Is there an asterisk in Brandon’s future?

Doing a little research in preparation for doing the comments on San Francisco Giants players in this year’s THT Forecasts (yes, Greg, I will make the deadline!), I stumbled across a nugget of very interesting trivia.

Brandon Belt put together the following batting line in his partial major league season with the Giants in 2011:

     G    PA    AB     R     H    2B    3B    HR   RBI    BB    SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS
    63   209   187    21    42     6     1     9    18    20    57  .225  .306  .412  .718

And another player in a partial major league season from many years ago put up this line:

     G    PA    AB     R     H    2B    3B    HR   RBI    BB    SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS
    51   202   182    26    41     5     1     9    27    17    33  .225  .287  .412  .699

Belt’s was about as close to an exact replica of the earlier one as practically possible.

Do you know who that second player was?

Why, it was none other than Roger Maris.

That snippet of Maris’s performance came in the first couple of months of the 1958 season, for the Cleveland Indians, prior to his being notoriously traded to Kansas City in mid-June. Maris was 23 years old, playing every day in the majors for the first time.

Belt in 2011 was also 23 years old. Unlike Maris, Belt wasn’t given an opportunity to play regularly on a sustained basis. His 209-PA stint was compiled over three separate stretches on the big league roster, and included more pinch-hitting and other partial-game appearances than Maris in 1958. But, wow, the bottom-line performance delivered was uncannily similar.

The only distinction between the two lines that isn’t trivial is that strikeout column, where Belt was whiffing almost twice as frequently as Maris. But a lot of that is explained by the different styles of play exhibited by these two leagues more than half a century distant: in the 1958 American League, batters struck out at a rate of 4.9 per 9 innings, while in Belt’s 2011 NL, the rate was 7.3. Just about everybody nowdays strikes out a lot more often than was typical in Maris’s era, and they also hit the ball a lot harder when they do put it in play, which is what Belt had to do in order to match Maris’s totals of singles, doubles, triples, and homers with 24 fewer balls in play.

This isn’t to suggest that Brandon Belt is the second coming of Roger Maris. Not necessarily, anyway. But in wondering just how this young left-handed slugger might (or might not) develop over the coming years, we have one highly intriguing comp with a famous left-handed slugger of long ago, just staring us in the face.

Let’s put it this way: if the next thing that happens is the Giants trade Belt to Kansas City, don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Comments

  1. Greg Simons said...

    And if Belt has a big one-year spike in homers at any point in his career – for the Giants, no less – people will want to use that asterisk for another reason altogether.

  2. obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

    Seems to me that a lot of Giants fans act like they were the ones who discovered Brandon Belt, whereas it was the Giants who drafted him in the 5th round (and most fans either went “who” or “WHY?” because he didn’t really do that well in college, from what I recall), changed him around and made him the top prospect that he is today.  I think I’ll rely on the Giants opinions on the best way to handle Belt.

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