Brandon Belt Emerging as One of San Francisco Giants' Best Hitters
To say that it has been a bumpy road for the young Brandon Belt is an understatement. By this point, most of us are well aware of the never ending stream of "controversy" that seems to follow everything that happens to him. For most of his major league career, he has divided the Giants fanbase like Moses parting the Red Sea.
Still, with all the fuss made over him, it's hard to believe that at present, Belt could very well be the Giants' second best hitter outside of superman Buster Posey. Out of all hitters the Giants currently have, Brandon Belt's 2012 numbers are second only to Posey. OPS, OPS+, wOBA and wRC+ (stats that sum up every offensive contribution, especially wOBA and wRC+, which also include stolen bases and scale things to fairly prioritize all contributions using run expectancy) all agree that Brandon Belt has been the Giants' second best hitter of 2012—ignoring PED-suspended black sheep Melky Cabrera, of course.
This might be a little surprising, considering Belt only has five home runs, bats sixth, and as recently as three days ago was spending his third consecutive day on the bench. Still, if you look beyond his obvious numbers, it's not that surprising, as his batted ball numbers might just be the most impressive on the team.
His gaudy 25.2 line drive percentage ranks first on the Giants (Marco Scutaro has put up a slightly higher percentage in his short time with the Giants, but his season total is lower) and would rank 5th in the National League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify (thank you very much, Bruce Bochy).
His 38.4 ground ball percentage is the lowest on the Giants and would be the 10th lowest in the National League. His 36.4 fly ball percentage is the highest on the Giants; again, Hunter Pence has a higher rate during his time with the Giants, but his overall season rate is lower than Belt's.
Considering how disappointing his home run total is, that fly ball rate should be very encouraging. It goes to illustrate what we have all noticed: no Giant gets more pain dealt to his stats by AT&T's park factor than Brandon Belt, who routinely hits balls that would be home runs in every other park besides China Basin. A famous example was in August, when Belt was about eight total inches away from two home runs, but had to settle for a single and a double.
All things considered, it looks like Belt's newly found success is not only here to stay, but should continue to improve. This is great news for a Giants team that has been starved of production from first base seemingly since Will Clark, although J.T. Snow and even Aubrey Huff have had some solid seasons. Belt's talent is just beginning to emerge, and hopefully this is the start of a reign that sees him joining Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval as the great home-grown hitters this franchise has needed since Barry Bonds left.
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