Monday, May 18, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: What the Offense Needed Was A Belt of Belt Belting

I commented elsewhere on Brandon Belt's contributions, making it into a post here (with updates, natch!)

ogc thoughts

People have been upset about Belt's streakiness, but I think, at least lately, it is mostly to do with injuries, and that his recent short bad spell, was just that, and that he showed his maturity as a hitter by getting out of it so fast.  As everyone knows, Belt's hitting have come and go and come back, but early in his career, it was weeks if not months before he figured out how to get back to hitting goodness. This time, he only took 3 games or so.

And many people don't realize that he was hitting well for weeks before his cold streak, there are few hitters who don't go cold over a 3 game streak. He was really cold for his first six games back from injury, but starting April 18th to May 10th, he hit .407/.493/.576/1.069 in 69 PA, 19 games (16 starts). Even with the 3 bad games in there, from April 18th, still hitting .347/.427/.496/.913, which is still elite level hitting. And, of course, the last three games sent his OPS skyrocketing even higher, he is now hitting .395/.464/.640/1.103 in 25 games, 95 PA since April 18th.

Whereas people didn't really pay much attention to how well he was hitting probably until he reached .300 batting average on May 8th, weeks later.   Meanwhile, from April 18th to April 30th, roughly two weeks, he already was hitting .400/.516/.480/.996 and helping the offense immensely.   But people didn't really start to pay attention until 3 weeks after he started hitting the way that he can, which is very well.

Which is why the Giants have believed in him from the time they drafted him, to while all the prospect experts starting to get excited about Belt and acted like they discovered him, to while he struggled because he would not implement most of the Giants recommendations until late in the 2013 season, after which he hit .346/.406/.576/.982 (which is very close to his hitting since April 18th once he got healthy and got back into the swing of things). And even last season, he was hitting .264/.317/.504/.820 until he was HBP. And if you combine his last bit of 2014 once he got his stroke back, plus his playoffs, his numbers will be somewhere in the mid-to-high 800's OPS.

Belt Return Made Sandoval Expendable

People were all worried about losing Pablo's production, but his OPS the past few years weren't all that good, he was streaky as well.   Meanwhile, Belt has been one of the Giants best hitters for years now, even when he was struggling at times in 2012 and 2013.  Thus, not having Belt last season was actually a huge blow to our offense, which many don't seem to notice since they eventually made the playoffs anyway, and basically, in 2015, he replaces Pablo in the middle lineup, which means we actually got an upgrade offensively vs. 2014, not a downgrade. That's why I haven't been worried about losing Pablo's bat.

Unfortunately, we lost Pence's and we got exposed having McGehee hitting 6th instead of 7th or 8th when both Posey and Belt didn't hit for much power. But now Belt has been hitting for power, Posey too, plus Pence is now back, and as long as we got our top guys in our lineup - Aoki, Panik, Pagan, Posey, Pence, Belt -  our offense should be pretty good, definitely above average in his low scoring environment.  And I would argue that Crawford has moved himself up to being a top guy in the lineup, making it that much more potent, top to bottom.

Belt Has Been the Key to Our Winning Again

And Belt has been crucial to our winning, batting 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, depending on the pitcher, lineup, and where he is currently.   Since Belt started hitting April 18th, the Giants have gone 16-9 with him in the game, 17-9 in total, 14-8 in games that he started in.   His hitting ignited our return to winning.

Some might say Posey was the catalyst of that, but Posey was not a big part of that.   From April 18th to April 30th, when the winning began, he only hit .300/.333/.400/.733.  And from May 1st to May 12th, Posey hit a nice but not great .313/.436/.438/.874, as a 125 ISO does not drive in that many runs, as evidenced by his 1 RBI (but 8 runs scored, per his great OBP).  His .333/.333/.583/.917 with two homers in the past 5 games have helped a lot though, as he drove in 7 RBI, while scoring 3 runs.

We Are All Brandons

If there was anyone also key to winning again, it would be Brandon Crawford .  Since April 18th, he has hit .345/.439/.607/1.046 in 98 PA, 26 games played, 24 starts.  4 homers in 84 AB, with 16 runs and 20 RBI was pretty sweet too (Belt himself only had 15 runs scored, 12 RBI and 3 homers).  Together, the Brandons have led the team to our great winning since the losing streak ended, them plus our good starting pitching in that time frame, scoring 31 runs and driving in 32 RBI in those 26 games.

