumble, I can't give a good one. He isn't going to get any favors from umpires still, pitchers are going to attack inside with fastballs until he adjusts. Breaking balls to his back foot as well. I don't know if he's made that adjustment one way or the other. I've only seen about half his ABs on the season, I missed 2 of the 3 AZ games.

      But one consideration for the K rate has to be that the Giants have told him to be more aggressive. He is under orders. Bochy does not want to see anything near the zone go by. Is this good? Well, there are 2 sides to that argument.

      Sorry, that's all I have right now.

    3. OK, I was being lazy. Here it is...Contact rate (at-bats minus strikeouts, divided by at-bats) is a statistic that is far more stable and projectable. League level rates run about 80%. Our .300 hitters often come from those with contact rates greater than 90%. Batters with rates less than 70% typically have trouble keeping their batting average above .250.

      My answer to that would be, let's be careful about imposing a standard on Belt. 85% might be a lot to ask for his first couple of years. Pat the Bat was always a 75% guy, a three true outcomes guy. Now you want somebody better than Dave Kingman, Rob Deer and the like, and I appreciate that. But I think I lean more towards Sarris' view that he can be good as he is, and that he might have to build from learning at the Major League School of hard knocks at this point.

      Is he going to be a 300 hitter eventually? That would be fantastic, but I don't know if that is what Belt's game is about. We may just have to see what happens, as it happens.

    4. One thing occurred to me while waiting for the doctor: basically, for Belt to become the premiere hitter we think he can be, he needs to cut his strikeouts in half, in order to push his contact rate from roughly 70% to the 85% minimum that the best hitters achieve.

      Cut in half, that's a lot of fixing to do, and if that is not a sign of a hole, well, I am not sure what else would cause a hitter's strikeout rate to be so high. A fondness to swing at sliders?

    5. You make some good points Shankbone.

      I disagree with Sarris' view. As good as he is RIGHT NOW is a hitter who is striking out a lot and not making great contact when he is hitting the ball. His 830 OPS is a fantasy based on what Belt is doing RIGHT NOW.

      To me, it is kind of like the Vlad vs. the Seven Dwarves decision: do you want to go for mediocrity or do you want to go elite? We probably can win with Belt hitting 7-something OPS with the lineup we got. I would rather invest time/money in getting him to be more Vlad than 7 Dwarves.

      And I've still not seen any explanation what happens to 1B if Belt continues to hit as poorly as he has in 2011-12 and Huff is either sulking on the bench or traded away for a bag of balls (as some suggests).

      Yes, Sarris was pretty good in his discussion comments, unlike some authors, I agree, though honestly, I don't know what he's referring to about my prior comments to his other posts. My memory on that is not long enough, unfortunately.

      To me, it is not like he don't have something to learn in AAA. He needs to figure out how not to strike out in AAA still, let along MLB. We have an adequate stand-in for now in Huff/Pill/Posey at 1B.

      It is kind of like the "rub your tummy while patting your head" deal. It is hard to coordinate all that learning, while concentrating on the pitch coming in. The hitter really needs to "see ball, hit ball" and react, not think though the swing, which, in my mind, just screws everything up. So the way I see it, you throw him into AAA to figure out the "patting your head" part, so that he don't strike out so often to mediocre (or worse) pitchers, then he can get free rein to figure out the "rubbing the tummy" part in the majors. By that point, Huff should prove out to either be closer to career norms or that he truly reached his tipping point in 2011 and it's the end of his career.

    6. And that's another sticking point for me as well. Besides the other side's assumption that Belt will hit, there is their assumption that Huff won't.

      All they do is point to his age and say he's due to decline, clear the decks. Well, that was true for his 2009 season too, so how do they explain his 2010 season? I have seen no explanation how 2011 is different from 2009. I know they will probably say he wasn't old enough yet, but really, there was a great example of how career ends early right in front of our eyes: Aaron Rowand. So what is the difference?

      That's why I try to rely on stats, as that takes feelings and emotions more out of the equation (obviously, those will influence which stats one uses...). Looking at Huff objectively, he's not striking out, he's walking a lot, his ISO is very high, his main problem right now is a very abnormally low BABIP, almost half that of the average hitter. I don't see any talk that he has slowed down to Molina-speed, so I assume he's about where he was before, so that wouldn't explain the low BABIP either, and if it was weak hitting, then his ISO shouldn't be so high then. That all points, for me, to a correction upward for his batting line.

