Friday, March 01, 2013

Your 2013 Giants: Give me a mean Belt any day

I recently saw a Dodger's fan get all upset because Giants fans were going onto Dodger boards and celebrating with trash talk.   He was especially upset with Belt's comment about the Dodger's chemistry, or lack thereof, so he took to trashing Belt, noting that weak power hitting firstbasemen usually don't get to start for championship teams, noting his low for a good firstbaseman .781 OPS.

ogc thoughts

After I pointed out his hypocrisy of taking the low road and trashing Belt (and Giants fans) in a post where he's upset about Giants fans doing the same, I noted that Belt actually was  basically an average NL firstbaseman, who collectively had a mean of .778 in 2012.  That's roughly 2 WAR (apparently he's not as good defensively as people have been characterizing him as, because both UZR and BB-Ref has him negative in 2012;   oddly, his DRS is positive, but because it is below average, his defensive WAR is negative).  And that's what an average player produces.  And given that in our lineup, he's batting 6th or 7th most of the time, that's actually very good for the Giants.

People always focus on positional norms when they look at their team's players.  The better way is to look at them from the lineup perspective.  So what that our firstbaseman doesn't hit like the prototypical firstbaseman?  We have a catcher who hits like a firstbaseman (and a thirdbaseman to boot!  And a RF!).  So Belt normally hits 6th or 7th, depending on the opposing pitcher (but normally a platoon thing, 6th RHP, 7th LHP).

The average 6th place hitter in the NL hit .262/.327/.421/.748 (159 ISO) and the average 7th place hitter hit  .251/.311/.402/.712 (151 ISO).  In 2012, Belt hit .275/.360/.421/.781 (146 ISO).  He gets on base much more than most hitters in those lineup positions, plus his power is right around average, and more importantly, his OPS is much higher than either lineup position produces, and we know that each point of OBP is more valuable than SLG in producing runs.

He was a great asset to us offensively last season and if he continued to hit "only" as well as he did in 2012, the Giants will be fine with it, not looking to replace him as the Dodger fan intimates.  Heck, his OPS is good for any lineup position other than 3rd or 4th, he would have still been a good 5th place hitter (.258/.326/.430/.756, 162 ISO) if it wasn't that we had a better one in Pence (he was historically better, and actually better with RISP, which is more important).

Furthermore, Belt showed good progress during the season, he actually got his contact rate up above 85% for a long stretch of games, before petering out, and his power rose as he learned and got better with his hitting.  He just needs to keep up that progress in 2013 and he could be good enough to bat in the middle of the lineup, only he can't because we already have Sandoval, Posey, Pence there.  He'll be like when we added Bumgarner to Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez, that just gave us riches of pitching, and he would give us riches of hitting if he grew some more.


  1. I think Belt will continue to improve big time. The talent is there. Also, I watched every game. I do not see how his defense was not above average. It seemed really good to me. I felt much better with Belt at first than, Huff, Posey or Pablo.

    1. Yes, I totally agree, I think it is a matter of time he puts it all together.

      I should have also noted that defensive metrics are prone to huge swings, he was considered OK in 2011, though not great defensively. Also, I realized now that I was looking at his overall defensive value and that included his poor LF fielding, but still, given how little he played that position and low relatively low the seasonal rate is, there is no way he is rated great by that metric.

      But to your point, he's probably better than the alternatives, though I would not have a problem having Pablo play 1B full-time, he sounds good fielding it from the radio previously.

  2. Will young Brandon stop flashing attitude to umpires after getting rung up on marginal called third strikes? I am curious who UZR likes at 1B, because to my lyin' eyes Belt is top 3 in the league already on the defensive side. He turns 25 in the middle of April! That is the key, young and plenty of room to improve. And now that meeaaan Bruce Bochy has seen the light... the sky might be the limit.

    1. Here are the leaders by UZR:

      He ranked 12th out of 18 qualified 1Bmen by UZR. By DRS, he was 7th, in the third tier. First tier, Teixeira and A-Gon. Second tier, Votto, LaRoche, Pujols. Then Loney and Belt.

