Baseball fans around the world look at the Giants and see a roster composed of Gold Glovers and past All-Stars, even if many of the most recognizable faces are nearly past their prime.
Examining the ballpark is a worthwhile endeavor, too. AT&T Park is a pitcher's paradise, and unless your middle name is Lamar, the stadium wasn't designed with the talents of a left-handed hitter in mind.
Nearly every factor is working against Brandon Belt becoming a star. Yet 48 games into the 2018 season, he's the most valuable hitter in the National League.
Belt isn't just on pace to earn his second career All-Star nod. He's outperforming every player in his division and is thriving as the unlikely offensive catalyst leading the NL West's best offense.
"I think this is the best year I've had so far," Belt said. "I think this is what I felt like I could always do. It's just a matter of being consistent with it and I've got to continue to do the same thing."
While stunning and sudden, Belt's emergence is also paradoxical.
The NL Player of the Week recipient crushed five homers in seven games to help the Giants to a winning homestand and consistently elicited rousing ovations from AT&T Park crowds.
But throughout his eight-year Major League career, Belt has dealt with constant cries of criticism and defiant dismissals of his talent from many of those same fans. The most vocal detractors painted Belt as an oft-injured, always underwhelming hitter with a penchant for whiffing — or worse, taking — in clutch situations.
Belt's soaring 2014 home run in the 18th inning of Game 2 of the NLDS against the Nationals propelled the Giants to a series upset, but the first baseman has long been chided for what fans perceived as "warning track power."
At age 30, a slight adjustment to Belt's swing has keyed an offensive breakthrough.
Over the offseason, Belt evaluated video from the best year of his career, 2016, and determined he needed to lower his hands if he wanted his swing to be quicker through the zone.
The results have placed the rest of baseball on notice.
"This is what I thought I was going to be able to do before the season started," Belt said. "Just a lot of experience and stuff and the physical part is kind of meeting up this year and I feel like I can keep going."
Belt isn't leading the National League in home runs, RBIs, batting average or on-base percentage. Yet other metrics say he's the best the league has to offer.
His 175 WRC+, a measurement that adjusts the statistic of runs created for park effects, leads all NL hitters. League average is 100.
His 1.006 OPS ranks second only to Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant's 1.010 and his wOBA of .424, a stat that contextualizes a hitter's offensive value, is two-tenths of a point behind Bryant's league-best mark. A wOBA of .400 is considered excellent.
"Brandon has just really picked up his play this year," manager Bruce Bochy said. "You could see it in spring training. I just thought between attitude and the little adjustment he's made in his swing, he's really become a force."
Belt's 2.4 WAR — perhaps the most common stat used to determine a player's value — is the best in the National League and a full 0.7 points ahead of Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. It's a smidgen in front of D'Backs center fielder A.J. Pollock's 2.3 mark, but Pollock won't have a chance to catch Belt in the near future due to a recently fractured wrist.
The Giants first baseman credits a deeper lineup for creating better opportunities for him at the plate this year, but his manager and teammates know Belt is responsible for taking matters into his own hands.
No player on the Giants roster works a count like Belt, and his 25 hits with two strikes lead all NL players.
"I feel more comfortable deeper in the count this year than I have in the past," Belt said. "Definitely. I think I feel comfortable at any point in time. Maybe I get later in the count and it might cause me to shorten up a bit and I might actually have a better approach at that point."
Hitting in the heart of an order that now ranks second in the NL in batting average and fourth in OPS is a testament to Belt's newfound confidence, which he admits hasn't always been his strength.
"When I come to the field every day, I feel like I have a good chance of getting a hit and helping us win a ballgame," Belt said. "That hasn't always been the case. I have a lot of confidence right now and maybe a mediocre stretch here and there is not going to take that away from me."
After sitting out the final two months of the Giants' 98-loss campaign with a concussion, the promise of personal accolades isn't necessarily driving Belt's breakout season. Like every other member of a well-compensated Giants core, it's clear Belt senses an obligation to will the club into contention in the NL West, a division that remains a wide-open race.
Should Belt continue to light up opponents with offensive fireworks, a national spotlight will eventually locate him.
Belt must maintain a narrow edge on Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman on statistical leaderboards to increase his odds of securing his first starting All-Star nod. He must withstand challenges from opposing pitchers up in the zone, and as the season rolls on, he'll need to prove he has the durability to continue lifting the ball through a thick San Francisco marine layer.
His teammates believe he can.
"Getting on base and driving the ball obviously with a lot of home runs recently," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "That's what we want and need out of him. I think he's probably one of the more underrated players in baseball."
With nearly 50 games in the books, Belt is the Giants' best player, the league's most productive first baseman and quite possibly its most valuable hitter.
Underrated is a label that can only last for so long.