      Also, there was a qualitative explanation as well. Bochy singled out Huff as someone who didn't come into 2011 in the best of shape, partly due to World Series, but partly because he slacked off, which he owned up to (mostly, he hemmed and hawed at that characterization) and vowed to come in this year and be in the shape he was in 2010.

      And as I noted, people point to his poor April so far, but he had a bad April in 2010 as well. I have not seen an explanation how 2012 is so different from 2010, particularly given the good peripherals he's carrying right now. They want him out simply because he's old.

      And as research showed, there is a secondary peak in value by players in the mid-30's as the weaker players get retired while the good players continue to play. On that Sabean was praised in that article (I think that was THT).

      Huff had two great seasons out of the last four. It has been reported that the two seasons he was lousy was marked by him being out of condition, out of shape. Pre-2010 season, one of the beat writers interviewed one of Huff's former coaches and talked to him about his poor 2009 season, and that coach noted that Huff had reached the age where he wasn't young anymore and had to invest time and effort into getting in good shape, and noted that he thought that Huff looked good. And, as we know, he had a great 2010.

      And 2011 was not that bad in terms of peripherals. His strikeout rate was slightly higher than norms, but still at a good rate, close to the 85% contact rate that the best hitters are at. And his walk rate was right in there with his career norms. He was just not hitting for good contact, and as we now know, he was out of condition.

      But I don't see any discussion about that at all, and at a saber site to boot, all I get is that he's too old and/or Belt is better than Huff because ZiPS says so and/or Belt will be good because I think so.

    7. Now about Belt and peripherals, you say you can live with that, but here are the numbers straight out of Shandler's 2012 book.

      His BB/K is around 40%, and the average hitter in the 26-50% range was a .254 hitter in 2011 (been dropping in recent years, used to be around .260). So, only 14% of these hitters end up over .300 and 26% of them end up under .250.

      Only 4% of sub-.250 hitters with ratios under 50% will mature into .300 hitters the following year. That's the category Belt is in.

      Now, hitters with contact rates 66-70% averaged .229 in 2011 (he hit .225 and had a high 60's percentage) Because he walks a lot, that could bump him up to the .248 average for hitters with 66-75% contact rate and 6-10% walk rate.

      His contact rate, albeit in small samples, is 63% right now. The book notes that a contact rate of 65% or lower offers virtually no chance for a player to hit even .250, no matter how high a walk rate he has. The .300 hitters most often come from the group with a minimum 86% contact and 11% walk ratio (he was just under 10% in 2011). He's been right around that point, so that's another negative view of his future prospects.

      If he hits .250 and continues to walk at just under 10%, his OBP is .324. As I noted in the Fangraphs piece, he would need to raise his walk rate to roughly 15%, to get it into the better range. At 15%, his OBP would be around .360-ish. At 20%, it would be around .395-ish.

      That was Sarris' major point: "See! He walks, ergo, he's a good hitter!" But as I was trying to demonstrate, with such poor strikeout rates, he would need to bump his walk rate 50-100% to get it into the elite range that Sarris said he would be fine with (he noted .380 OBP).

      Am I the only one who sees that it would take a lot of development for Belt to jump that much in walks? Or that it would be much easier to get him to learn to avoid more strikeouts, as that benefit the player multiple ways, leading to higher batting average, great use of his power (walks are nice, but really, I want him hitting the ball and driving in guys with extra-base hits; walks only help OBP, hits helps both OBP and SLG, and thus both runs and RBI's).

      Realistically, Sarris' fine season of .380/.450/.830 is not really attainable by Belt as is. He's lucky to hit .250 (and thus far has been in the .220's) and even then, with a 10% walk rate, he's maybe, being generous a .330 OBP with .450 SLG tops, or .780 OPS. That's at best right now, given he's been hitting in the .220's without any sign of improvement, he's closer to .300 OBP with .400 SLG or .700 OPS.

      I think we can generally get somewhere in that range from Huff, at minumum, given how well his peripherals right now. Meanwhile, we can let Belt catch his breath out of the limelight in AAA, and work on getting things right, without as much pressure.

    8. And to drive home my point, Shandler's research shows that a hitter's contact rate is the better indicator as to how good a hitter he is, not his walk rate. That is additional evidence that can help separate degrees of goodness, but not good enough by itself. Contact rate and BB/K ratio (or Batting Eye as Shandler's group calls it) are the key metrics to use, the walk rate can be useful in delineating separation, but is not used at all in determining how good a hitter is or isn't.

