The Belt/Pill Decision

This debate was born last year when Brett Pill decided to kick it into high gear in Fremont and hit .312 with 25 big flies. That’s 14 points and 6 HRs higher than his previous career high. Thanks to that production in the minors, he got the coveted September call up and continued to impress in the big leagues, albeit in a small sample size (50 ABs).

Brandon Belt, on the other hand, proved he could hit at the minor league levels before making the squad out of spring training last year. While he had a much bigger sample size than Pill, it didn’t look quite as impressive, hitting only .225 with 9 HRs in 187 ABs and earning a few thousand Greyhound frequent rider miles along the way.

Now that they are both on the team vying for the same spot, a decision must be made. The opportunities for both to get into the lineup are dwindling now that the OF of Cabrera, Pagan, and Blanco is getting established. And I don’t think anyone wants to hear the dreaded word (I’m talking about “platoon”).

Both are performing slightly sub-par so far this season; Pill is batting .234 with 3 HRs and Belt is at .246 with no long balls, but a team leading 5 doubles. Belt is nearly even in his splits between right and left handed pitchers, while Pill favors righties.

Pill, 27, has taken a while to sprout into a big league ball player. Looking at his career numbers, he never forced the issue. I think the conversations around him would have gone something like “Well, he doesn’t suck, so we can’t send him back down. Let’s just promote him to the next level.” He didn’t force the decision until 6th season when he finally put up some big numbers.

Brandon Belt is just 24, and 3 years is an eternity in the majors. Unlike Pill, he steamed his way through the minors with much better numbers than Pill forcing his promotion to the big show. While he left those numbers in the minors for the time being, it’s not hard to argue that Belt has more upside than Pill.

Extra Baggs and The McCovey Chronicles both present compelling arguments for each player. However, I think this showdown should be decided on what they will potentially do, not what they are doing today. I realize that it is Bochy’s job to win games today and field the most competitive team he has available at the moment. But I think this is a flawed strategy and contributed to the epic crash of 2005, when the Giants fell to 4 straight losing seasons.

Now, if you want my opinion, and the fact that you’ve made it this far tells me you do, I favor Belt. No, this isn’t because he’s younger, or he’s the more highly touted prospect, or because he has won me over with his baby-giraffe-like antics. I like his approach at the plate better. With the new changes to his stance, he is more upright and has more potential to drive the ball into a gap. He has pretty good speed for a first baseman (27 SB in 189 MiLB games) and can take advantage of the dimensions of AT&T park. Remember that he’s leading the team in doubles so far this year. While Pill often takes a better approach with 2 strikes on him, all other times he gets up there and hacks. He reminds me somewhat of John Bowker at the plate. Big strong hacks, and if he connects he’s likely to do damage. We’ve seen these types come and go more times than we would like to remember at this ballpark; they don’t work. So why don’t we go with someone who can compliment the ballpark and take advantage of the gaps.

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Random stat: Aubrey Huff had the second most steals for the Giants in 2010. 7 steals in 7 attempts.

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Giants Beat the Dodgers!

Dodgers: 6 Giants: 2 Matt Kemp: 0/5

As far as I’m concerned, keeping Matt Kemp off the bases right now, particularly with the bases juiced in the 8th, is more impressive than beating the Dodgers, so I’m chalking this up as a win for the Giants. Kemp is putting up video game numbers (as Kruk and Kuip like to say) and he looked lost up there at the plate. Clearly he was expecting Timmy to be as ineffective as he has been in his previous starts, not the 93 mph fastball and a slider that got its bite back.

Aside from the obvious issue of losing to the Dodgers, there were some other concerns I came away with.

I’m a huge Nate Schierholtz fan and think the GMen are a better team with him in RF. I think he isn’t given fair opportunities at the plate. So I was overjoyed to see him in the lineup today. He continued his ownage on Chad Billingsly and went 1 for 3 with a walk. But his base running has gotten increasingly worse. I don’t know if the steal was his initiative or called, but that and overrunning second cost the team at least 2 runs.

Why is Posey striking out so much? Yes, he is under more pressure with no Panda in the line up, but his strikeout rate is way up from where it has been, roughly double what it was last year. Many of his swings just look ugly! Last night was just the third time in his young career that he had 3 strike outs. One of my favorite aspects of his game when he first game up was his plate discipline; he never seemed overwhelmed and was never pressing at the plate.

