Here's a lineup for you:
Tonight's #SFGiants lineup: Aoki lf Panik 2b Pagan cf Posey 1b Maxwell rf Susac c McGehee 3b Crawford ss Lincecum p— #WeAreSF #WeAreGiant (@SFGiants) April 27, 2015
This is the same kind of suspenders lineup that Bruce Bochy used on Saturday. I call it a suspenders lineup because apparently you don't need a Belt with it. Hahahahahahahaaaaaa. Ha ha ha. Ha. Anyway, this is annoying.
Apparently, there are two threats to Brandon Belt's spot in the lineup these days:
- Left-handed pitchers
- The unofficial policy that puts anybody but Buster Posey behind the plate when Tim Lincecum is pitching
Remember when there were all sorts of conspiracy theories about why Posey didn't catch Lincecum? Let's see, there was the one about them hating each other, and then there was one about Hector Sanchez working really well with Lincecum. The more time that passes, though, it seems pretty clear that Posey doesn't catch Lincecum because it seems like a total crap job. Balls in the dirt, balls away from the mitt, balls in the dirt, and more balls in the dirt. Let the young guys do it.
Which is fine. If Posey should play elsewhere once every five games or so, picking the Lincecum starts makes sense. The problem comes when a left-handed pitcher pitches against the Giants the game before Lincecum Day. Belt's second straight off day (third if you count the rain out) comes at an absolutely brutal time.
Brandon Belt, first seven games: .087/.160/.087
Brandon Belt, last seven games: .400/.520/.450
More than that, you can absolutely tell the difference with the naked eye. Belt is spitting on pitches he would have flailed at in the first two weeks of the season. In his last start, he was three-for-three with two opposite-field base hits. It was a great sign, all around.
Since then: one pinch-hitting appearance. It's been ... unfortunate. To be fair to Bochy, it's not like he doesn't want Belt to start:
Also, Brandon Belt will start getting a little more work in left field. Bochy trying to find way to have Susac/Posey/Belt in lineup.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) April 26, 2015
The solution is obvious to a lot of Giants fans, alright, but it's a little trickier for Bochy. Resting Posey is important, surely, and so is putting the best lineup on the field. While Belt doesn't have discernible platoon splits, he's been oddly worse against left-handed starters. That might be sample-size noise, but his relative success against lefties might be, too.
In the future, the ideal setup might go like this: Posey at first, Belt off for every third Lincecum start; Posey off entirely, Belt at first for every third Lincecum start; Posey at first, Belt in left for every third Lincecum start. It's better than just sitting Belt every five days plus sitting him occasionally against lefties.
In the present, let the dude who just clawed his way out of a nasty slump hit. If there was one player who didn't need the rust, it's Belt. This isn't weird yet, but it doesn't have that far to go before it gets there.