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Among Other Things: That Black Hole in Left Field.

Mark Kreidler
May 05, 2017 - 2:53 pm
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Loved the Brandon Belt discussion this week.  The conversation raged on Twitter, where the anti-Belters bemoaned his inability to get home from second on a routine single, and the pro-Belters calmly made the case for his year-over-year proven ability to get on base in the first place.

 

Both sides were right.  Belt gets on base a lot, and he’s slow as Christmas.  Waiting for Belt to get from first to third on that single to right?  Hope you packed a lunch.

 

But both sides also missed the larger point, which is that they’re looking in the wrong place when it comes to the Giants’ positional roster and its needs.

 

The question they need to be debating about Brandon Belt is this: Can he play left field on the regular?  And if not, can anybody?

 

The Giants are starving for outfield help.  Starving for it.  Bruce Bochy keeps reaching into his tattered, empty seed bag, fishing around for something he can plant out there that might take root.

 

And playing Belt in left, which Bochy already has been forced to do SEVEN times, is as close as the Giants get to yelling “Fire!!” in a crowded theater.  It’s like telling the rest of MLB you’ve quite literally run out of options.

 

Here’s the lowdown: Hunter Pence can play right field, and he’s okay – not the Pence of yesteryear, but okay.  Center field is batting below .200 collectively; it really doesn’t matter who’s out there. (The currently injured Denard Span: .200.  Gorkys Hernandez: .182.  Drew Stubbs: .095.  And so on.)

 

And then there’s left, which was once thought to be a Jarrett Parker/Mac Williamson platoon, or perhaps Parker winning the job outright.  Now both are injured, Parker for a long time with a broken collarbone, and Bochy has run guys like Chris Marrero and Aaron Hill out there.  Aaron Hill.

 

Multi-position player Eduardo Nunez may ultimately be asked to go do the job.  The Giants acquired Nunez initially to play third base, but it appears those days are over, and they valued his versatility all along.  When Brandon Crawford returns from injury (we keep using that word, injury), he’ll play shortstop and rookie Christian Arroyo will likely take over at third.  It frees up Nunez to be whatever the Giants need him to be on any given day.  He’ll do a lot of that.

 

And for all the chortling over putting Belt out there sometimes, he actually knows how to play left field and he can do it.  It isn’t ideal.  (Note: “Ideal” is one of those things baseball teams dream about without ever actually experiencing.)

 

In a perfect world, Buster Posey stays behind the plate and Belt stays at first, thus making the Giants a plus-defensive team at both spots.  In the real world, Posey goes up the line sometimes, and Belt finds the outfield sometimes, and sometimes Bruce Bochy just has to make it up as he goes along.  And that is the state of the Giants in 2017.

 

Williamson, currently in Sacramento, may at some point be added to the mix.  Same for Austin Slater, a prospect also cooling his heels with the River Cats.  It isn’t as though there is absolutely nothing left to try.

 

On the other hand, a sense of normalcy in left field may never return.  Why should it?  In the 10 seasons since the Giants said goodbye to Barry Bonds, they’ve started 10 different left fielders on 10 different home opening days.  Maybe normal is this, right here.

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