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How much outfield time should Brandon Belt see?

Brandon Belt in the outfield? It's not as crazy as we thought ...

Tony Medina/Getty Images

Some developments over the last weeks, as I've been in and out of the loop:

  • Angel Pagan's back started hurting again
  • Bruce Bochy broached the idea of Brandon Belt starting in the outfield
  • Angel Pagan's back was healthy enough to allow him to play

Bochy specifically said this:

"I wouldn’t say period," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy on Friday, asked about using Belt to cover a suddenly thin outfield. "More of a comma. It’s currently being discussed. We’ve talked about Brandon. We’ve done it before."

Later, he said ...

When Pagan needed another cortisone shot, there were definitely a lot of grawlixes around here. Then we had to figure out what to do, and it was interrobang this and interrobang that. But if you string enough ellipsis together, you'll have enough time to figure out where your ampersands are. We should be OK.

And then he rode an old-timey bicycle out of the clubhouse, unless I made that all up.

The larger point remains, however. The Giants aren't totally ruling out Brandon Belt in the outfield, which means it's up to us to figure out a) if there's a scenario in which this makes sense, and b) if it will happen.

Point of order

As in, we need to figure out if Belt in the outfield gets the Giants a better hitter than they could get in the outfield with Belt staying put. So if Belt is playing outfield, one of these players is probably in the lineup now:

  • Andrew Susac (as catcher, with Posey at first)
  • Travis Ishikawa
  • Adam Duvall
  • Angel Villalona
  • Joaquin Arias?

Okay, just the first three. This is an important point to note, as Belt is raw in the outfield.


Can he succeed out there? Absolutely, given the innings. I think he has the speed and first step to be average, eventually, if not comfortably above average. He's not a clomper. But there would be an adjustment. What have we learned from the Giants putting people in left field who probably have no business being there?

It wins them the World Series.

Come on, that's not realistic.

Seriously, though. Pat Burrell, Travis Ishikawa ...

But it's not prudent to expect that to happen again, you fool! Assume that Belt would make mistakes. Now who are the outfielders who could fill in left?

  • Juan Perez
  • Justin Maxwell
  • Gary Brown

Maybe someone like Daniel Carbonell or Mac Williamson asserts himself during the season, but you can see where the sense of urgency is coming from right now. None of the above three should be more than a fifth outfielder on a team with a strong fourth outfielder.

Comparing the options

The six reasonable/likely options, ranked by Baseball Prospectus's projected OPS:

  1. Adam Duvall - .712
  2. Andrew Susac - .683
  3. Travis Ishikawa - .673
  4. Juan Perez - .663
  5. Justin Maxwell - .658
  6. Gary Brown - .655

That is, not much of a difference. The first one jimmies up the defense quite a bit, whereas the last three put an exceptionally good outfielder out there, helping minimize some of the losses on the offensive side. There are other considerations (Brown has hit lefties well in the past, resting Buster Posey is usually a good thing, Duvall can hit dingers), but the difference between all six probably isn't great enough to vault one option to the top of the preference pile.


Nah. No Belt in the outfield. It's something worth considering in a Jose Abreu situation, where it's the only way to get a dinger-mashing regular into the lineup. But the difference between 300 at-bats from Susac and 300 at-bats from Perez is going to be given right back when you consider the gap between Perez and Belt defensively in left.

The Giants don't have a great option in left field -- funny how that works when two starting outfielders go down -- but they don't need to start messing around with experimental contingency plans.

No pickup basketball games, Norichika. You will not go snowboarding, Gregor. Let's keep Belt out of the outfield for everyone's sake.