Brandon Belt the Giants fourth best hitter last season according to wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) behind only Buster Posey, Melky Cabrera, and Marco Scutaro. While he ended up a very productive hitter at the end of the season, the ride to get there was not always a smooth one.
After a breakout year in the minors in 2010, he made the Giants’ opening day lineup going into 2011. Belt struggled to find his groove initially, leading to him to not get consistent playing time. Then to top things off, he dealt with injuries that seemed to strike just as he was getting comfortable.
I had the chance to talk to Belt at media day and it was pretty interesting to hear him talk about the adjustments he had to be make coming from the minors to become a Major League hitter.
After a rookie season that saw him hit 9 home runs in just 209 plate appearances, last year Belt failed to reproduce that success.
“I think mainly going out there, especially in the second half of the season I was just looking to put the ball in play. Do what I could to help the team win.”
When you take a look at the statistics, what he talked about does appear to be the case. In the first half of the season he seemed more passive in his at-bats. He took more walks, but that was also when he was watching many of the called third strikes that seemed to drive so many of the old school fans crazy.
This seems to play into him adjusting to the Major League level, which he said has been by far the biggest jump of any in his professional career.
Hitting home runs in the minor leagues or even early in his Major League career came easy for him (relatively speaking), but last year it was a struggle. Having the zero next to his name in the home run column was difficult for him to deal with mentally.
With AT&T Park being a hard place for left-handed hitters, hitting for power takes some getting used to. Part of the adjustment process Belt talked about was changing from trying to hit the ball out of the park to focusing on hitting line drives to take advantage of the larger gaps.
“Here (AT&T Park) the power is definitely going to be limited sometimes, but that doesn’t mean it is going to limit your production as a hitter. You go out and get your line drives, take your doubles, triples when they come and you are going to be able to produce a lot of runs.”
After career years from many of the Giants hitters, it will be hard to expect the same production out of everyone that we saw last year. If the Giants expect to be able to contend in a National League West that looks to be very tightly bunched at the top, it will be important to be able to get production from other sources this year. One of the guys that could be poised to provide that is Belt.