Brandon Belt is a Giant No More

It finally happened. After a career composed of 12 seasons spent with the San Francisco Giants, Brandon Belt has finally found a new home. On Monday, it was reported that the Blue Jays have agreed to a one-year, $9.3 million contract with Belt. For years, us fantasy owners have been dying to see what Belt could do if he ever left the home run suppressing Oracle Park. Unfortunately, it took until the season in which he’ll mostly be age 35. Still, after coming off another injury plagued season and the lowest wOBA of his career, will the park switch trigger a rebound? Let’s consult the park factors.

Park Factor Comparison
Park (Team) 1B as L 2B as L 3B as L HR as L SO BB GB FB LD IFFB Basic
Oracle Park (Giants) 98 103 112 89 100 100 102 96 98 96 98
Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) 98 101 96 102 101 98 101 101 100 97 99

Wow, this was unexpected! But it’s the nice mix of wins I like to see.

Let’s start with the non-home run hit type factors as always. The singles factors are identical, with both parks suppressing them marginally. Throughout his career, Belt has posted an above average BABIP, thanks to a high LD% and low IFFB%, despite a heavy fly ball tendency. It’s quite a unique batted ball distribution indeed. Despite his home park suppressing singles, he has posted a massively higher BABIP at home. His career home mark of .340 is well above his .301 mark on the road. That’s likely due to the other factors we’ll be getting to.

Next up is the doubles factor, in which both parks inflate them, but Rogers a bit less so. We could see that doubles factor in play in Belt’s home/road splits, as he has posted a better doubles rate at home throughout his career. Finally, we end up at the triples factors, and find a big gap. Oracle is one of the better triples parks in baseball, for both right-handers and left-handers. Amazingly, Belt has hit 27 of his 36 career triples at home. So he has clearly benefited from his home field effects.

Overall, it’s pretty obvious that Belt’s BABIP forecast should take a hit from this move, which would bring down his batting average if all else was equal.

We now move to the home run factors, and the gap here is exactly what we expected to see. Actually, I thought Rogers was friendlier for left-handed home runs, but it was actually a better park for righties last year. On the other hand, Oracle is the worst park for home runs, for both lefties and righties. As you might expect, Belt has posted a much higher HR/FB rate on the road than at home. His 14.4% mark in away parks is meaningfully better than his 10.3% mark at home. This also helps explain the home/road BABIP split, as many would-be home runs at Oracle end up becoming doubles or triples. On the road, those same balls leave the park and are therefore excluded from the BABIP calculation.

So while we should reduce Belt’s BABIP projection, his HR/FB rate forecast gets a nice boost. Of course, because his HR/FB rate has really been up and down over the years, it will be hard to determine how much of an increase is due to the park switch and how much is just the more powerful Belt showing up this season.

Let’s hop on over to the batted ball type factors. While the ground ball factor is similar and shouldn’t impact his projection, we find that Rogers inflated fly balls, while Oracle suppressed them. Belt’s batted ball profile was fairly similar at home and away, so perhaps this doesn’t affect him much. I would speculate that some of the low FB factor at Oracle is psychological, as hitters know the park suppresses home runs, and therefore they intentionally hit fewer fly balls, as a fly is less valuable at the park than elsewhere.

The line drive factors are fairly close, but Rogers is neutral versus a slightly suppressive Oracle. That should ever so slightly bump up Belt’s LD% projection, and he has indeed posted a higher mark on the road during his career. Both parks reduce pop-ups, which is a positive, though Belt has actually posted a lower mark in away parks.

We end on the Basic, five-year run scoring factor. As a reminder, the hit type factors are only for lefties, while the rest, including Basic, also includes right-handed betters. So they won’t perfectly match with the effects Belt himself is going to experience. Somewhat surprisingly, the Basic factors are very close, with both parks suppressing offense. I actually expected a wider gap, with Oracle being more pitcher friendly, and Rogers actually being hitter friendly.

So this park switch looks like a good example of driving a change in performance shape, but not overall production. In other words, we should expect a lower BABIP, but higher HR/FB rate, due solely to the park switch, but the effects should mostly offset each other. So his overall offense, as measured by wOBA, shouldn’t be impacted dramatically. Still, given most fantasy leagues’ overweighting of home runs, which also drives RBI and runs scored, I think Belt’s updated projection would result in a boost in fantasy value.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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23 days ago

Rogers Centre is undergoing significant renovation this off-season. Outfield configurations are changing.