Brandon Belt

With Huff under contract, what happens to Brandon Belt?

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Like I said a few minutes ago, the Aubrey Huff contract is not a terrible one. I had visions that the Giants would give him four years or something crazy, but two years plus an option is not a bad deal for the guy.  The one question it raises, however, is what the Giants should/will do about first base prospect Brandon Belt.

Belt, for those who don’t know, was a 2009 draftee who spent 2010 rocketing his way through the Giants system. He began in High-A ball where he played 77 games, moved on to Double-A where he played 46 more and then spent 13 games at Triple-A.  He raked at all three stops, with OPSs of 1.121, 1.036 and .956, respectively.  He turned heads in the Arizona Fall League this year as well.  Most who have seen him believe he’ll rake in the big leagues, and that he stands a chance at being a plus-defender at first base.

But Huff’s there for now.  And for now, that won’t matter.  Given that the Giants didn’t call Buster Posey up until late in 2009, hardly played him and then let him sit in the minors for the first two months of 2010, there’s a decent chance that Belt doesn’t sniff the bigs until next September. And a chance that he doesn’t have a regular job in the bigs until a few months before Huff’s contract is up, at which point Bruce Bochy will figure out how to blend them together.

But even if the Giants decide to promote Belt earlier than they did Posey, things could still work out.  Huff played 46 games in left field last year and a few more in right.  He could certainly do it again. Would it be ideal? Nah, but they lived with and won a World Series with Pat Burrell manning left field last season, and there’s no way Huff could be worse out there, can there?  Even if he’s a total liability, Bochy proved more than content to use defensive replacements early and often for Burrell, so he’d be able to do the same with Huff.

So, no, I don’t see the Huff deal as somehow blocking Brandon Belt. Mostly because, if Brian Sabean’s form holds,  he won’t be in San Francisco to be blocked for a while.  And even if he is, there are ways to deal with it.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: