Henry Schulman wrote about the Belt Wars on Wednesday. It’s 2018, seven years after Brandon Belt debuted, and people are still complaining about him. There are still arguments about this, which seems impossibly silly. Just check out Schulman’s Twitter mentions, and you’ll find people still so very mad that the Giants employ a talented first baseman.
As an old veteran of the Belt Wars ...
[pulls up shirt, showing off a large scar in the shape of OPS+]
... I’m both annoyed and amused that this won’t go away. But I would like to make a few things clear.
First, while the Belt Wars might be raging outside of these walls, and people with $9 beers are still sitting around complaining about him at the first game they’ve attended in a year, they do not exist around here.
His average was too low last year!
You do not understand the volatility of batting average.
His career high in home runs is 18!
You do not understand how AT&T Park affects left-handed hitters.
He’s never had more than 82 RBI!
You are from 1958, and Gunsmoke is on, please go watch it.
No, these Belt Wars don’t exist around here. They’re settled. From 2011 through 2017, Brandon Belt was a very good baseball player who helped his team win more than the average baseball player. That’s what history shows. It’s what history will always show. We can agree to disagree, except you’ll have to acknowledge that I’m right, and you’re wrong.
But if you want a new era of Lively Belt Discussions, well, they’re coming. Because he’s turning 30 in a month. At some point in the next five to 10 years, he will decline and shuffle off into retirement, wiling or not. That’s just how it is. I would write the same thing about Joey Votto. There is no guarantee that Belt will hit .280/.370/.460 for the next few years. There’s no guarantee he’ll hit that well next year.
Not only is the creeping age an issue, but the concussions are obviously a concern. Belt the Human Being is more important than Belt the Player That Giants Fans Are Weirdly Upset With, Even Though They All LOVED J.T. Snow. The good news is that rooting for Belt the Human Being is the same thing as rooting for him to do well. As long as people stop throwing baseballs at him or hitting him with their knees, he should be a contributor.
Imagine for a moment that Belt actually has a breakout year, the kind of season that would allow Bruce Bochy to comfortably slot him somewhere between Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey at the top of the order. I don’t care if it would stop the Belt Wars; I care that it would make the Giants win an awful lot of ballgames. If they do end up blowing our minds and winning 95 games or something, I’ll guess that it’s because Belt finally has that .300/.400/.500 year he’s been teasing since the minor leagues. And I’m very interested in this development.
For the relatively modest plans the Giants have, though, that doesn’t need to happen. They’ve spent all offseason making sure they don’t have an obvious lineup hole, building on that 2014-2015 idea of keeping the line moving. When the Giants are eight deep in the lineup, they score. It’s not a controversial or groundbreaking analysis for any team, but it’s especially applicable to a team that plays in a canyon surrounded by a moat. Let other teams swing for the fences in the thick marine layer; the Giants have succeeded in the past because they could deploy several different solid hitters in a row, which made it so that opposing pitchers couldn’t take an at-bat off.
Belt would be a huge part of that. He would be the .370 on-base percentage stealing pitches from the opposing pitcher, the guy who kept the inning going for someone like McCutchen or Evan Longoria, who shouldn’t be awful this year. He would help complete one of the best defensive infields in baseball, and he would be one of the lone sources of power on a team that might not feature a 20-homer hitter for the third straight year.
He fits this team, dang it. And it takes a real weirdo to complain about him. Compare his numbers to Carlos Santana’s without adjusting for AT&T Park. Now do the same for Eric Hosmer.
Bunch of weirdos, all of you.
But, again, we’re not talking about that. Ha ha, you almost suckered me in. Nice try.
No, Belt as a known quantity is still very important to this team. The only question for me is if he’ll stay healthy. I’m going to say “yes,” if only because it’s what he deserves and it’s what I want to believe. I’m thinking it’ll look like this:
Brandon Belt, 2018 projections
He’ll miss 100 plate appearances because of a banana peel, but that’s the fault of whichever goober dropped it on the clubhouse floor in the first place. Not his fault.
If Belt does that, I’ll be happy. You’ll probably be happy. The people in orange wigs who stand behind the NBC Sports Bay Area set after Tuesday games and drunkenly wave to the camera? They probably won’t be happy.
The Giants will win more games, though. If they’re going to win as many as they’d like, it’ll probably be with the help of Brandon Belt doing Brandon Belt things. We missed that too often last year.