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Our big beautiful boy

The Giants head to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays, but also, and mainly, face Brandon Belt.

MLB: Houston Astros at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Belt Wars are over and your side won. Now the San Francisco Giants get to play against their former first baseman and see if he’s just as good/bad as you always suspected.

And yeah, this series preview is going to be about Brandon Belt. I’m sure there are a lot of J.T. Snow fanatics out there who’d say that their boy is the best first baseman for the Giants since Will Clark — after all, he won four straight Gold Gloves! — and it’s an interesting conversation in that in addition to accolades, Snow was also better in the postseason (.836 OPS vs Belt’s .654); but I’m going to give Belt the edge thanks to the better Giants career OPS+ (123 to 112), the two championships (2012 and 2014), and that he was drafted and developed by the Giants like Clark.

Does that mean the Giants will someday retire Brandon Belt’s #9? No.

He captured some hearts and some minds, but he had the bad luck of coming up during the Buster Posey days, and like the Clark and Bonds days before those, there really can only be one face of the franchise at a time. But Belt was perfect as the second banana. He was perfect as the comic relief. The comically tall and gangly sidekick.

Now he’s on the Blue Jays still providing the laughs —

Okay, well, it’s easier for one country to have your back when you’re hitting .264/.373/.423 (.796 OPS) on the season. He’s fresh of the IL which has limited him to just 11 games in June, but Toronto is 8-3 in games he’s played and he’s hit .290/.378/.553 (45 PA) overall.

He’s hit just 4 home runs and after an abysmal April (.169/.246/.288), people were calling the one-year ~$9 million deal he signed a total failure. He’s really turned it around since May 6th (.323/.447/.515) and he’s been a big reason why the Blue Jays have remained in contention.

Belt since May 26th: .255/.371/451. That includes his IL trip, so he’s only played in 15 of the 28 games. The Jays are 11-4 in Belt games during this stretch, though. Is he the key? I mean... yeah, let’s just say it. What’s the harm?

Okay, well, in fairness, we can also just say that he has been one of the many contributors who’ve helped the Jays stay relevant in a tough AL East (their 43-36 record is just 4th-best in the division!). The Giants are tied with the Braves for the best record in Baseball since May 1st, the Jays have the 17th-best record at 25-26.

Their “best record” label is also a bit misleading. The Jays did kick it off with a 10-3 run, but that’s slowed to 7-8 over their last 15 games. The Giants are 19-9 since May 26th, in case you were wondering. I mean, I’m big on revenge series, but the reality is that the Giants’ lineup is at least on par with the Blue Jays’:

Giants- 2023: 386 runs scored (106 wRC+), +5.6 Baserunning, +4.7 Def Runs, +13.5 fWAR
Blue Jays- 2023: 361 runs scored (110 wRC+), -0.9 Baserunning, -0.8 Def Runs, +13.7 fWAR

Pitching-wise, they’re comparable, too:

Giants- 2023: 341 RA (3.93 ERA), 8.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 49.4% GB%, 13.3% HR/FB, +7.2 fWAR
Blue Jays- 2023: 338 RA (3.97 ERA), 9.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 41.2% GB%, 14.4% HR/FB, +6.3 fWAR

They’re sorta vaguely similar to the Diamondbacks in that they have two key players on either side of the ball — a la Corbin Carroll and Zac Gallen — who are leading the pack in Bo Bichette (2.5 fWAR) and Kevin Gausman (3.1). There’s not quite as much balance in the skills, though, as the Blue Jays’ pitching doesn’t have the interesting depth like the Giants and Diamondbacks and the lineup doesn’t have the speed and athleticism like the Dbacks’ (and even the Giants, if the Baserunning and Defensive stats are to be believed).

The Blue Jays playing in a really tough division certainly makes their standing and record not look terrific, but this is a good team that’s tough to strikeout (3rd in AL with 20.4% K%) but easy to strikeout against (734 strikeouts is 3rd in the AL, 5th in MLB). They hit a lot of doubles (145 - 4th in AL, 6th in MLB) and steal a lot of bases despite their generally average or worse baserunning skills (60 - 4th in AL).

Their bullpen isn’t that great, though, despite a 10.1 K/9 (1.6 fWAR - 12th in AL) and that’s because they, like the rest of the staff, give up a lot of home runs (14.4% HR/FB as a team). Only the A’s (118) have allowed more home runs this season than the Jays (107).

They’ve been great at home, though (21-14, +27 run differential) and with Brandon Belt back from the IL, their lineup is at full strength.


Where they stand

Blue Jays

Record: 43-36, 4th in AL East
Run differential: +23 9th in the AL
Postseason standing: 10.0 games back in AL East; 3rd AL Wild Card ending 6-26-2023
Momentum: 2-game winning streak; 5-5 in their last 10 games


Record: 44-34, 2nd in NL West
Run differential: +45, 3rd in the NL
Postseason standing: 2nd Wild Card ending June 26th, 2.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game losing streak; 8-2 in their last 10 games


Series details

Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Toronto Blue Jays
Where: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada
When: Tuesday (4:07pm PT), Wednesday (4:07pm PT), Thursday (4:07pm PT)

Projected starters:

Tuesday: Ryan Walker (opener) vs. Kevin Gausman
Wednesday: Logan Webb vs. TBD
Thursday: TBD vs. Chris Bassitt


Blue Jays to watch

Kevin Gausman: Oh, I didn’t forget about him. The Giants get him in game one, and, like Belt, the Giants let him walk away. They have their risk model and Gausman set off every red flag imaginable. He has been healthy as Blue Jay (31 starts last season, 16 starts this season), and coming into this series, he’s the best pitcher in the American League (3.1 fWAR). His 11.6 K/9 is third in baseball behind Spencer Strider (14.3) and Shohei Ohtani (11.8).

