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Season review: Brandon Belt

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The first baseman surprised with the best year of his career.

Seattle Mariners v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Our San Francisco Giants season reviews continue with the team’s best hitter: first baseman Brandon Belt.

Season stats

51 games, 179 plate appearances, .309/.425/.591, 1.015 OPS, 9 home runs, 30 RBI, 30 walks to 36 strikeouts

178 OPS+, 173 wRC+, 2.0 rWAR, 1.9 fWAR


Status throughout the season

Belt started the year on the Injured List with bone spurs in his right heel, which he recently had surgery to remove. He was activated a week into the season, and stayed on the roster for the rest of the year.


Season review

I consider myself a very big Brandon Belt fan, and I’ll be honest: I was not optimistic coming into the year. It was Belt’s age-32 season, and while plenty of players in their 30s have success, here’s the four-year trajectory he had been on:

Brandon Belt four-year trend

Year Average On-base Slugging wRC+
Year Average On-base Slugging wRC+
2016 .275 .394 .474 136
2017 .241 .355 .469 119
2018 .253 .342 .414 108
2019 .234 .339 .403 99

That’s not just a downward trend, but a steady, consistent downward trend. The average was steadily declining. The on-base percentage was steadily declining. The slugging percentage was steadily declining.

The Giants signed Wilmer Flores in the offseason, and all signs pointed towards a platoon at first base, which was understandable. And when Belt returned from the Injured List he didn’t do much to keep that from happening. In his first 14 games back he went 5-39 with 1 home run, 1 double, and 5 walks to 17 strikeouts.

And then he started hitting. And he kept hitting. And he kept hitting some more, while also drawing a ton of walks. For the rest of the season he hit 41-110, with 8 home runs, 12 doubles, 1 triple, and 25 walks to just 19 strikeouts.

Had he been able to play in Summer Camp, or had a Minor League rehab stint like in a normal year, it’s not unreasonable to think he would have had an even better year; and as it was, he finished with the fifth-best offensive campaign in MLB, per wRC+.

You can say his numbers were propped up by a short season, and to a certain extent you’re probably right. Belt only played a third of what he would have played in a 162-game season, so he might have come back to earth a little.

But he still would have had a very nice, bounce-back year, even if he regressed hard. Want proof? Belt would have had to go hitless and walkless in 60 consecutive plate appearances to get his OPS below what it was in 2019.

Had we had a normal season, Belt would’ve likely been an All-Star, possibly garnered some MVP votes, and had perhaps the best season of his career.

Instead he’ll just have to settle for having the best offensive season by a Giant since Barry Bonds. Seems good.


Role in 2021

There’s always a chance that the Giants try and sell high on Belt over the offseason. But after Farhan Zaidi said that the postseason is the goal for 2021, it’s hard to see the team trading not just their best offensive player, but a popular lifelong Giant. Especially since the trade value for one year of a 33-year old first baseman isn’t that high, no matter how good he was in 2020.

So, unless things change, you can expect Belt to be the everyday starting first baseman in 2021.

Grade

I repeat: Belt had the best offensive season by any Giant since Barry Bonds. And his defense wasn’t bad either.

A+

Poll

How would you grade Brandon Belt’s season?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    A
    (322 votes)
  • 16%
    A-/B+
    (69 votes)
  • 5%
    B
    (24 votes)
  • 0%
    B-/C+
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    C
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Incomplete
    (2 votes)
428 votes total Vote Now