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.