In the 26 games since the end of the losing streak, our starters have had 13 DOM starts and 4 DIS starts for a nice 50% DOM and 15% DIS.  This is good pitching.  And they had averaged 60% DOM in the last three turns of the rotation (their streak ends with this turn, as Bumgarner, Vogelsong, and Heston didn't have any DOM starts, with Hudson and Lincecum yet to pitch).

But that pitching, while good, was not good enough for a team to build a nice 17-9 run, that was only supportive.  It was the Brandons' collective great hitting, both over 1.000 OPS since April, that has drove this winning stretch, scoring and driving in all those runs together.  Though, as always, it takes a team to win, and, in addition to the good pitching, good hitting from Blanco, Posey, Duffy, Panik greatly contributed, as well as timely hitting from Maxwell, who contributed 11 runs scored and 14 RBI (and 3 HRs) since April 18th, though he only had an OPS in the low 700's.


  1. What Pablo did in the lineup was unique. Besides being a switch hitter, he was (is) a hard guy to plan your pitching array to get him out. Sometimes he would golf a ball in the dirt for a hit, and sometimes he would get a hit on a pitch over his head, (Marvin Benard style). He often made contact, and he gave the opposition something problematic. The team definitely misses his production at third, but he made his choice and eventually the giants will show their resiliency without him.

    1. I agree that what he did in the lineup was unique. I've been writing about that since he came into the majors and used that as part of the justification for keeping him around for the final years of his contract while there were a lot of people who wanted to dump him because he was fat. I was a strong Sandoval supporter while he was with us.

      The problem with all these positives is that they don't mean anything if he isn't hitting for all that much, which is part of why people were complaining about losing him. He was not a good hitter last season, overall. His OPS had gone down year by year since 2011. And that's fine if he's making under $10M per season, but not when he wants "Pence Plus" money.

      And, yes, the team misses his production there, but is replacing it with the production at 1B, which was lacking last season, because of Belt's injury, and particularly production at 2B, where Panik is a huge improvement. We also should have better production in CF, with Pagan healthy, because it was lacking last season.

      And while Panik isn't the bad ball hitter Sandoval is (but remember, we still have Pence), he is a very good hitter who also don't strikes out much, and, better than Pablo, gets a lot of walks while also hitting for a high average, and pitchers have to deal with his toughness in making hard contact and not missing many for strikeouts.

    2. And being a switch-hitter don't matter much when he's hitting .199/.244/.319/.563 against LHP, as he was last season. That's worse than what McGehee hit vs. LHP last season, though his is bad too, also under .600 OPS. But he at least was better.

  2. Belt has done great in the past 10 games, but he frankly was a nonentity before that. Or in other words, the bulk of the Giants 26 and 10 record (after the disastrous first 14 games) has little to do with the recent Belt hot streak.
    Much more correct is Brandon Crawford's performance, but more importantly Matt Duffy and Aoki. Pagan has been hitting, but not terribly above or below what he has been. Posey was muddling through (for him) but has gotten hot just about when Belt started streaking.
    In the meantime, it has been the demotion of McGehee which most clearly illustrates why a really bad hitter in the 3-4-5 positions just kills you. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if McGehee's demotion to 8th place correlated with the Giants winning.
    Nothing against the guy and I hope he turns things around in AAA so that he can pull an Ishikawa in the playoffs this year, but his hitting was so bad it was actually dragging down the whole team.
    As for Duffy - he's totally replaced Sandoval - and in fact is doing better so far. No question at all that Sandoval's departure - so far - has had no negative effect on the Giants' offense or defense.
    Now they just need to license the Duff-man logo from the Simpsons, and Sandoval's impact on the Giants' organization will be completely erased.

    1. OK, let's take a look at your statements.

      Last 10 days, that covers May 20-29 given your time stamp. His batting line was .256/.325/.615/.941, with 3 HR in 39 AB.

      From the start of this streak to May 19, his batting line was .382/.455/.618/1.073, with 3 HR in 89 AB. If that is a non-entity, please, I want him to be a non-entity for an entire season! And I would say that any hitter hitting 1.073 OPS over 89 AB and 26 games, covering a 17-9 record during that time, was very much involved with his team winning a lot of those games during that time.

      Matt Duffy during that period that Belt was a non-entity during our winning? His batting line was .313/.340/.354/.694 to May 19th, during that period. I'm not sure what that would make Duffman compared to the 1.073 OPS that Belt put up. He also had no homers.