Earlier in June, in back-toback home starts, one against the Brewers, the other against the Astros, he racked up double digit strikeout games (11 and 13, respectively). Since then, in his last three starts (Twins, Rangers, and Marlins), no double digit strikeout games and a 5.40 ERA (16.2 IP). Remarkably, he held the Rangers in check in Texas (1 earned run in 6 IP in a 2-1 Blue Jays win).

He has a Chase Rate, according to Statcast, that’s 90th percentile, and I think we can all say that’s because of his split finger, which has a Whiff rate of 43%. His slider is right there at 33%. This is pretty close to his 2021 with the Giants (46% and 42%), but also like his time with the Giants, it’s still the case that his four-seamer is not his best pitch (.319 wOBA, 93.5 average exit velocity). The Giants can hit the four-seamer as good or better than any other team. Can they guess right?

Daulton Varsho: This wasn’t an under the radar trade in the offseason, but it’s one I think we might’ve forgotten about since. The Diamondbacks basically traded away a spare Corbin Carroll and while Varsho hasn’t exactly hit like Carroll (.222/.290/.391), he does have 12 home runs in 310 PA — that’s second on the team. He’s also 82nd percentile in Outs Above Average as an outfielder, but he looks to be superior (+5 OAA) in CF versus LF (-2 OAA). He also has an 8.5% walk rate. Between patience, defense, and power, he’s been an above replacement level player (+1.0 fWAR, +2.0 bWAR). He’s always been pesky against the Giants, too. Despite a career line (35 games) of .208/.282/.311, he has 15 RBI on 22 hits and 10 walks against 26 strikeouts. Very pesky! Lookout!

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: Belt’s not playing first base. That’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who’s not great at the position (-12.2 Defensive Runs, per FanGraphs) and for a guy whose bat is supposed to make up for it, the 24-year old’s .284/.354/.453 (125 wRC+) is great but not quite where they’d like him to be: a superstar Last season, he wound up with a 132 wRC+ and in 2021 it was 166. That doesn’t mean he’s some sort of bust. I think it means he’s due for a hot streak.

Brandon Belt: On the same train of thought, Brandon Belt’s injuries and DHing have limited him to just 193 plate appearances so far this season, and despite that, he leads MLB (min. 150 PA) in batting average on balls in play (.443). Is he due for a regression? Well, if we know Brandon Belt at all, it’s that, probably in the history of Major League Baseball, his streaks (on either end of the spectrum) are the most severe streaks ever committed to box scores. The Giants might be catching their former Baby Giraffe at the right time...?

Bo Bichette: The lineup’s WAR leader (2.9) has hit .280/.287/.462 (.750) in June, with exactly one (1) walk against twenty-two (22) strikeouts in 94 plate appearances, coming out to a 1.1% walk rate and 23.4% strikeout rate. That comically low on base percentage has dropped his overall season rate to .348, but Statcast just goes bonkers for his quality of contact. His .323 expected batting average is top 1% in the league, and his .527 xSLG is top 8%. His .378 xWOBA is top 10%, which looking at the leaderboard, it has him at #26, between LaMonte Wade Jr.’s .385 (#20) and J.D. Davis’s .365 (#36). Just pasting this for posterity, since the leaderboard changes quickly:


Giants to watch

Joc Pederson: Can the Giants’ best power threat take advantage of the Blue Jays’ propensity for giving up home runs? He’s 2-for-14 with a homer against Kevin Gausman and 4-for-12 with 2 home runs in his career at Rogers Centre.

Michael Conforto: Can the Giants’ second-best and probably best all around hitter take advantage of the Blue Jays’ propensity for giving up home runs? He’s 2-for-10 with a pair of walks and 4 strikeouts against Gausman in his career and 2-for-8 with a double at Rogers Centre. His series against the Diamondbacks was a key reason they were able to win it. Can he carry that performance over here?

Logan Webb: This will be his first time facing the Blue Jays, and beyond that, for his career, Webb has been a full run worse (2.89 home ERA vs. 3.92 road ERA). That said, his three-start stretch of Colorado, St. Louis, and Dodger Stadium worked out, with the Giants going 3-0 despite his 4.19 ERA (4.61 FIP).

Brandon Crawford: He managed to reclaim his position from Casey Schmitt just in time to face his opposite Brandon, his ol’ pal Belt, his and our last real connection to the championship era. This will be fun just to watch them play against each other. Belt sliding into second while Crawford turns two... a pop up when Belt is on second (or maybe even being the dude who popped it up) and has to deal with whatever in-joke or comment Belt makes... should be fun. Hope the turf causes him to be more of a highlight shortstop.


Prediction time


Giants vs. Belt - what will make you smile most?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Slumpy shoulders
    (14 votes)
  • 3%
    Beer cry
    (5 votes)
  • 6%
    Thinking about that time in the NLDS when he fell ass over tit into the camera well
    (9 votes)
  • 44%
    The bat drop on home runs
    (59 votes)
  • 17%
    The way he’d pull his foot off the first base bag the instant the throw hit his glove
    (23 votes)
  • 17%
    Something giraffe-related
    (24 votes)
134 votes total Vote Now