      Yes, that is the key he is still very young.

      I would characterize that more as Belt has seen the light. Bochy clearly wanted to play Belt, as he kept on using him, else he could have sat him more often and play other people there (in particular, Huff when he was around, but Pill was there too, and they probably could have played Arias there as well, if they wanted to). Belt started 102 games at 1B, another 4 in LF, and 145 games in total.

      The problem has been that Belt would not change to what the coaches were telling him to do. Which is odd because it was the coaches changes that made him the phenom he was in 2010. The beat writers had been talking about that need to change advice, so the fans knew about it, but then Belt announces mid-season that he went in and watched some tapes of his and figured that out on his own, just showed how in denial he was and obstinate he was.

      And his final take on his improvement last year was that his season turned around when he stopped worrying about this stats and worrying more about the team. Hopefully that continues this season, then the sky will be the limit. For now, I'll take some high mountain tops, that would be good enough for me.

      I mean, we all know that he struggled for a lot of the season, yet overall he hit .275/.360/.421/.781, which is still pretty good in general (just not in comparison with 1B). So he was good in spite of his struggles. He should be taking the next step in 2013, I truly believe that, barring injury.

      What I've been hoping for is a Votto-lite version from Belt: good BA, good OBP, good ISOp/SLG, somewhere in the high 800 OPS range, teens SB. He's already doing the BA and OBP and SB, so the next step is him turning some of those doubles into homers, and boosting his SLG into the mid 400's and his OPS into the 800's.

    2. This reminds me of one of the Gints scouts, who said something along the lines of "we have guys we pay a helluva lot of money to work on hitting". The players have to take ownership of their own body of work. Its a two way street there. I also think of Will Clark's line to Belt, which is a version of "don't worry be happy" - get yourself a pitch to hit and wack the piss out of it. How the dialogue became that the Giants are incompetent with hitting is beyond me. Its just nice that has gone underground again, like the arguments about Sabean not being able to build an offense.

      Looking forward to Belt doing some damage this year. I bet there will be some big time slumps, because I agree with you that he's a thinker, but there should be some good streaks as well.

    3. Well, it's easy to fall into when the team is struggling for offense during the rebuilding period, and you know how people just like to think that things continues linearly. That's the easy way to think.

      Yeah, I like that both went back underground. I mean, sure, he had Bonds before, but he got all the other pieces that helped the team 1) be among the leaders the NL in runs scored in the early 2000's and 2) more importantly, win with Bonds, these people forget that it was hard to win with Bonds before Sabean and that you can't have a great offense based on one guy, just see the end of Bonds career with Giants for that, right?

      Oh yeah, I expect the good with the bad with Belt for now, I think you have to expect that, it wasn't like he was totally locked in and unbeatable at the end of 2012. He'll have to put in a full season of mainly goodness before I don't expect him to have some big time slumps.

      And who knows, that could be the way he develops. I can accept that if he's hitting .800 OPS roughly at least and providing good defense at 1B, that is all we need from him right now to be a very good team. If he reaches his potential, that's just gilding the lily, in my mind.

  3. I wonder if anyone has done a study of the patterns that rookies are likely to manifest at bat. Logically, I would guess, one would expect a period of unprojectible stats, in which the rookie is feeling his way against pitchers who don't yet know how to pitch to him most effectively; then, a bad spell when word is out among pitchers around the league, and the rookie has to adjust to whatever is hardest for him to hit, and his confidence wavers; and finally, stats that begin to be projectible in terms of his MLB future. If this is a general pattern, it seems foolish to use Belt's full-season average, in a year when he was pretty much a rookie. What is more relevant is his improvement. (The same holds for Crawford.) Belt raised his BA forty points in the second half of 2012 while maintaining a very good OBP. Crawford raised his BA only twenty points in the second half of 2012, but then his OBP went up by forty and his slugging by thirty-five. For rookies, the rate of increase strikes me as having a peculiar predictive weight.

