The Chicago Cubs recently gave their 23-year-old first baseman Anthony Rizzo a 7-year, $41 million contract extension. San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy continues to bench the 25-year-old Belt against lefties in favor of 28-year-old journeyman Brett Pill.
One organization views their developing first baseman as a cornerstone player, the other views their developing first baseman as somebody to platoon with mediocrities like Pill and Joaquin Arias.
Bochy continues to sit Belt against lefties even though Belt has actually hit same-sided pitching better than righties during his career. Belt has put up a .780 OPS against lefties over 228 career plate appearances. Against righties, he’s managed a .752 OPS over 634 plate appearances.
Bochy is also sitting the hot hand by benching Belt right now. He’s hit .267/.368/.507 during the month of May.
He’s also ignoring the fact that Tommy Milone doesn’t have much of a platoon split. Milone’s best pitch is his changeup, which is typically tougher on righties than lefties. Last year, lefties put up a .749 OPS against Milone compared to .734 for righties. This year, righties are hitting slightly better than lefties off of Milone (.718 OPS vs. .702 OPS).
In his last start against a lefty, Belt went 4-for-5 with a home run and four runs scored that night. Bochy then sat Belt two days later against lefty Gio Gonzalez in favor of Pill, who went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as the Giants scored only one run in a losing effort.
This is the third time Bochy has sat Belt in favor of Pill since May 17. Bochy also benched Belt twice in April in order to play the light-hitting utility infielder Joaquin Arias at first base. Bochy has decided to start Belt in 43 of the team’s 53 games after starting him in only 102 games last season.
I’m not saying that Belt is a sure thing to develop into a great hitter. He has mechanical issues that will probably always make him a streakier hitter than most. His at-bats can be incredibly frustrating to watch, particularly when he goes into one of his ugly cold spells. But you know who else can be hard to watch when they go cold? Every other player in the history of Major League Baseball.
Since 2011, Bochy has continually let the perfect be the enemy of the perfectly adequate when it comes to Belt and the first base position. Is Belt Prince Fielder? No. But he sure as hell is a lot better than Pill, Arias, Aubrey Huff and anyone else Bochy wants to stick in there in favor of Belt.