I’m going with guy from the farm. Not this year. Not next year. Not ... look, it will be in 2021. Guy from the farm in 2021. It took 19 games for the Giants to have this many homers last year, so I’m feeling optimistic, but as much as I want to pick Belt, I’m just stupid enough to believe in jinxes.
(It’s probably Belt.)
(Come onnnnn, Belt. You can do it, old bean.)
Belt wound up with 12 home runs in 2014. Buster Posey led the team with 22. The Giants hit so many home runs the first month or two of that season that I started a really stupid feature where I gave every home run a name (side note: due to MLB.com dropping Flash for video, none of the home runs in that article can be viewed! I don’t know why they haven’t gone back and re-uploaded the video to the site, but I guess when you’re counting record revenue money, you don’t have time for such effort). But, still, the Giants didn’t have a 30-home run hitter. They didn’t even have a 25-home run hitter.
Like I said above, Hunter Pence hit 27 in 2013 and that’s really been it. Brandon Crawford hit 21 in 2015, Brandon Belt led the team with 17 in 2016 and led the team with 18 in last year’s nightmare. So, really, it’s only gotten worse since Grant wrote that article.
But this isn’t about blaming Grant for the Giants, it’s about blaming the Giants for being the Giants. They’ve opted out of baseball’s home run culture, possibly by choice but more likely by accident. The question is, can one of the doofuses on the roster luck his way into hitting even 25 home runs this season? Let’s take a look.
The top 5 home run hitters on the team are Brandon Belt (12), Evan Longoria (10), Gorkys Hernandez (9), Brandon Crawford (8), and Andrew McCutchen (8).
Figure Longoria won’t be back in game shape until August, and that leaves him 2 months to hit 15 home runs. He had 36 two years ago, but in the two seasons preceding that feat and the season that followed, he barely hit over 20. He’s a long shot mainly because of the missed playing time.
If Gorkys Hernandez gets to 15 home runs by the All-Star Break, we’re going to read a story about him being drug tested. He’ll need to be close to that number to have a shot the rest of the way.
Brandon Crawford had 9 home runs through 72 games in his 21-home run 2015 season, so he’s a little bit off his own pace (8 in 74) in a season that still came up short of 25, but he’s really flipped a switch since May and it’s not impossible to see him start racking up the HRs, especially with three games in Denver next week.
Andrew McCutchen has an even better chance than Crawford mainly because he’s done it before and as recently as last season. I could easily see him tearing it up in Coors and in the dog days of August.
On talent alone, you’d say that Brandon Belt is the guy most likely to do it, and the rate indicates he’ll come closest. Despite missing time from an appendectomy, he’s still averaging about 4 home runs a month. He’s 179th in MLB in hard hit percentage, though, at 34.3% (that is, 34.3% of the time, he hits the ball with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more); but that might not be as bad as you think when you consider that he’s 9th in all of Major League baseball in barreled balls per plate appearance.
Two things to remember: (1) home runs need an average of 95 mph or more and an exit velocity between 25-33 degrees. The greater the velocity, the wider the launch angle window (2) barreled balls are “well-struck ball[s] where the combination of exit velocity and launch angle generally leads to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage”.
Belt’s 9th place (10.3%) is right in between Mike Trout (8th; 10.5%) and Nelson Cruz (10th; 10.2%). Taken together, this means that a third of the time — once a game — Belt is likely to hit a ball with a high enough exit velocity to be a home run and in 10.8% of all plate appearances, he crushes (barrels) the ball.
If we project out Belt’s season to 550 plate appearances total (he’s at 262 now, so 288 more), that means it’s possible he will hit at least 98 home run-type balls (by exit velocity) and about 31 of those will be barreled. He’d need only 13 of those to actually be home runs to hit 25 on the season. It feels almost assured, but that’s why the play the game.