The Curious Case of Brandon Belt’s Second Half

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Brandon Belt #9 of the San Francisco Giants slides safely in to third base for a triple in the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park on September 27, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Brandon Belt had a scintillating first half of the season. He hit .302 and compiled 42 total extra base hits, bringing in 47 runs. His production has significantly tailed off in the second half. The San Francisco Giants have placed him all over the lineup since the All-Star break, but finally found success in having him bat second. Interestingly enough, his lineup position can help the Giants with run production.

The Curious Case of Brandon Belt’s Second Half

In the pitching world, xFIP and FIP are stats that help show how good a pitcher is at doing the things that they can control. In the hitter’s realm, one would use wRC or wRC+. This statistic is great at showing how many runs a player is creating (the whole point of hitting). wRC+ adds in the ballpark factors. So players who play in Coors Field can have the same numbers as somebody who plays at AT&T park and have a lower wRC+ rating, because it’s much easier to score runs there. League average for wRC+ is set at 100. If someone has a wRC+ of 130, they’re doing 30% better than the league average.

Brandon Belt’s First Half

In the first half, Belt had a wRC+ of 152, meaning he was doing 52% better than the league average. That’s pretty darn good. Only Anthony Rizzo and Matt Carpenter had a higher wRC+ in the first half. Belt also had an OBP of .407, only 105 points higher than his batting average. With his slugging percentage taken into account, it’s clear that Belt was doing a good job of creating his own runs, mainly by hitting and getting on base.

Brandon Belt’s Second Half

Brandon Belt’s numbers in the first half came mainly from the five spot in the batting order. Belt, thanks to his second half batting average of .223, significantly failed as the “protection hitter” in the fifth spot. His second half wRC+ is just a 108. Sadly enough, it’s still the best wRC+ rating on the team since the break. Oddly enough, despite Belt’s anemic batting average, he has 48 extra base hits, six more than he had in the the first half, in fifteen fewer games. He also has an OBP of .361, nearly 140 points higher than his batting average. Basically, Belt in the fifth spot hasn’t been getting the hits to bring runners in enough.

Belt’s Solution

Brandon Belt has simply not been getting hits often enough to do his job of “protecting” the cleanup guy. Surprisingly, he might just be the perfect fit for the second spot in the order. Despite not getting many base hits, Belt is still getting on base at a clip 50 points higher than the regular guy in the second spot, Joe Panik. Panik has vastly underperformed this year, but the Giants haven’t really found the right guy to replace his kind of production in the lineup. With the way things are going for Belt in the second half, he fits the type of production needed out of the “two-hole”. Recently, the Giants have started putting him there, and it seems to be working. Granted, they need the people behind him to get hits to bring him home, but it’s a start.

The bullpen has been the talk of the town when it comes to the Giants second half struggles. What hasn’t been discussed much is how much of a hit the offense has taken when it comes to run production. The Giants in the first half were able to overlook the bullpen issues, mainly because of how many runs they were driving in. Now, they’re having issues scoring. This keeps the game scores closer. More close games means more save opportunities, or “stressful innings” for the relievers. That’s drives bullpen troubles to the forefront. If they can get back to scoring runs, they could get back to their winning ways in time for a postseason run. In an even year, by the way.

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