    I take your point, OGC, about looking to a role in a batting order rather than, or certainly as well as, an evaluation by field position. But as you also say, BB may offer his team added flexibility as to where to put him in a batting order as he begins to exceed the norms for the place in the batting order where he served in 2013.

    1. Not on rookies per se, but a saber who went by the name "pizza cutter" studied how many PA that a hitter or pitcher had to accumulate before certain key metrics became statistically significant. BP did an update on it about a year or two ago.

      Wow, thanks for asking, as it appears he has updated his study, after two years working for an actual baseball team, not sure if there is a connection, but here is a link to the article:

      Yeah, basically I agree. For any prospect, unless he comes out and never stops, kind of like Bonds, there is a need to dissect his performances. I would not even say that there is any general pattern. I think I've seen almost every pattern there is (in an general sense), and I don't think there is any way to ease the analysis, trying to understand a particular prospect will require specific analysis covering many different facets of his performance - and given that it was not great overall, there should be areas of foulness to go with the goodness, if any.

      Generally, for both Belt and Crawford, I take great heart in the fact that while their first two seasons were not world beating, 1) they were productive, and 2) they improved as the season went on, in one way or another. Sure, there were the one step back (no power on Belt's part) to go with the two steps forward (Belt hitting for average and improving his contact rate). And yes, their contact rate is a particularly strong predictive tool.

    2. thanks for the link. I like those stats stabilization studies.

      How many of Belt's K's were swinging versus called?

      Crawford improved a lot. Schulman recently tweeted this, I found it interesting: Former Reds and Nats GM Jim Bowden is here for XM radio and predicts Brandon Crawford will get his average up to .270 this year. Bowden watched Crawford pick grounders during batting practice and said he "has to" win a Gold Glove this year. Also said Crawford's name was debated a lot in the Nats' draft war room in 2008. #sfgiants

    3. I still haven't figured out all those columns on Fangraphs for hitters and pitches, so I don't know.

      I expect Crawford to have a good BA in that .270 range as he becomes comfortable being a major leaguer. His contact rate is pretty good especially considering how bad his numbers looked in the minors. Then I expect his power to kick in and he'll be a combo of Aurilia's offense and Uribe/LeMaster's defense (except perhaps even better on both ends).

      Thank goodness we got him instead of Nats. I'm sure he's happy now that he had a poor junior season, making him fall from Top 10 overall pick consideration into the Giants hands. But that must have been tough going from a $2M bonus possibility to around a half mil. But you can't put money on a World Series ring and there are great players in Giants history who don't have one, but they can never take that away from him, that he was on one of the Giants World Series championship teams.

  4. From the way Belt is tearing up the Cactus League, add in his pretty darn good second half last year and it feels like it's starting to add up to a Matt Williams-like career trajectory.

    I'm going to go with the eye test and say that Belt is a well above averate fielder at 1B and it will show up in the UZR as he gets a bigger sample size. I wonder how reliable UZR's are for first basemen? I know they are not good at all for catchers.

    1. Ha, this was the first time I didn't bring that up, but in my prior defenses of Belt, I've noted that it took Matty three seasons before he put it all together and was hitting well in the majors. Given how well he did in the minors, I think it is just a matter of time, if he can just not let his mind get in the way of his talent.

      I agree, there are too many people who view his fielding as top notch to not think that the UZR is not accurate this time. Not sure about UZR reliability in general, let alone 1B. But I do know that I've see some good fielders have a great career in UZR but with one year of stink: is it possible for a good fielder to be very good most years then have a terrible season? Yes.

      No fielding metrics is good for catcher right now, we are still in the 19th century as far as they go, I think, in fulling accounting for all that a catcher does for the defense (including handling pitchers). But I've seen a lot of good studies and with Field F/X coming into greater usage in the coming years, I think that there will be leaps and bounds in that area, for sure.