  4. Interesting points. Let me try to address some of them. One thing that occurs to me is that Belt hasn't got his 2000 professional PAs yet, so its hard to know what type of hitter he will be just based on that fact. He only has a little over 1000 PAs as of right now, and the way things are working he will most likely end the year under 1500 PAs.

    The other thing that makes him hard to judge is this incredible adjustment the Giants made to him to change the type of hitter he can be. The college stats really become even more remote because of that.

    His Single A contact rate in 2010 was basically 81% and AA was 83%. I'm going to combine the 2 years of AAA, although that dings him because he had a very low BA in 2010, and was on his third level. That rate is 70.8%, a roughly 10% drop. But we're talking 213 ABs and 62 Ks. He K's 10 times less he's up to 75.5%. Its not a miniscule sample size, but most of it is coming on the heels of the Giants bouncing him back to Fresno with instructions to hit the damn ball.

    The samples are way too small for this year, but yes, he's been in the 68% contact rate range last year, and it would be nice for him to climb up to 75% this year as a sign of progress. We are talking about 207 ABs in the majors and 65 Ks, for both 2011 and 2012, 68.5%. To do my little take away, 10 K's less and you get 73.4%. Getting towards progress. Point? Well, he hasn't had enough ABs to tell for sure, and that rate could change with a few nudges here and there.

    One of his biggest strengths is that eye for the ball. That is where experience should fill in, both in terms of umps eventually not squeezing him, and being allowed to play his game. I think it'll even out, to where the Giants will get their aggressive swings on balls in the zone and Belt will get his picky pitches left by. Those 2 factors could be enough right there, but we won't know for sure...

    Everybody's an expert on the internet. I trend towards Belt doesn't have anything left to mess around about with the AAA pitchers. Has to be the real deal hollyfield now. But it is interesting he basically has the exact AB #s and K #s between AAA and the show. And I lean towards this hole in his swing being a PR backstop for the Giants more than being an actual problem, but I'll admit that he has had problems with the sliders to his back foot (like Nate did/does) and fastballs in.

    Don't know if he needs Fresno to deal with that though, and I didn't like the Giants going that route. I really like Sarris point that this is a guy who's bent over backwards for them and wants a starting job, why would he suddenly resist whatever they're telling him? And that goes to my point, this guy did everything they asked, winter ball, came correct to spring training, hit well, etc.

    Didn't see Sarris quoting those numbers of a 380 OBP. Must have been in the discussion. I will agree with you, that is extremely optimistic, I think its gotta be 30 points lower optimistically. Huff issues in a sec, I'm gonna get the long winded cut off from blogger.

  5. Got a correction, his low BA in 2010 doesn't matter with contact rates, my bad. Also I was saying I don't like the Giants going that route of criticizing his swing in public and not sending him to Fresno right then and there. He's close enough that he'll make it anyways? Well, then don't waste your breath on a leak to a beat reporter.

    Huff is keeping his k/BB ratios good, his babip low and not really putting any hurt on the ball yet. We'll see about the stats, but I am not impressed early on. I do think he deserves a chance, and I don't think the age is the factor that will sink or swim him. The issue is will he catch up to fastballs/capitalize on mistake pitches and not roll the ball over like he did last year.

    Its pretty obvious Huff's star is sinking fast though. In a way, a rotation would be a better way to take the pressure off of all these guys - Belt, Huff and Schierholtz. Bochy will get mocked for "playing the hot hand" but it does have its benefits, it keeps players fresh, it might avoid some nagging injuries, and its a long grind of a season. 400 ABs for Nate, Huff and Belt might be the right combo once things sort.

    It comes down to me as a grey situation. Not black and white. I wish the dialogue would change with fans - these can all be good and useful players for the Giants. Mainly I'd like to at least get to 18 games 1/9th of the season and really more like 36 games 2/9th in to see what's what before knee jerking it. Then again, Bochy has been a bit knee jerky so far. And he does have a history going back to San Diego with this, rookies have to perform when called on. Its a short rope.

  6. I don't think strikeouts are the end-all be-all to the Belt vs Huff debate. Remember Edgardo Alfonso? He hardly ever struck out!

    1. Good point. So what's the money stat for Huff's holding the line? OPS to 800 or bust?



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