Fair warning to the non-baseball fan: I make no effort in this post to appeal to a universal audience.
I was going to write something about Bruce Bochy today, but I slept in late, went out to brunch, and by the time I got around to writing, others had already said what needed to be said. So this will be one of those “sample other folks” posts.
To give context: first, stat analysts have long felt that the Giants are mistreating young first baseman Brandon Belt, who is still experiencing growing pains, but who is also already among the better hitters on the team. Nonetheless, the Giants continue to find reasons not to play Belt. They send him to the minors, they call him up and use him as a defensive sub, they sit him against lefties, they sit him in favor of the aging Aubrey Huff, they sit him for Brett Pill.
The more immediate context: yesterday, when Bochy announced that Belt would be sitting so he could get Hector Sanchez’ bat into the lineup … well, I’ll let Andrew Baggarly’s tweet speak for itself. “I asked Bochy if Sanchez's bat is preferable to Belt's. ‘Yeah, I think that's fair to say. Wouldn't you?’”
This is what inspired me to write today, but like I say, I’m too late to the game to add anything of interest. So here are a few columns inspired by Bochy’s thoughts on the relative merits of Sanchez and Belt:
Uh, no. It's not fair to say. It's actually sort of stupid to say that Héctor Sánchez's bat is preferable to Brandon Belt's. Considering everything that's come before, it's pretty clear that Bochy simply doesn't like Belt as a baseball player. So the Giants should trade him. Because he should be playing, somewhere.
I feel like Rod Serling is narrating this. Because here's what Hector Sanchez has done better than Brandon Belt this season: He'll hit an additional single in about four out of every 100 at-bats. Belt is doing everything else better. He's hitting for more power. He's taking more walks. He's faster. When he's in the lineup, the defense is much better. …
[T]he burden of proof is on the Giants. Every year, they're at the bottom of baseball when it comes to runs scored. Every year, they're at the bottom of baseball when it comes to on-base percentage. Every year, they're at the bottom of baseball when it comes to players swinging out of the strike zone. Those three things correlate quite well. Which makes you think you're taking crazy pills when Bochy, or anyone else, says, "Hey, you know what will help us with this scoring-runs conundrum? A guy with an awful on-base percentage who swings out of the strike zone more than just about anyone else in baseball?" I mean, that's exactly what you've tried every year. It doesn't work. It doesn't work. It doesn't work. It doesn't work.
Bochy has been in professional baseball longer than I have been alive. He has a World Series Championship as a manager on his resume. He also has more information at his disposal and more expertise than most baseball writers have.
Yet on this debate, Bochy is wrong. When Bochy sits Belt, he is weakening the Giants' ability to get on base, hit for power and prevent the opposition from scoring.
If Bochy isn't willing to give Belt the opportunity to play everyday, the Giants front office should find an organization that will give Belt that chance. Play him or trade him, because the current plan is hindering Belt's development and weakening the Giants.
Brandon Belt is a vastly superior batter to Hector Sanchez. It isn’t even close. At every level of professional baseball, Belt has outperformed Sanchez, including this season, wherein Belt has provided the Giants with their fifth highest level of offensive contribution in terms of batting runs above average despite far fewer opportunities than the teammates that surround him in the rankings. …
Given the numbers and his pedigree as a prospect, it’s quite obvious to any neutral observer that Brandon Belt should be playing more, not less. So how does Bochy continue to justify not handing him a job as a regular on the team? The latest reasoning centers around Sanchez having the hotter bat. …
Sanchez, indeed was coming off of a solid performance. He went 4 for 6 in the team’s last game against the Houston Astros, knocking in two runs including the winner in extra innings. However, the only reason the game went to extra innings was because of his dropped third strike and subsequent misfire to first base. Meanwhile, Belt spent the series avoiding outs in 40% of his plate appearances.
Sure. Sanchez played well in a single game, but Belt’s played well over the entire season to date, and over most a professional career. This doesn’t seem to matter to some, though.
If you’re still reading, I’ll just add that Bruce Bochy will always deserve our thanks for managing the 2010 Giants to a World Championship. But I feel sorry for Brandon Belt. He’s a solid contributor to the Giants, and I’d like to see him contribute for years to come. But for his sake, even though it might hurt the Giants, I have to hope that Belt gets traded to someone who appreciates what he can do. Because right now, he’s underappreciated.