  5. OT: small blurb in mlbtr about the Gints asking the Tribe for bearded closer Chris Perez. We are only privy to what leaks out. I thought Perez might be a deadline target last year. I'd keep an eye on him still, if Cle doesn't surprise they will be sellers. Looks like Wilson is not getting any MLB attention, we will see if his pride buckles. In the meantime I wouldn't mind Perez if romo cant hold up to a full year, along with the gang. I would not give up much for him though.

    1. Nothings ever OT for me, as long as it's about the Giants. :^)

      I saw the rumors on that in other places too. I have to take that as a negative reflection on Romo's health in the bullpen, maybe his arm is cranky like Wilson's in 2011.

      I think that Wilson's team of advisors planned it this way, because they have made the point of saying publicly that they are not going to pursue anything until he's healthy. Given that, most teams are not really going to be that interested in him until Team BWeez publicly announce that he's healthy and ready to play.

      But they have been sending out mixed signals. One moment they are mad that the Giants didn't give him the minimum arbitration offer, next minute they are unwilling to talk money until Wilson is healthy. Can't have it both ways.

      I would not give up much for him either, particularly given that he's injured right now and nursing something.

  6. So OGC - noticed today that Furcal needs TJ surgery... I remember wasting some time on a couple Giants blogs (and MCC) discussing SS options, a lot of Giants fans wanted to grab Furcal, I took the opposing view. The injury risk, the lost step, what not. While every mis-step of the Giant FO is remembered for years and years, the non-moves are cast off (unless those players bust out, although they have to do that consistently, JJ Hardy comes to mind as a guy who was amazing for a year while the Tejada/Cabrera shenanigans were going on). So the Cards rolled the dice on Furcal/Beltran/Berkman to supplement, and its worked out that Berkman is leaning retirement, Furcal is done and Beltran is the last guy standing. As I view the Cards as primary competition, these things are pretty important. They have a major hole in the middle of their infield. Now they have a excellent farm system to supplement, and more bats then us, but they have a big weakness right now. Very happy Scutaro signed up, for next year, the most important year, and then we'll see what's what with the prospects. Meanwhile, St Louis is stuck with their prospects and journeymen options.

    Last year I said they would have to get creative and they did with the Melky/Pagan trades and trusting their drafting and development with Belt/Crawford/Sanchez. This year they just invested their profits to retain talent. I think having Pagan and Scutaro to provide leadership and above league average expectations in up the middle positions was a very good move, especially with them exposed to market forces.

    1. I heard that too, wow, thanks for pointing out their overall problems with older players. Another inaccurate Sabean meme crushed to dust. Many Giants fans just don't seem to understand that rebuilding a team takes time and opportunity, you can't just get young all at once without hurting your overall chances of winning the championship, as 2010 showed, but with time, patience, and a little luck, you can become young and yet still competitive.

      Starters over 32: Scutaro (37), Zito (35), Vogelsong (35), Lopez (34).

      Starters under 30: Posey (26), Belt (25) Crawford (26), Sandoval (26), Blanco (29), Cain (28), Bumgarner (23), Lincecum (29).

      Starters 30 or 31: Pagan (31) and Pence (30); Romo (30).

      I agree with your last paragraph.

  7. OT: Great news! It was reported that Angel has been assigned to San Jose but the Giants haven't ruled out a promotion to AA!

    That speaks well to Angel getting into good enough shape the past year plus his retention of his skills up to now.

    And really, why not test him out in AA? He was doing well in SJ before hitting the skids, but perhaps that was his injury that eventually shut him down for the season, a strained quadricep. And at his age, if he can handle AA, then he returns to the elite prospect status that he had before, and if he gets demoted to SJ, then that's what everyone was hopeful that he would make anyway, at best, as Augusta also looked very possible too.

    Also, presumably the Giants coaches and scouts saw his bat and other performances, and should have a good feel for where he is in terms of baseball preparedness for AA, should they make that move.

    Also interesting is that while Panik was sent down, Noonan is still around.

