The DH and Brandon Belt

So, I was totally going to write about this and then Tom Verducci had to go and steal my thunder! But I think my point is still pertinent and his article actually helps me out, so here we go…

A lot has been made over the disparity between the American and National Leagues. Until the last two seasons, it was looking like the AL was going to just go on dominating endlessly, with the exception of a year where the Phillies would rise up and say “no more.”

Now, in this offseason which has seen two huge NL stars jump to the AL (Pujols and Fielder) in no small part because of the DH rule, there is some sentiment that the balance of power will shift back in that direction.

There are some obvious reasons why the DH gives the AL an advantage. Having an extra “real” hitter in the lineup helps.

But, a more subtle reason has to do with player development. No team illustrates this more clearly than the Giants. Aside from the health of stars, the major story line in camp this year will be the “battle” for first base.

Brandon Belt got off to a nice start by going 4 for his first 5. Yesterday Aubrey Huff hit a home run. Brett Pill has his best (last?) shot at making an opening day roster. The real question seems to be: would you rather have Belt taking 4 ab’s in Fresno or sitting on the bench in San Fran? Huff is going to get his shot.

However, if the Giants played in the AL this all would be a non-issue. Belt would play 1B pretty much every day and Huff and Pill would make a decent DH platoon. Simple. Done.

AL teams have a clear, if sometimes unnoticed, advantage here. The DH allows them another spot to let young players develop and impact their team instead of rotting on the bench or having to go to AAA.

I’m with Verducci: I think pitchers should have to hit. I like the extra element and strategy that it brings. But, I think the imbalance is ridiculous. And the reality is the DH isn’t going anywhere. The players love it because it can help them extend their careers. We are not going back.

But as baseball becomes more and more uniform across league lines, the day is coming where the DH is a universal rule. And, as much as it might offend my purist sensibilities it will be more fair and it will allow players like Brandon Belt to cut their chops in the big leagues, where he belongs.*


*of course, the Giants might be in this position anyway with the DH rule by signing a vlad guerrero (or whoever) who would be blocking belt. 


3 thoughts on “The DH and Brandon Belt

  1. First off, I’ll note that I’m a NL purist, who love the game as it is in the NL. One of the key differences of baseball is that you have limited resources and each player plays both offense and defense. In the other sports, you can come in, willy-nilly, though in the NBA and NHL, both plays offense and defense. The DH splits one of the positions, making it more like the other sports leagues.

    I love Posnanski and thanks to stephen for posting the link. Didn’t know that I was older than Pos is, but I digress.

    Posnanski makes the good point that the differences generates a lot of discussion, camaraderie, as well as disagreement. Still, I think that baseball has enough other stuff that it would survive universal DH.

    My take is that once a league does down that slippery slope of substitution, first it’s pitchers, then it’s for that great glove, lousy bat in the lineup that everybody has, plus most teams have at least two such players (SS and CF) and each give will result in a take and then it’ll be like football, one offense, one defense.

    I also disagree with the general premise of this post, though agree that it might apply to the Giants as they currently are rostered. I find that generally the DH does not give a young player an opportunity. Teams will fill out their roster and typically it is old guys who no longer can field a position competently who become DH. So that does not usually result in a young player getting a shot he otherwise might not, as the team would sign the vet from another team, often. The young guy, if anything, is battling some other vet for a spot, or perhaps for the DH.

    And being a DH takes discipline and the right mindset to handle that. I’ve read many an article where the DH would talk about the difficulty in staying in the game, keeping warm, that it is not just a simple matter of coming to the plate, free of defensive worries, it is mentally hard to do the job, something a vet is better equipped to handle, not a young player. So the DH, in my view, does not really open up that much opportunity for young players, except in hypothetical situations like the one posed here.

    For as you aptly asterisked, the Giants most likely would have signed somebody to become the DH, and thus Belt would again be battling someone for a starting position.

    I don’t know why people are in such a rush to force Belt into the majors. He clearly showed that he was not ready. He strikes out way too much in AAA, let alone the majors, but he showed the potential to be so much more than that in AA and lower, a low strikeout, high walk, high HR power bat with high BA type hitter that all fans drool over. I don’t want to see him become a Dave Kingman type of hitter.

    Kingman early on showed the ability to hit for average as well as prodigious HR power, and he flashed some speed as well, I recall him hitting a lot of triples his first seasons with us. Then he got homer happy and then suddenly he’s a three true outcomes type of hitter when he could have been so much more, or seemingly so to a naive lad before the days of sabermetrics.

    Let Belt prove himself in AAA (and hopefully IMPROVE himself) in the first half. That gives Huff time to show what he can and can’t do. If he can’t, $5M aint that much to dump; if he can, great; if he can and Belt proves he can too, then maybe we can trade Huff for a nice prospect to an offense starved team and have our cake and play Belt too.

    I would rather have a Belt like he showed in AA and lower and not the Belt like he has shown in AAA and the majors. He seems like the disciplined type of hitter who can make that move, why rush that? Fans do not get brownie points or croix de Candlesticks for a young prospect rushing to the majors. They are like fine wines, you got to let them age and not rush it, to get perfection.

  2. Interesting take. My point was to wonder if the DH gives the AL a hidden advantage in developing players.

    And I totally agree, most teams, Giants chief among them, would probably still have Belt blocked by somebody.

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