Brandon Belt and Strikeouts

Brandon Belt hasn’t started his season as most would have hoped, as he currently boasts a .227/.346/.330 line. He’s had solid on-base numbers to this point, but he’s failed to hit the ball with much authority — in fact, he has yet to hit his first home run of 2012. Additionally, he’s striking out at a rather high clip — 26.2% of his plate appearances have ended in a strikeout, compared to a league-average of 19.5%. The strikeouts have especially plagued Belt of late, as he has K’d in 9 of his last 19 plate appearances.

In light of Belt’s disappointing performance, I think it’s worth point out a few things.

For one, strikeouts aren’t such a bad thing. Plenty of great hitters strike out at relatively high rates, and it doesn’t prevent them from having success. Given his patience and power potential, Belt fits the bill for a player that could go this route. (And it’s not as though he’s striking out at Mark Reynolds rates.) In fact, it’s pretty refreshing to see a hitter like Belt on the Giants — strikeouts and all.

Since 2007, the Giants rank:

  • 12th in the National League in K%
  • 15th in the National League in BB%
  • 15th in the National League in wRC+

If their recent offenses are any indication, the Giants seem to love hitters who don’t strike out a lot, even if it’s often at the expense of drawing walks. Recent acquisitions like Melky Cabrera (12% K rate) and Angel Pagan (14.4% K rate) reflect this approach. (And, for the record, I like both Melky and Pagan a lot, and I’d say they’ve proven to be solid hitters).

Belt, as a high-walk high-strikeout hitter, represents a shift from this kind of hacktastic approach that so many recent Giants hitters have shown. He’s not too passive at the plate, either. According to pitch f/x data, Belt swings at 25.1% of pitches out of the strike zone. The league average is 28.3%. Belt also swings at 74.9% of pitches within the strike zone. The league average is 61.3%.

That’s not an overly passive hitter. That’s a selective hitter — one that waits for good pitches to hit, and then swings away. As long as Belt continues to employ this selective approach, I expect him to come around eventually.

Belt has come to the plate 107 times this season. It’s far too early to start worrying about him, especially considering that he hasn’t been that terrible. He’s currently at a 91 wRC+, which, while poor for a first baseman, isn’t approaching Eric Hosmer or Ike Davis levels.

So, just be patient. Especially with the power — there’s not much to conclude yet from Belt’s early power outage.

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6 thoughts on “Brandon Belt and Strikeouts

  1. THANK YOU! I’m so tired of this “Belt’s not hitting/send him down” thing. He’s getting on base, and he’s been one of our better guys at getting people on base. He’s also solid as a defensive player, which, given the state of our infield at the moment, is kind of important.

    I really think Giants fans have been spoiled by having players like Buster, MadBum and Pablo, who come up from Fresno and hit the ground running.

    That said, I am a little concerned that Belt seems to be increasingly grim at his at-bats. He doesn’t look like he’s having fun–which I’m sure is because of knowing each time you don’t hit it out of the park increases your chance of sitting for the next month.

  2. Couple people have mentioned some mechanical differences between 2012 Belt and 2011 Belt. Decreased contact rates would seem to indicate a mechanical problem. I know little about hitting mechanics, but I hadn’t noticed anything drastic. Still think it’s too early to really worry.

  3. Quote Nice looking prospect that will take to long to ever hit a solid 280+/- and with the swing he takes if he hits 8 HR in a year it will be his best. Sorry good fielder but he woun’t hit for average or power. Way to many holes in his swing and against left hander he is over matched. The true answer to first is Posey with Sanchas as Catcher.

    • Um, okay.

      1) Belt hit 9 HRs in 209 PAs last season.

      2) Overmatched against left-handers? He’s hit .290/.366/.452 against LHPs so far in his major-league career.

      3) And despite all these “holes” in his swing, he has a higher career wOBA than Hector Sanchez. Not to mention, Sanchez/Posey would be a defensive downgrade from Posey/Belt.

  4. I think a larger concern is his contact percentage, which currently sits at around 65%. Something is obviously wrong with him, whether it be mental, mechanical, or both. I don’t get the impression that Sabean is down on Belt, though. Some of Sabean’s recent interviews tell me that Sabean (and others in the organization) like Belt, which is good, because it means he’ll get more opportunities to prove himself.

    Still, I’d like to see the power start showing up. Even if you like Belt, you have to admit that his ABs haven’t been too impressive so far this season. He’s done a good job showing patience, but he can be too passive at times. And, his hits have been pretty weak.

    And, having Hector catch full-time is not a good idea. I don’t think he’s experienced enough to handle the staff at this stage in his development.

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