Thought you were done with Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants fans?
Well, it turns out that he isn’t quite done with you yet. To say that the first baseman’s month of July didn’t exactly go his way would be an understatement. Whether it was a Bill Buckner-esque error that led to an embarrassing loss against the Chicago Cubs, or his underwhelming .225/.329/.380 slash line through the month, Belt’s anticipated development in 2013 had not exactly gone according to plan.
Carrying a 1-for-19 slump to close out the month with a .784 OPS in his first half, the 25-year-old might have been pretty good … if he’d played anywhere but first base. There, he ranked just 16th in the league in that category, tied with a past-his prime Ryan Howard and behind luminaries such as Chris Carter of his Houston Astros.
Sure, his plus-defense helped Belt to a 10th-ranked fWAR at 1.5, but after a a disappointing July that saw him strike out at an alarming 34.1 percent, it was hard to feel optimistic about the future. So, it was perhaps with little surprise that he was on the bench for the Giants’ first game of August.
As it turns out, that was maybe the wake-up call that the youngster needed.
If the NL Player of the Week Award didn’t emphasize the point enough, Belt has simply been … belting the ball (had to do it) with aplomb. Currently on an 11-game hit streak that has seen him hit five homers, four doubles and a pair of triples in just 51 at-bats, the former top prospect carries a ludicrous .431/.500/.882 triple-slash heading into play on Saturday that sees him own the league lead among all players in OPS by nearly 100 points.
Oh, and his 1.4 fWAR in the month thus far is only second to that of the incredible Mike Trout. So much for that Chris Carter comparison earlier, eh?
Whether it’s his season-low 12.1 percent monthly strikeout rate, or his season-high 27.3 percent line drive rate, Belt is locked in at every aspect of the game these days. The question, of course, is whether it can last; and though he might be unstoppable now, it is worth pointing out that inconsistency at the plate has been part of the youngster’s game, as he also surged in August and September last season as well.
Then again, he is just 25, and it’s this kind of upside that keeping the Giants hanging around through all the ups and downs. Funny how a new grip on his bat may have just tightened the one he has on the role as the Giants’ first baseman of the future, yes?