Brandon belt has been mistreated and mishandled this season. There is nothing controversial about this statement, even Giants General Manager Brain Sabean acknowledged this during a conversation with the Razor and Mr. T on KNBR saying:
“They (Belt and Brandon Crawford) ended up being called up in duress or juggled while we were in crisis mode. It’s not necessarily a fair way to evaluate somebody.”
So while I think that it is fair to say that Belt’s development path wasn’t ideal I also wonder if there is something else that the Giants have done to him. Namely I wonder if there is something that Bruce Bochy and the Giants major league instructors have done to him to mess with his approach.
Bochy has a reputation for one favoring veterans which to a certain extent I understand but also that he really wants his players to put the ball in play. I am going to go out on a limb and say that Bochy has worked hard to get Belt to get more aggressive at the plate and I think that this might be something that is potentially screwing up Belt.
The splits I am going to use are smaller than what I would normally like to pull from but I think that it does show that it is possible that Belt has changed up his approach.
When Belt started the season with the Giants he was a very patient hitter, swinging at just 43.2 percent of pitches and just 7.7 percent of balls outside the strike zone. During this time he also managed to walk in 13 percent of plate appearance against a strikeout rate of 22 percent.
The hits weren’t falling for him and the Giants pulled the plug on the experiment and sent him to Fresno to regain his confidence and I am sure he got some words from the skipper to get more aggressive.
In his second stint with the big league club he again got some fairly inconsistent playing time and his approach seemed to be slightly more aggressive. He swung at 45.5 percent of pitches and was swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone 19.3 percent of the time.
Belt’s third (and current) stretch with the big league club has seen him get more aggressive. He is swinging at 49.9 percent of all pitches (that is over 10 percent higher than his swing rate at the beginning of the season) and swinging at 14.5 percent of balls outside of the strike zone.
In addition his walk rate and strikeout rate are moving in the wrong directions. His strikeout rate over his current stretch is 35 percent while his once very good walk rate has dropped down to about league average at 8 percent.
Here is the plot of his walk and strikeout rates for each of his 3 main stints with the Giants. I would be cautious before I drew any conclusions from this because both and walk and strikeout rate take about 200 PA to stabilize and each chunk is less than 80 plate appearances. The hard thing to tell would be what the rates would be if he did in fact try to become more aggressive after spending some time in the minor leagues.
It is entirely possible that I am reading too much into a very small sample size here but from watching Belt’s at bats it seems that there has been a fairly drastic change from early Belt and current Belt in the way that he goes about his at bats. That being said swing rate is one of the stats that becomes reliable over a relatively short period of at bats, so there might be something to this hypothesis.
From what I have seen previously he was patient early in the count; he seemed content to wait for a pitch that he could drive. Now he seems much more likely to go after pitches early in the count (kind of like all of the other Giants hitters), he still seems to do well at working counts and fouling off pitches but his weakness against breaking pitches has been his kryptonite when pitchers get 2 strikes on him.