      During the past 10 days, Duffy hit .282/.333/.436/.769, with 2 HR in 39 AB. Again, worse than Belt.

      Aoki during Belt's non-entity period: .275/.345/.382/.727. In the 10 day period: .457/.525/.571/1.096, so I would say he was very important in the last 10 days, but Belt had a .941 OPS, so he wasn't shabby either.

      McGehee didn't bat 8th until May 8th. By that point, the Giants were 11-6 since that losing streak, so wrong again.

      Duffy was hitting .294/.336/.403/.739 at the time of your statement. Sandoval hit .279/.324/.415/.739 last season. Basically equal in terms of OPS. Defensively, however, Sandoval added 0.6 WAR over the whole season in 2014, but Duffy so far is -0.4 WAR, which prorates to around -1.2 WAR. However, the good news there is that most of that negative damage happened at 2B and SS, though he's still negative defensively at 3B, just not horrible like the other positions. In any case, positive beats negative, meaning, no, Duffy has not replace Sandoval offensively and defensively.

      Wow, now I know why you want to stay anonymous, if I was saying stuff without knowing what I'm saying, my blog wouldn't have lasted longer than a month before everyone would have left or left nasty comments about my "analysis". There wasn't even one correct statement in anything you stated here! Well, other than that Belt did great in the past 10 games, but even there, he was way better OPS previously. Oh, and you agreed with me about Crawford's performance, but agreeing with me isn't much to say about, I don't think, given your other statements.

      I will agree that a really bad hitter in the 3-4-5 positions just kills you. That is why I discussed Posey's issues there. However, McGehee only had 4 starts in the #5 position, none in 3 or 4, and his last game batting there was on April 21st, which basically coincides with the Giants start of winning, but, to be fair, the Giants were 2-2 in his starts batting 5th, but 3-8 when he batted lower during those first 15 games, so if anything, that would seem to suggest that he should have been starting 5th.

    2. I had to stop because I was worried I was over my limit.

      To be clear, I have nothing against any of the players I listed stats for. I was just kicking the tires and seeing if any of the statements held water. I wasn't too surprised that they didn't, but was surprised by how badly the statements ended up looking like. Wow!

      So, to be absolutely clear (and people wonder why I write long comments and posts, I anticipate when and where I might get attacked next, because I seem to get tag teamed all the time):

      I like Duffy at 3B, was hoping he would be there eventually, and I like McGehee too, still think he can contribute, it is not like Duffy is a non-entity like Belt was said to be, if McGehee finds his stroke, he and Duffman will be seeing a lot of AB the rest of the season. I still like Duffman in super-utility role, but McGehee has experience at 2B also, and probably they could both do that kind of mix and matching to give Crawford and Panik rest, while giving them ABs.

      I like Posey (duh!), but he needs to hit better if he's going to be our cleanup hitter, else he might be better off batting 3rd, even with little speed.

      I love Aoki, have from the beginning (just read my posts on him), expect a lot of good things from him, and expect him to be leadoff for us next season too, see no reason for the Giants not to pick up his option.

      I was glad that we lost Sandoval (again, read my posts), I was glad to have McGehee and Duffy be our main options at 3B, I was hoping Adrianza would be given a shot at 3B first, so I'm glad no team picked him up as the beats said he would have, and hope we can promote him back to the 40-man in September and use him in Arias' role in the coming years, we should have 5 years of control if that happens.

    3. Oh, and to quote another commenter who had issues with my statements, it's quite obvious to anybody who follows baseball that a really bad hitter in the 3-4-5 positions would hurt your offense. I think even kids in elementary school have some concept of that importance.

      The key, as I was trying to demonstrate with this post, is pointing the finger at the right culprit, not the wrong one. People were complaining about Belt. He's been a main engine of this surge, him and Crawford. Posey, if anyone, has been a problem area, but I was not complaining about him, just pointing out that if these Belt Blamers are going to get upset about anyone, it would be Posey, not Belt, at least during this period. I wish Posey was hitting better, but I know he gets off to slow starts often and then heats up when the weather heats up, particularly in the mid-west, mid-season.

    4. And I should note, that was Posey early in the winning streak, when people were still complaining about Belt's production. Posey has heated up just as hot as Belt and Crawford, no wonder our offense has been so white-hot, with them, plus Panik, all hitting over .900 OPS in May.



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