A positive note is that Joaquin Arias is killing it in the field. He reminds me of a less talented Jose Uribe. Doesn’t look good doing it, but somehow manages to pull of great plays. And he is nearly as ugly as Uribe as well (either Uribe).

I’m glad that Magic Johnson lowered the price of parking to $10. Now, why don’t they add a line item to the budget to allow the ball dudes to toss the foul balls in the stands. Just saying.

I guess if I’m going to blog about the Giants, I can’t ignore Tim Lincecum. His line wasn’t that great yesterday, but I feel good about what he did.

IP 5 H 8 ER 4 BB 2 K 8

He gave up some runs, but not in the first. 4 runs in 5 innings is and inning and a run away from a quality start. In the first three scoreless innings, he struck out 6, 8 overall; that’s the old Timmy we all know! Only 2 walks is a good sign as well. And most importantly, his fast ball was back to the 91-93 mph range. That is what was worrying me the most. I know, I know, his mechanics were off. But you see so many good pitchers turn bad, mostly because they lose velocity. Seeing his quirky motion shoot 93 mph fastballs and some sliders with good movement in the strike zone gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

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Is Vogelstrong for Real?

Is it a coincidence that I decide to start this blog after a significant win at Chavez Ravine against Giants killer, Clayton Kershaw? I’m not gonna say, but it does give me good subject matter for my first post. Ryan Vogelsong had one of the best stories in baseball last year. A long time journeyman returning to American baseball with the team that originally drafted him, resurrecting his career and emerging as one of the strongest, most consistent pitchers in a rotation made up of mostly studs. A perfect baseball fairy tale.

 

Naturally, the skeptics come out after a season like that. Can he keep it up? Was it a fluke year? The same questions were asked of Andres Torres after his breakout season in 2010, and unfortunately, with no help from injuries, he couldn’t lay those skepticism to rest in 2011. I was a little hesitant to fully back the next Giants comeback kid and wasn’t totally sure if Vogelsong could continue what he started on April 28, 2011 in Pittsburgh, when he earned his first major league win since 2005 (when he ironically was a relief pitcher for the Pirates). So far this year, before last night, he hadn’t impressed me. Yes, he hurt himself and didn’t get a full ST to warm up, so one could argue that could excuse his first few starts. Not that they were all that bad; his first four 2012 starts went 6 innings or greater, with two of them counting as quality starts (a stat I’ll get into more in a future post). He even managed to keep his WHIP respectable. I’ll excuse his 0-2 record, because, you know, it’s the Giants. But his 3.42 ERA wasn’t inspiring and he never seemed all that confident on the mound. So going into yesterday, I wasn’t ready to proclaim that 2011 Vogelstrong was back for good.

(Photo Credit: Yahoo! Sports)

 

He laid my skepticism to rest.

 

Maybe it was the hour long mental prep at his locker. Maybe it was watching Magic Johnson sing along with the National Anthem. Maybe the customary wave that the Dodgers fans started got his mind focused. Whatever it was, he was in every pitch last night. His pitches were vintage Vogelsong (and by vintage, I mean last year). Abreu showed his amazing plate discipline by taking those sliders that were a hair off the plate on both sides. 9 out of 10 other professional hitters would have struck out in that AB. It was such a shame to watch Vogelsong leave the game with the bases loaded. Luckily, Javy Lopez was in 2010 form as well. Not only did Vogelsong pitch masterfully last night, he did it against the (sorta) red-hot Dodgers, managed to not let Kemp beat him (despite two hits), and most importantly, out dueled Kershaw, who turns into Cy Mathewson whenever he sees Black and Orange.

 

Both the Giants and Ryan Vogelsong have a long season ahead, but last night at Dodgers Stadium was a crucial step in the right direction. Let’s hope that Lincecum can capture what he has been sniffing at the past two starts and get us a series win against the Dodgers!

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Welcome

Welcome to the Splash Hit Digest! This blog will chronicle my life and journey as a Giants fan. I have been bleeding black and orange since before I can remember and have stayed true to the Giants through many tough years, and will for many more to come. Here, my opinions, thoughts, and generally useless comments on the Giants and the overall sport of baseball can and will be found. My brand of writing, thinking, and baseball fannery are as unique as the Giants brand of baseball. I definitely encourage you to leave your thoughts, opinions, dreams in the comments section.

Thank you and please enjoy responsibly,
Scott Carter

All opinions expressed here are my own.

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