Dan Schwartz

First the background: 

I was chatting with a league-mate the other night and told him about a trade offer I had on the table for Mike Trout. It included Buster Posey, Jose Altuve and Freddie Freeman. That led us into the all-too-popular discussion of Freddie Freeman…

First came the inevitable text: But the .371 BABIP.”  I responded with the fact that Freeman was a line drive monster last year and his expected BABIP (xBABIP) was relatively close to his actual BABIP – I think within .010 points away off hand. He also had an excellent 2.6% IFFB rate which dropped 5% from 2012. Further validation, none of his BABIPs on each ball in play type (GB/FB/LD) was that out of hand.

His follow-up text actually surprised me: “Something’s up. His ISO dropped from 2012.“ His ISO did drop to .181 from his 2012 rate of .196 – basically he started spraying singles. Both his HR/AB and 2B/AB dropped from .0426 & .0611 to .417 & .0490 respectively…a little cause for concern there, but nothing to steer me away from his top 24 value (top 5 1B status) due the line drive approach (ensuring inflated BABIP’s and associated batting averages), average flyball and homerun distance (ensuring a solid HR/FB ratio), and the decent supporting cast ensuring runs-produced counting stats. I love him for dynasty leagues as he’ll only be 24 next year meaning max ISO should follow in conjunction with increasing zone authority/ plate discipline.

My follow up text to the ISO discussion is what started the idea for this post. I said, “Think Brandon Belt but more ISO.” What do you think his response to this was? …He said, “Dude, Brandon Belt had a better ISO.” I was bamboozled. Check this out:

Season

Name

PA

AB

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

2011

Belt

209

187

0.306

0.412

0.718

0.187

2012

Belt

472

411

0.360

0.421

0.781

0.146

2013

Belt

571

509

0.360

0.481

0.841

0.193

Season

Name

PA

AB

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

2011

Freeman

635

571

0.346

0.448

0.795

0.166

2012

Freeman

620

540

0.340

0.456

0.796

0.196

2013

Freeman

629

551

0.396

0.501

0.897

0.181

 

Freeman’s SLG was higher due to the extra HR and singles; his OPS much higher due to his OBP in conjunction with his SLG, but here’s their HR/Hit and 2B/Hit matrix:

Season

Name

H

2B

2B/H

HR

HR/H

2012

Belt

113

27

0.239

7

0.062

2013

Belt

147

39

0.265

17

0.116

Season

Name

H

2B

2B/H

HR

HR/H

2012

Freeman

140

33

0.236

23

0.164

2013

Freeman

176

27

0.153

23

0.131

 

Belt was a bit behind in the HR department, but well beyond Freeman in doubles per hits.

The counting stats aren’t there for Belt the same way they are for Freeman either, but that’s probably more contextual than anything else, which leads to my… Hypothesis:

Belt may not provide Freddie Freeman value, but if he wasn’t in San Fran (crapola park factors for hitters) and had a better supporting cast e.g. (or is it i.e.) Braves/Cardinals, then he would probably belt something close to – let’s say Allen Craig-type value. Why the comp to Freeman and Craig in the first place? Look at their  2014 Rotobanter projected line drive (LD)% as well as their associated BABIP and xBABIP (you can include Votto into the discussion but we all know what he is):

 

I’ve bolded Freeman, Craig and Belt. As you can see, Belt actually beats out Craig in BB%, 2013 Homerun & Flyball Average Distance per Jeff Zimmerman’s Baseball Heatmaps, GB% and IFFB%, which helps with BABIP potential in conjunction with the elite LD%. He also beats out Craig in OBP, OPS, ISO and R/PA.

HR Factors:

Belt comes in at a 10.85% HR/FB ratio even though he hits the ball further than Craig. Many factors come into play here, and while they’re all worth talking about, it’s clear than San Francisco is a hardcore pitchers’ park. In fact, according to Fangraphs GUTS! park factors by handedness, SFO came in dead last for LH HR’s. STL came in 5% higher for right-handed (Craig) HR’s and ATL came in a 15% higher for left-handed (Freeman) HR’s.

It’s relatively clear. Belt should have an ISO in line or again better than both Craig and Freeman. His SLG rate and HR counting stats would jump if he were on either of the other NL teams.

Runs Produced:

Check out the Runs Produced section on the end – Runs per Plate Appearances and RBI’s per At Bats.  As it relates to Runs, Last year Belt came in just under Freeman. For 2014, I have him over Craig but again just under Freeman. The big difference is in the RBI department. – based on his ISO being in line (and SLG is close enough), it’s clear that he doesn’t have as many assets in front of him and hasn’t had as significant of a lineup spot, but chances are the latter finally changes for good. It’s assumed he’ll bat 3rd all season, and if Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro can stay healthy, he could have enough to drive in and could level the RBI/AB playing field somewhat.

Summary:

I won’t call Belt a poor man’s Freddie Freeman, but I will call him a better value than Allen Craig. Look at the ADP differential in the above matrix. Belt on average is getting picked 80 spots after Craig. Craig has health issues and the only real difference between the two is the RBI counting stat (and BA although I think they can approach each other). If you land some run production early in your draft, don’t overspend on Craig as your 1B/CI and wait for Belt.

 

Stats courtesy of FanGraphs

Projection from Rotobanter Projections

HR & FB Average Distance from Baseball Heatmaps

5 comments on “Brandon Belt – A Freddie Freeman Intro & Allen Craig Replacement

  1. Joseph Pytleski on said:

    This is good stuff, Dan. I blurbed him awhile back too:

    Brandon Belt (1B, SFO)

    Belt’s biggest nemesis thus far in his career has been Bruce Bochy due to a lack of playing time and being shifted between the infield and outfield. However, with a full slate of PAs last year Belt took advantage, although he didn’t quite show the power or patience his track record suggests. He strikes out a little too much for my liking but he’s swinging at a lot of pitches inside the zone (79% z-swing rate, #2 in the league behind Freddie Freeman), which means he’s hacking at the right offerings. It seems to be that he’s been a bit unlucky in that respect. I would expect with another full season of PAs, and some better batted ball luck—a regression to the mean in infield flys leading to a spike in LD%–that he’ll eclipse 20 HR for the first time and crack double-digit SBs. That’s not elite territory…yet…but look at Eric Hosmer’s projections and I think Belt could replicate them at a cheaper price.

    (Current rank: 14, My rank: 11. Bold prediction…he very sneakily outperforms Anthony Rizzo this year).

    • Joseph Pytleski on said:

      And I always felt the same way you do–if only Belt were on a different team in a different park. The SF lineup is awful and the park is worse!

      • SF lineup is underrated – ranked a top 4 NL offense last year, with the pitching surprisingly letting them down.

        Pagan isn’t terrible, and there are all-star hitters in Posey, Pence, Sandoval.

        I had no intention of considering drafting Belt this year, but deeper research like this article is showing he could be a great value at CI or UTY if a draft falls that way and passing on other middle tier 1B’s earlier on. Particularly in OPS leagues.

        • Dan SchwartzDan Schwartz on said:

          Thanks – agreed. Better on paper than real life – usually the other way around. SP didn’t carry them…luckily they have Crick, Blackburn & Escobar impending for the rotation.

    • Dan SchwartzDan Schwartz on said:

      Agree on the hosmer comp from a surface/counting stats perspective…and he’s much cheaper. I actually like the Craig/hosmer comp quite a bit. If he was only on the yankees with that porch ;)

      Other than the k% (maybe the fb% too), I was intrigued by freeman/craig ld%/babip potential comp.

      Hosmer still more of a groundball guy…lucky he’s still young enough to up the ld & fb%’s

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