Over the past six games, Brandon Belt has put together a modest little hitting streak, during which time he’s collected eight hits — three of them homers — and drawn four walks. Not to mention, he’s only struck out in three of his 24 plate appearances. It’s only six games, but his performance over the last week has been enough to bring his overall seasonal line to .250/.364/.412, good for a 112 wRC+. While that perhaps still falls short of some of the lofty expectations we all had for Belt coming into this season — the power numbers in particular are disappointing — he’s been as good, overall, as we should have reasonably expected.
First of all, his 112 wRC+ is pretty solid compared to what other first basemen have done this season. National League first basemen, as a whole, have a 103 wRC+ for the 2012 season (.251/.328/.430). In terms of total offensive value, Belt has been better than guys like Albert Pujols, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Pena, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis, to name a few (also, he’s tied with Mark Teixeira at a 112 wRC+).
And overall, Fangraphs (fWAR) has Belt’s 2012 production valued at 0.8 WAR over 165 PA. It’s important to be cautious in citing WAR over such small samples, but Belt’s fielding value (+1.3 UZR) is well within reason; in other words, he’s not just benefiting from some fluky defensive metrics here. If Belt could simply maintain his established level of production for 2012 over 600 plate appearances, he’d be a ~3 WAR player. (Of course, Belt likely won’t reach the 600-PA mark.) I’m certain that if I were told at the beginning of the season that Belt would perform at a 3-WAR pace, I’d have happily taken it.
It’s also worth noting that Baseball-Reference (rWAR) has Belt at 1.1 WAR, which translates to 4 WAR over 600 plate appearances. That’s especially impressive when you consider that Baseball Reference’s WAR doesn’t give players the same replacement level boost that Fangraphs does. Put on the same scale as Fangraphs’ implementation of WAR, Belt’s 1.1 rWAR translates to something like 4.7 WAR over 600 plate appearances. (Though in this case, the defensive value prorated over a full season is generous).
Anyway, it obviously remains to be seen how Belt will perform over the rest of the season, but that’s beside the point. I think it’s safe to say that he’s been good this season, and that there’s little reason to be disappointed with his overall production. For all the concern about his playing time, Brett Pill is in Triple-A right now and Aubrey Huff is on the DL, so that shouldn’t be much of a problem going forward. What the Giants have on their hands right now is a 24-year-old first baseman with strong defensive skills and a .335 wOBA in a year in which National League first baseman have collectively posted a .328 wOBA. While I’m still holding out hope that he’ll increase the power production as the season progresses and eventually climb up to a .350 wOBA (as projected by ZiPS), Brandon Belt has arrived.