“Ye who dost neglect thou opportunities, shall be punished until ye embrace thou opportunistic chance” – Nicholas Thomas
A wise man once reflected on opportunity. He surmised that if you do not take advantage of the opportunities presented to you, then you’ve pretty much screwed yourself until that opportunity knocks again — as is the case with Brandon Belt.
Belt’s always been one of those what-ifs. After raking his entire minor league career to a two-year total of 31 homers, 148 RBI, 27 steals, and a .343/.457/.526 slash in 670 at-bats, Belt was streamlined to the San Francisco Giants as early as 2011. He was touted as a power-speed first baseman — an extremely rare commodity — whose plate discipline and approach would ultimately entrench him in the middle of the Giants’ lineup for years and years and years. Unfortunately for the Giants and Belt, that plan ended up skewed.
For reasons that I’m sure only people in the clubhouse know, Belt found himself on Bruce Bochy’s “bad list” as early as the year he came up and was never given a full-time opportunity to accrue at-bats and maintain comfort. He was tossed around and platooned through the field and the lineup all of last year. He only ended up hitting seven homers. It seemed his power was sapped, his confidence gone, and his position with the team sketchy.
This year, though, Belt was apparently and finally back into good graces with Giants management, and was officially named the starting first baseman for Opening Day and beyond — he’d sit in the six-hole and mash, you’d think.
Unfortunately — a word that seems to come up a lot when talking about him — Belt got off to another bad start: .222/.261/.317. Very quickly he went from the starting first baseman and six-hitter to a strong-side platoon mate with scrub Joaquin Arias. Arias, a career .674 OPS guy, is biting starts vs. left-handers away from Belt. He’s striking out — three times last night — and, somehow, is producing even less than Belt.
It’s frustrating for fantasy owners when a guy who’s proven he can hit is finally given a chance and simply doesn’t. But what many owners might overlook, along with Giants management, is that during his ‘down’ 2011, Belt still hit a decent .275 and had a solid .360 OBP. He wasn’t breaking the game in any way, but for someone with scattered at-bats and an unclear role, he was still producing steadily for a World Series championship-caliber team. If you want me to be blunt and emotional about it, I sort of think Belt is being treated unfairly.
Now, though, things seem like they might be turning around. Remember that whole fake quote about opportunity? Well, think about this. Belt’s slump could have happened at any point during the year. If he had hit as expected through June and had a .222-streak at some point in July, it would almost seem natural. It happens. It just happened at the wrong time for Belt. He also had some sort of stomach virus to start the year that surely didn’t help.
Fortunately (no ‘un’!) Belt’s shown a sign of life in the past two days as (schadenfreude) Arias has stunk. On Monday, in a game where Arias started and went 1-4 with a K, Belt hit a game-winning pinch-hit single to top the Arizona Diamondbacks. Then, on Tuesday, in a game where the starter, Arias, went 0-3 with 3 Ks, Belt hit a bottom-of-the-ninth game-tying two-run homer.
There’s life, and you should hold tight if you’ve waited this long. Nothing helps your coach’s outlook more than coming off the bench and making him look good. Or at least that’d be the case if I were the coach. Belt defends well, which will keep him in the lineup if he’s batting even .250, and the lineup in front of and behind him are all producing. I’m holding onto him, and if I didn’t have him I’d pick him up.
Not to mention he has a 33% LD% with a .271 BAbip, which doesn’t make sense at all. He’s getting unlucky, and things will turn around.