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How Good Could Veteran San Francisco Giants Be?

Brandon Belt celebrates with SF Giants teammate Evan Longoria. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
Brandon Belt celebrates with SF Giants teammate Evan Longoria. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
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SF Giants, Brandon Belt
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Giants veterans looking to bounce back – Brandon Belt

                    G      PA     AB    2B   3B   HR    AVG   OBP  SLG
2019       156   616   526   32    3     17    .234  .339  .403

Much like Crawford, Brandon Belt‘s athleticism has taken a substantial hit over the past few years. As he moves towards his mid-30s, Belt has dealt with chronic knee injuries. Natural aging alongside his injuries has led the Belt Wars to a new battlefield.

Now there’s no doubt that his best seasons are behind him. While more analytically inclined fans will believe Oracle Park to have camouflaged elite productivity at Belt’s peak, others remain convinced that was never more than a solid player.

Either way, the Giants never traded Belt at his peak so the answer will always be unknown. Now the debate isn’t what Belt was, but what he has left. He’s continued to show an impeccable ability to work counts and has good at-bats, but he’s been one of the many victims of advanced analytics movement towards extreme shifts.

In the first six seasons of his career, Belt’s propensity for hard contact translated to a BABIP north of .330. In 2019, Belt’s BABIP was nearly a career-low at .275. There’s reason to believe Belt may have been slightly unlucky, but the larger phenomenon of strong shifts seems unlikely to allow Belt to ever return to his previous batted-ball productivity.

It doesn’t mean he didn’t show the ability to do damage at the plate. Especially when he got hot.

                       G      PA     AB    2B   3B   HR    AVG   OBP   SLG
4/1-6/15   60    228  188    13    2     9      .261   .386   .495

Belt’s approach has always allowed him to consistently reach base even when he wasn’t tapping into his power, but when he’s done both, it’s easy to see why so many baseball minds long considered him underrated. His best 60-game stretch came over the first couple months of the season before wear and tear seemed to take its effect.

The Giants have already said that Belt will not be ready for Opening Day, but should he return relatively soon after a shortened season seems designed for him to excel.

The fact is, for an extended portion of 2019, Belt performed on par with the best seasons of his career. While it’s unfair to expect him to return to that form, it’s not unforeseeable for Belt to produce at that level during this unique season.

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