San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt and Brett Pill Not the Cure
I have elected not to write any articles on the San Francisco Giants lately, not only because school is back in session, but also because there has not been much to write about. Since September 1st, the Giants are 3-5 and have scored one or less runs in four of those games, all of which were losses.
Going into the series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants are averaging their customary “three runs per game.” Averages, however, are often misleading.
In describing a team like the San Francisco Giants, it is best to use their median runs scored. For those not statistically inclined, the median is the “center point” of the runs scored per game arranged from lowest to highest (or vice versa). As eight games is an even number, the median runs scored is either one run or two runs. In other words, half the time, the Giants will score one run or less.
That, noble reader, is pathetic.
But it’s nothing new. Despite the passionate throngs of supporters of “new blood,” namely Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Brett Pill (the new “3Bs”), there has not been much meaningful contribution.
Now, before you think that I’m picking on the “newbies,” let me make one thing clear: NOBODY in this lineup is making many meaningful contributions. Jeff Keppinger, he of the “rare” strikeout, has been looking like the reincarnation of Reggie Sanders at the plate—minus the power. Pablo Sandoval has watched his batting average drop below .300. Carlos Beltran was hot for a few games and has subsequently returned to earth.
But the new guys… well…
Brett Pill might actually be good.
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I choose to begin with Brett Pill because, frankly, he seems to be the most competent of the new hitters. He is hitting .286 and has a pair of home runs in his (very) young career. Impressively, though, he has generally managed to avoid striking out on pitches in the dirt, something that has plagued certain other Giants rookies who have baby animals named after them.
Brett Pill, however, is a first baseman. A truly elite first baseman will hit for significant (30+HR) power and deliver 100 or more RBI in a season. See: Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, etc. A valuable first baseman? That would be Aubrey Huff. In 2010.
If Brett Pill is to be the Giants future at first base, and he may well be, he will need to prove for the rest of the season and into next season that he will be able to deliver real run production on a consistent basis.
To put things into perspective, Brett Pill is hitting .286 with two home runs in 14 at bats. It is entirely too early to pass judgement on him. Even so, he failed to deliver in the clutch the past two nights against Los Angeles.
Brandon Belt's value was as a trading chip
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I plan on writing another article about Brandon Belt in the near future. It will be far more elegant and detail the point that I will briefly make right now—Belt’s true value to the Giants was as a young player in the farm system.
Brandon Belt is hitting .216 with *five* home runs in 139 at bats. Those are not “power-hitter” numbers. Of course, one could argue that the sample size is too small. One could argue that Belt has often flied out deep to the outfield. However, one could also argue that 12 RBI in 49 games would generally not be enough to keep a first baseman or corner outfielder in the major leagues.
Brandon Belt’s wins above replacement? -0.2. Note the negative sign. Has he won the Giants a few games? Sure. Has he won more games for the Giants than any other adequate “fringe” MLB player would have? No.
Unfortunately for the Giants, the word is out on Brandon Belt, and it’s not “the good word.” Whereas at the start of the season Brandon Belt could have been a substantial bargaining chip, his value is now, well, virtually nonexistent. In fact, according to Bill James, his value is negative.
Can Brandon Belt turn it around? Maybe. But he will have to work on all aspects of his game and transform himself into a lethal player in order for him to have a future with this franchise.
Otherwise, the Baby Giraffe will have to be euthanized.
Crawford swinging and missing. What he does best.
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If you read San Francisco Giants message boards, you would swear that Brandon Crawford’s family consists of 300 or more rabid fans who do nothing besides post “play Brandon Crawford” on forums all day every day.
Crawford, he of the illustrious .192 batting average, actually raised his average in September by going 1-for-3 at the plate in one game. Before you get too excited, you might want to go back and look at that batting average.
Many Crawford apologists like to argue that Brandon Crawford’s defense makes him invaluable. I have even read wild speculations that Crawford saves the Giants “two runs per game.” By that logic, Brandon Crawford alone prevents 332 runs per season. Not quite, folks. According to our good friends down at the SABR, Brandon Crawford has a -0.2 Wins Above Replacement level. Look familiar? See Brandon Belt.
Crawford, for the record, has a defensive wins above replacement level of 0.1. Orlando Cabrera sports the exact same statistic and a substantially better batting average. If you were wondering, “replacement” is calculated at a .320 winning percentage. That works out to about 110 losses. But hey. Brandon Crawford’s defense wins the Giants one-tenth of a game per season.
Freddie Freeman and Conclusion
Freddie Freeman. Decisively better than Brandon Belt.
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That is what these “new players” mean to the team.
I must refute one other popular argument: the argument of Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves. Certain baseball fans point to the fact that Freddie Freeman started his season in Atlanta slowly, and now he is a Rookie of the Year favorite.
I looked at Mr. Freeman, and here is what I found:
In April, Freddie was hitting .225 but had an on base percentage (more important) of .324. This is on the sample size of 89 at bats. In May, Freeman hit .312 with a .371 OBP.
Therefore, after two months of game play and a sample size of 182 at-bats, Freeman was hitting .265 with a .343 OBP with five HR and 17 RBI. Those are good numbers; better numbers than most hitters in the San Francisco Giants lineup.
Since then, of course, Freeman has developed into a stud. But there was no reason to believe, with those statistics, that he would not become one. Line up the comparable samples between Brandon Belt (through now) and Freddie Freeman (through May 31st). Tell me whose line looks better, and then explain again to me how Brandon Belt “deserved” to play over anybody.
I agree that the future of the San Francisco Giants is likely not one of Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres and Orlando Cabrera. The trouble, as I fear Giants fans will all discover, is that that hope is not synonymous with success, and that hype does not equal talent.
Meet the new Giants. Same as the old Giants.