Hope, Thy Name is Belt
Three days ago, the Giants were floundering. Carlos Beltran was still injured, Aaron Rowand was starting against a righty, and the offense once again barely managed to scrape out one run, this time against the Marlins. Two games out of first place and free-falling fast, things looked bad. But then an stat-savvy angel appeared to Bruce Bochy in the middle of the night. Here’s how I imagine the exchange went:
Angel: Bruuuuuce. Call up Brandon Belt.
Bochy: No can do. We got Rowand starting in left and Huff at first. No room at the inn.
Angel: Bruce. Seriously. Call up Brandon Belt. Start him in left field over Rowand. Even in limited playing time, Belt still has a better OPS.
Bochy: Rowand’s been here before though. There’s no way a rookie can lead a team into the postseason. And what the hell is OPS?
Angel: Really dude? You’re a Major League manager and you’ve never heard of…nevermind. Just play Belt. We went over this same nonsense with Posey last year and I’m tired of visiting.
Bochy: I offered the kid a beer that one time though remember? Plus, DeRosa’s really been contributing too since he can play outfield too.
Angel: You haven’t even played DeRosa since you called him up two weeks ago. Just trust me on this one Bruce. This is not a request. There’ll be some serious smiting if you don’t get this done.
Bochy: Fine. The kid gets one game. Then it’s back to Fresno with him.
The handling of Brandon Belt to this point has been shameful. He got all of fifty-some at-bats in April before it was somehow decided he was not ready based on the smallest of sample sizes. In the meantime, Braves rookie Freddie Freeman went through similar early struggles and has gone on to be a frontrunner for rookie of the year. But then Belt realized that in order to play into the organizational obsession with sample sizes, he needed to have one good game to buy himself a month’s worth of at-bats. It worked for Eugenio Velez way back in the day, and now Belt is the benefactor of Bruce Bochy’s convoluted logic.
With Belt in the lineup over Aaron Rowand, the offense gets a lot better. Like, a lot. I’m talking infinitely so. On a team where runs are hard to come by, every little bit of help is needed at this point, with the Giants looking up at the Diamondbacks in the standings. If Beltran ever comes back and Huff continues to be pleasantly average, then the Giants may actually have a halfway decent everyday lineup, and it’s all thanks to the Brandon Belt. But there’s still a good chance Belt will struggle some. Since he wasn’t allowed to adjust to Major League pitching in May, he instead gets to do that in August in the middle of a playoff chase.
The Giants start a big series on the road against the Braves tonight, so things aren’t getting any easier. At the very least Arizona is playing the Phillies, making this a good time to close some ground. As long as Belt plays every day. And Beltran gets healthy. And the Giants find a competent fifth starter. And Brian Wilson’s back is OK. This is a team defined by “what-ifs,” with a very good best-case scenario and a disastrous worst-case possibility. So prepare for that.