Atlanta Braves

Giants should’ve stuck with Belt like the Braves stuck with Freeman

I guess when it comes to fantasy baseball, I was a little like Bruce Bochy this season. Or Brian Sabean. Or Brice Bochean. Or Brune Sabeochy. You get the point. I added Freddie Freeman to one of my two mediocre fantasy teams early on, and waited for production. But I didn’t wait long enough. I grabbed him on April 23, after a hot streak raised his slash line to .274/.384/.484, and held onto him for quite a while.

Actually, that isn’t very accurate.

Oy to the vey. After a 2-week slump dropped Freeman’s line to .222/.325/.361, the kind of streak that would have sent Freeman to Fresno without his supper if he played for the Giants, I dropped him for Gavin freaking Floyd. My starting pitching at the time was beyond horrible, but still. No excuse. And, of course, hours after I dropped Freeman he went 3-for-4 with a HR. However, he didn’t get hot until a couple months later and one of my opponents swooped him up on July 4.

You know who didn’t drop Freeman when he struggled? His own Major League team, which started out the year just as talented as the Giants (and probably still feel like they should have beaten the Giants in the NLDS), but held to a commitment to play Freeman for better or worse. The Atlanta Braves sure look like the smart ones now, as Freeman’s line sits at .293/.357/.463 and he’s the frontrunner for National League Rookie of the Year.

Would Brandon Belt be right there with him in the NL ROY race if the Giants had the same kind of patience? Would I be writing daily “NL ROY Tracker” posts down the stretch this year like I did back in 2010 about Buster Posey and Jason Heyward? Impossible to know for certain, but it definitely wasn’t going to happen the way the Giants frantically sent Belt up and down CA-99 this year.

There were/are some differences between the Braves’ situation and what the Giants were dealing with lineup-wise, as noted by Grant Brisbee (in a post I didn’t find, along with this one about Belt and Freeman by Baseball Monk, until writing 90% of this post — so hopefully my tales of early season fantasy GM wizardry make up for my lack of originality). On opening day Freeman hit 8th in a lineup that, besides Nate McLouth getting replaced by Michael Bourn, is exactly the same as the group that beat the Giants 1-0 on Thursday (a game where Belt sat on the bench). In case you haven’t noticed, the Giants’ opening day lineup of Torres/Sanchez/Huff/Posey/Burrell/Tejada/Belt/Sandoval has seen some changes.

But you had the No. 17 prospect according to Baseball America in Freeman and the No. 23 prospect in Belt. Not much difference. The Giants won 92 games last season, the Braves 91. Not much difference there, either. And if you check out the stats, the idea that Freeman was more “ready” than Belt this season is dubious at best.

Going into Thursday’s game:

Plate Appearances
Freeman: 495
Belt: 106

Home Runs
Freeman: 16
Belt: 4

Freeman: 8.3%
Belt: 12.3%

Freeman: 23.1%
Belt: 23.6%

BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play)
Freeman: .363
Belt: .242

One of the knocks on Belt (from Giants management) is he strikes out too much. He actually strikes out just as often as Freeman, but he walks considerably more often. Projected to 495 PA, Belt would have 18 or 19 home runs, which seems reasonable. And if you bring both of their BABIP numbers to the median (around .300), you probably have a couple .270 hitters with good power who’d be in a neck-and-neck race for Rookie of the Year. And when it comes to a battle of necks, clearly Belt’s at a distinct advantage.

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