Since being recalled from Triple-A for the third time this year as the San Francisco Giants began a series against the Philadephia Phillies, Brett Pill has started the last two games and has put a spectacular charge into a dormant Giants offense that seriously needed to be woken up. Pill is six for his last nine, and he homered with four RBI in Wednesday’s game. In those two games, he’s raised his average for the season from .148 to .278. With Pill’s hot start and Brandon Belt‘s massive struggles since the All-Star break, it’s not a stretch to think that Pill could soon take the first base job for himself.
Though Juan Perez and Kensuke Tanaka‘s hot starts and subsequent failures have shown Giants fans that a few good games should not shape a player’s identity, Pill could be a different case. First of all, Pill has torn up Triple-A all year and has put up very good numbers for the majority of his minor league career. He’s hit at least 10 home runs in six of his eight minor league seasons, including his last five. This year, he’s been particularly great, posting a .344 average with 18 homers and 79 RBI.
Even more intriguing is the fact that when Pill received regular major league playing time, he was successful. In 2011, Pill was a September call-up and started 13 of the Giants’ final 21 games. He hit .300 over that period with two homers, nine RBI and a .560 slugging percentage. His struggles have come when he’s had to come off the bench and has gone long periods of time in-between starts. According to Pill himself, his lack of production earlier this year was partly due to him not getting into the lineup after being called up. He would join the team, sit on the bench for a few games, and lose his hitting stroke. Now that Pill has immediately gotten some starts, the results have shown.
Though Belt is widely regarded as a great defensive first baseman, Pill is not much of a downgrade. Before the emergence of Belt he had been considered the best defensive first baseman in the Giants’ system. And even with as much praise as Belt has gotten, he still is capable of failure; his error at first base cost the Giants a victory in Friday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs. Some will argue that Belt still deserves more time to prove himself, but now that he has just a .258 average over his first 916 big-league at-bats and has displayed very little power-hitting ability, maybe it’s time to at least put the Belt experiment on the back-burner for a little while. Pill has the potential to be a very good breakout player, just like Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt was two years ago, and he at least deserves a chance to prove himself as an everyday player. Now, with the Giants more or less out of contention, it’s a great time to give Pill a no-pressure look.