SEPTEMBER 28: Belt has been placed on the 10-day injured list, with Thairo Estrada recalled to take his active roster spot. Belt’s fracture is expected to take around four weeks to fully heal, reports Andrew Baggarly of the Athletic (Twitter link). It’s possible the club attempts to expedite his return to the field even before the bone is fully healed, with the plan for Belt to be reevaluated on an approximately weekly basis.
That wouldn’t officially end Belt’s season, but it does seem likely the Giants will need to make a deep postseason run (perhaps as far as the World Series) to give him an opportunity to return. Ruf, who is eligible to be activated from his own IL stint this week, seems likely to handle first base for the Giants throughout most of the playoffs.
SEPTEMBER 27: The Giants have announced that an x-ray revealed a fracture in the left thumb of first baseman Brandon Belt, as relayed by several reporters, including Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. Belt was hit on the thumb by a pitch in yesterday’s game and was pulled a short time later. The expected recovery timeline is still unknown right now, as Belt still plans on more meetings with doctors, per Maria I. Guardado of MLB.com. However, for comparison’s sake, both J.T. Realmuto and Joey Votto suffered a fractured thumb earlier this year and missed about a month before returning to action.
This is awful timing for Belt and the Giants, both because the postseason begins in a week and because Belt had been on such a tear of late. Since returning from a knee injury August 5th, Belt’s slash line is an absurd .297/.394/.690, hitting 18 home runs in that stretch. That production is 83% better than league average, according to wRC+. After three straight years of lagging production from 2017 to 2019, Belt has essentially been on fire the past two years. Since the start of the 2020 season, in 148 games, his line is .285/.393/.595. His wRC+ of 163 in that time is the third-best in the majors among those with at least 550 plate appearances, trailing only Juan Soto and Bryce Harper.
As for the team, they are already guaranteed a playoff spot, though which kind is still to be determined. They are currently two games ahead of the Dodgers for the lead in the NL West, with each team having six games remaining. In the absence of Belt, they will likely turn to Wilmer Flores and LaMonte Wade Jr., who have each seen some time at first base this year. Darin Ruf could be an option down the road, but he himself was just placed on the IL on Thursday with an oblique injury. Those three all have good numbers this year, but the loss of Belt’s potent bat is certainly a blow to the offense, as it would be to any team’s.
It’s also unfortunate timing for Belt, career-wise, as he’s heading into free agency in just over a month. This injury could deny him the ability to add to his postseason ledger, which already includes a pair of World Series titles with the Giants in 2012 and 2014. Although, based on the incredible numbers he’s put up over the past two seasons, he should still garner plenty of interest on the open market, even if he’s unable to make another appearance this year.