Monday, April 11, 2016

Brandon Belt is one of the best 1Bs in MLB?

Really? He is?


I have always had lots mixed feelings about Brandon Belt. He's too streaky, he's always finding ways to get hurt. He's too moody. His body language sucks. He strikes out too much. He's not clutch. When is he going to hit 30 home runs like a real first baseman? Is he ever going to change his walkup song? When is he finally going to put it together?

I can't be alone in all this. No way. I still find my mind poisoned by these feelings despite his significant role in two titles and on this roster since 2011. Is it fair?

Apparently it's not even remotely fair.

Apparently, he falls into the top third of first basemen since he entered the Majors in many rankings; both in traditional methods and in futuristic outer space metrics. It's surprising to me, even as someone who pays close attention to these things.

Since his first full season in 2012, he qualifies as 11th in both WAR and OPS. I'm not a huge WAR guy as you know, but I am an averages guy, and his .277/.353/.462 slash line has him at an .815 OPS-- putting him firmly among the game's truly elite 1Bs. Don't believe me? Look at this list. 

Who amongst us would have put Belty in the same category as the rest of these guys? These are literally the best the game has to offer offensively, and there he is, The Baby Giraffe with the Gumby Shoulders.  

Were you aware that Belty had a higher on base percentage than Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols during this time frame? I wasn't. 

Furthermore, nearly every defensive metric available has Belty in the top 3 or 4 of active first basemen. This is everything from advanced Fangraphs jibberjabber and gobbledygook like DEF, UZR, and UZR/150 to traditional methods like errors and fielding percentage. He's right up there with the best of the best. I hope this is the year he'll break through with a Gold Glove like Crawford did last year, but it'll be tough with Goldschmidt having won two of the last three and being one of the best players in the world.

Where he doesn't compare to the Goldy Goldschmidts and the Miguel Caberas of the world is in traditional power stats. I like seeing a guy with a sweet 30 HR/ 100 RBI season. It makes a man feel good, you know? It's a porterhouse and potatoes-- MEDIUM RARE. Hell yeah. God bless America. That's what a 30/100 season is.

If you need any more cliches, I've got plenty left, btw.

I think that's where some of the uneasiness around Belt stems from-- at least with me. Part of that is due to AT&T Park killing him constantly with 420 foot outs and balls off the brick that would be massive dongs anywhere else-- lest we forget.

But I have learned over the years that you can still be a really good player at a power position without putting up Edwin Encarnacion or Crush Davis power numbers. Sometimes, like we did here, you just need to read between the lines.

As for his contract, it's no biggie really in the scheme of things. Sure it's a significant raise, and will add another long term contract, but the Giants organization is loaded with soggy garlic fry money (they are terrible now FYI... poor quality control), and they can afford him.

"The new contract calls for a $6 million signing bonus, payable next Jan. 15, a $2.8 million salary for 2017 and $16 million annually from 2018-21. Each Nov. 1 starting in 2017, Belt may designate 10 teams he cannot be traded to without his consent."

So yeah, it's a chunk of change, and at first glance it's like, "Whoa. Brandon Belt is going to be making what??" But when it starts kicking in, they'll have Cain's albatross off the books, and (hopefully) the back two spots of the rotation will be taken over by prospects that are firmly and cheaply under team control.

Plus, don't forget that Panik and Duffy are still making absolute peanuts for years to come, and Pagan's salary comes off the books as well. In fact, between Peavy, Pagan, Lopez, and Romo, who are all free agents in 2017, a total of  $40,250,000 is coming off the books.

This is another shrewd move by a team that seems to always be one step ahead and never manages to be weighed down by under-performing contracts.

More importantly, this organization has made a point of eschewing crazy splashes (although I suppose the Cueto/Samardzija moves were flashy), in favor of a bottom up approach and locking up its homegrown stars. I know they're all professionals, but it's gotta mean something special for all these guys to grow up together, to know each others' families and kids, and to be all locked up together on a team that gives a damn and does things right.

(We just became the Cardinals and Yankees by the way).

In a league with no loyalty and regular roster overhauls, it's sure nice to know that if a good young player comes out of the farm system, he'll be extended before he's out of arby years and that those high dollar shirzeys won't be irrelevant. We're lucky.

That's more than most fans can say.

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