    1. OGC - just got back from ST, have to say Noonan looked great. Brock Bond did as well, I liked our home growns more than the reclamation guys. Noonan had a very nice triple and made 3 plays at 3B. He has a nice profile with the 2B/SS/3B. He definitely has the arm for 3B, which Tanaka does not. That might give him the leg up. Bond looked solid as well. Patient hitter with a good idea of what he can do with the ball.

      Our pitching... Ugh. Petit was miserable, against really young Royals hitting. He wasn't helped out by the defense, Belt looked hungover to be honest. But he wasn't fooling anybody and got squared up all over the joint. I think Heston/Kickham are the 6th starter options at this point. The good news though is that Petit ain't getting claimed on waivers so the Gints should be able to sneak him by. Scott Proctor looked bad as well. Ram Ram had good velocity but got touched up a bit as well.

      Seeing them both in the flesh, I think I lean slightly towards Kieschnick over Peggs, like I have before. He has a nice first step in the OF, and a good arm. Big boy but moves well. Brett Pill had a stinger so I didn't get to see him. Nice guy though, he was signing autographs for everybody.

      Got to heckle Agent Ned, but not too much heckling, saw him out at a steakhouse. That guy is solid gold. Trying to shop your extra 3 starting pitchers? Good luck with that.

      Overall, despite weather, ST was a fun experience.

    2. Thanks for the rundown! Sounds like you had a great experience in spite of the rail and hail conditions.

      Thanks especially for the Noonan news, you know how much I like him. And particularly since it was pretty good review for him. I always assumed his arm was the reason he was always expected to play 2B. But if he has the arm for 3B, that probably means the issue with him at SS is his range, then, I guess.

      Yeah, it seems like utility is Noonan's route, but I still think that he could develop the bat to start, so I hope that he gets another full season in AAA before getting the utility role with us. I want to see how he does in AAA now that he has a year under his belt.

    3. And Noonan does it again! Pav's tweet: Noonan made one of the best plays of spring on liner down 3B line. Hit a triple earlier. Might be sneaking up on vets in utility inf. race

      That's a hard call, because he's already had a full year at Fresno. One thing about him that is an advantage over Bond is he has a little bit of pop, in addition to the 2b/ss/3b. But Bond can switch hit... If they are close I could see the Gints taking Bond over Noonan to give Noonan another full year of ABs.

  8. OGC - take a look when you get a sec and give me some feedback, man:

    1. Looks good overall. Love the blog name and it fits perfectly with what you intend to write on. I like the color contrast. Not to be grammarian, but you do have some wrong word choices, which I'm fine with because I'm used to it, but you will probably get the inane comments about it from others not familiar with your fine writing. Just be prepared for the negative comments and hold your ground, this is blogging, not English 101.

      You know me, I disagree with some of the stuff you put out there regarding some of the stuff Sabean did. In the past, I thought others would appreciate my honest and personal disagreements, as I felt that it would help them improve, but I think that got me more Frenemies out of that than people who appreciated it, so I've stopped going to other Giants sites for the most part, except for a select few. I like you and your work and we've agreed to disagree, so I'll leave those prior disagreements out of my comments on your site, and just move forward.

      I look forward to your discussions of the possible draftees for the 2013 draft, they are critical to keeping the line moving forward on our current core set of players, for even if the odds are low of finding a core player with that pick, there is still good odds of finding a complementary player, and those are important to fill in cheap slots amongst our expensive core set of players.

    2. Like the links you provide, I would throw in First Inning as they have minor league splits as well, like Minor League Central.

      Given your focus on development, it might be nice to have a post/link on the side where you talk about what you like about the different sites for development info, one site has college stats, another cape cod, another minor league splits, what not.

    3. Thanks OGC! Actually I put in something I wrote a way back to allow myself to look critically at my thinking - I have most likely been way too harsh on Sabean and have reconsidered that in most cases. So I don't think there is as much disagreement as you think, but also I encourage you to call me on things as you see it. We're all good with the agree to disagree.

      Haven't heard of First Inning, I'll check it out. And you're right, the cape cods stat pointstreak would be good. I've linked to a bunch of those sites before writing on a popular forum site...

