Originally written on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 3/31/12

From yesterday’s preview of the Giants…

Burning Question
How much will holding Brandon Belt on the bench or in the minors hurt the Giants offense this season?

Last season in 49 games for AAA Fresno, Belt hit .309/.448/.527, walking nearly as often as he struck out. In 63 games in the majors, he hit .225/.306/.412, and was worth 0.7 fWAR. The Giants’ incumbent Aubrey Huff hit .246/.306/.370 in 150 games, and was worth -0.6 fWAR. The difference between the two was nearly a win and a half, and that’s with Belt getting nearly 90 games fewer in the majors in comparison to Huff.

Belt is clearly the superior player to the veteran Huff at this point, and it’s not even close. If you look at Belt’s AAA numbers in 2011 through an MLE calculator, you get a line of .256/.373/.419, which murders Huff’s actual 2011 numbers. If Belt was able to do that for a whole season, you’d have what, a three win player maybe? Huff on the other hand, is a drain on the Giants offense, living off an extension he got following the 2010 season, one of two seasons worth more than a win and a half in his last seven.

Huff is also 35 years old, while Belt is going to turn 24 in April. Not only does Belt have a much brighter future than Huff, but he’s the better player at this point in time. A full season of Belt in comparison to a full season of Huff in 2011 could have been as much as a four win swing for the Giants, which would have put them at the top of the wild card standings.

In an NL West race that’s looking to be very tight in 2012, the Giants (or any other team for that matter) absolutely cannot afford to give away wins. Belt will likely make the Giants Opening Day roster, but he’ll be on the bench behind Huff. One option that the Giants could consider (although it would be one that absolutely sabotages their defense) is to bench either Nate Schierholtz or Angel Pagan, shift Melky Cabrera to either center or right, and start Huff or Belt in the outfield. Huff has experience in the outfield, and while he’s a bad defender, he’s not at Brad Hawpe’s level quite yet.

Whatever decision the Giants end up going with, Brandon Belt needs to play every day for the team to win the NL West in 2012. If the team really decides to keep him on the bench and use him as a pinch hitter and occasional starter, they don’t deserve to win the division.

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