I want to give Belt doubters the benefit of the…well, doubt. I was looking at some stats on Fangraphs today, as I am want to do, and noticed something that may help clarify some things. (Regular ordinary stats that people like, not WPA.) Here it is:
Over the last 14 days, Belt has a batting average of .296 (good), and on-base percentage of .441 (excellent), and SLG of .556 (good) and an OPS of .960 (highest on the Giants). So Belt has had a couple good weeks you say. So what.
Well, here's the kicker. During this same two weeks when Belt has been arguably the best hitter on the Giants, Belt struck out 32% of the time. 32%!
While there may be other factors (unrealistic expectation, just don't like his looks, etc.) I think a key theme that unites Belt doubters is a strong emphasis on strike-outs. Many people, from little league and softball leagues to MLB, are obsessed with strikeouts. Strike-outs are embarrassing. Some people would rather hit a weak ground out, a pop up or even hit into a double play. (At least they made contact.) This gets projected onto Belt, who admittedly has a high strikeout rate. For the season, Belt's strike out rate is 23%, Pence is 16%, Pablo is 14%, Posey is 12%. So I get it. Belt strikes out a lot. That bothers you.
(On the other hand, Belt grounds into rather few double plays: a total of 4 for 2013 compared to 9, 11 and 12 for Pence, Posey and Pablo, respectively.)
The fact that Belt can have a very strong two weeks, while at the same time striking out at a very high rate (32%) illustrates to me why some people do not regard Belt as a productive hitter. If you remember and emphasize the strike-outs, Belt looks bad. If you look at overall productivity, he looks good. For this 14 day period, Belt's .960 OPS is excellent and the highest on the team.
In my opinion, baseball is about winning games, and a hitters overall productivity is best measured by the saberstat Win Probability Added(WPA) (which measures how much each player contributed to winning). For the current 14 day period, the one in which Belt struck out 33% of the time and posted a .960 OPS, Belt had the highest WPA on the Giants (tied with Pill at +.30). For context, in this period, Kieschnick was next at .24 followed by Crawford (.22) and Pence (.12). (For the entire 2013 season, Posey is first at 2.0, Belt is 2nd at 1.75, followed by Pagan (.92), Scutaro (.38), Sandoval (.36)…(typically anything positive is pretty good.))
So, in my opinion, Belt is the 2nd best hitter on the Giants, but many of you don't like it that he strikes out a lot. Does that pretty well sum it up?