      Looks like Pill has to have surgery on that knee. I'm feeling bad for him, I thought he'd provide some good competition to Gillespie.

    4. You are very welcome Shankbone, happy to help out in any way, just let me know.

      Yeah, thinking more about it, a good post to start with early in your blog life would be one where you introduce your readers to your favorite sources of development, scouting, and amateur scouting websites, since you'll probably be referencing them often in your blog posts. That would also introduce them to your mindset on how you approach drafting and player development.

      If your views have changed, then you might consider removing some of them or at least adding a comment to them where you note where you have changed your opinion and such. That would be instructive to readers about your evolution in opinion as to why they might perhaps change their opinion. Or at least that's what I convinced myself when I do that. :^)

      Ugh, too bad about Pill, I was rooting for him.

    5. Good suggestion. I think at the beginning of the year I found the moves they did very interesting, but I admit I was eyeing the HRs and thinking Earl Weaver style and thinking we were going to come up short. Hah! We sure did come up short. Turns out it didn't matter. I assume you're talking about my post about building an offense. The post on drafting college/hs/jc isn't too critical of the greybeards.

      I like Pill. Short swing. Not enough patience. Hackers need some love too. You hit him 6th or 7th, not a big deal. Hope the maniscus can heal quick.

      Noonan made ANOTHER great play according to the beats twitter feed...

    6. Shankbone, reading your Lefty post, and there are different fonts all over the place. I have the same problem, it usually happens when cutting from one place and pasting into another. The way to combat that is to paste when in HTML mode, so that you can see any extras that get pasted in, as well (usually not though), then switching back to the regular Advanced Edit mode, where you don't have to stick Enters or Paragraphs into your text to get to the next line.

    7. Total mess with the fonts, and you nailed it on why its that way. I was trying to cheat on the article and use stuff I wrote before. I'm just going to type up original stuff and leave the past in the past. besides, that means I can be wrong about new stuff, instead of wrong about old stuff! But I did nail the trade for Pagan and wanting Scutaro. Always have that on the ol interwebz jacket!

      Thanks for taking a look at that.

    8. You are going to have times where you feel like you wrote a pearl somewhere and want to post it on your blog. So I would not stop doing that, you just need to be extra careful.

      And true dat, I once was doing a bunch of pastes and my format went crazy and going into HTML just showed spaghetti coding that I could not untangle, I had to start from scratch, got rid of everything.

      Np dude, got yer back!

  9. I tried offering a longish comment on Shankbone's blog, but when I tried to get it thru as campanari, I couldn't find "Name/URL" to do so. I'll regret not being able to comment as that blog progresses.

    1. Or can I do this by using Open ID?
      The gist of my comment, which referred to the Spring Training blog entry specifically, was that I was put off by the careless proofreading (English 101, but I take that as indicative of a more general sloppiness) and the artificial pumping up of a breezy style for presenting banality; and, per contra, I looked forward to the kind of new info and sharp analysis that one so often gets from Shankbone, and to a distinctive point of view and level of expertise that he has, and that would distinguish this blog from the sort of stuff one can find, if one wants, in the blogs of (say) Trevor Cole or Bryan Rosa.

    2. Campanari - let me see what I can do re the commenting. I think there is openID/livejournal/typepad/wordpress/AIM and blogspot login options.

      On the English 101/proofreading thanks for the constructive criticism, its definitely something for me to work on. Two factors: 1, I want to get something down quick, and I have 3 kids rocking to boot; and 2, I've always had a slightly breeezy style. But I think its valid to want good proofreading and well written pieces.

      Thanks for reading! I always enjoy your commentary.

    3. Campanari - I fooled around with the settings some, give it another shot when you have a minute, hopefully it'll go through now. Thanks, Shank

  10. OGC - you got the news right? I expect a post!

    1. Yes indeed and post I shall.

      Just been SUPER BUSY with new role at work, WILL get one out Friday.



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