Brandon Belt took the first flight out of Fresno on Saturday, heading to Miami and to the big club for the fourth time in 2011. He got no sleep. He didn’t see the field on Saturday, despite a late opportunity for Bochy to throw him an at-bat that went to Mike Fontenot instead. He did sleep that night and probably well.
On Sunday, Bruce Bochy gave him a rare start over the veteran. After striking out and grounding out in his first two plate appearances, much to many Belt-loving Giants fans’ chagrin, he redeemed himself and crushed an opposite field home run to the one of the deepest parts of (soon-to-be-retired) Who Knows What It’s Called Now stadium in Miami. Later, he hit dinger two of the day (and fourth overall for the Giants, including a rare multi-run homer from Cody Ross) off of tough-on-lefties southpaw Mike Dunn. Dunn hadn’t given up a big fly to a like-handed batter in his young career. Over 35 innings versus them, he’d accumulated a 2.66 FIP and 47 strikeouts. On a three-two pitch, Belt squared him up and pulled a ball well into the right field seats.
Afterwards, Bochy responded accordingly (via Andy Baggarly on Twitter).
I hate to say it, but I don’t feel confident that lovable Boch knows what a “no brainer” really is. Seems to me, a no brainer would have been to give Belt more time to settle in earlier to see what he could do. Just me maybe. Doubt it though.
The Giants have now played 121 games and, thus far, have averaged just over 3.4 runs per game. Only the Mariners have been worse. But let’s face it, they’re the Mariners. Even the Padres, who 1) cannot hit at all and 2) play in an absolutely brutal run-scoring home park, have done better. A lot better, actually — they’ve averaged an abysmal (yet way better) 3.75 runs per game.
So right now I feel like I should be happy. I should feel like a 12-year-old whose best friend that was grounded was allowed to come out and play for the afternoon. I don’t feel that way though. Instead, I feel bitter. While watching Dog Day Afternoon today — for my sanity, I often avoid watching the Giants games these days — I discovered Belt hit another jack after clicking over for a peak. I was one part overjoyed, one part muttering something angry under my breath. Or out loud.
Because the Giants have needed some energy in their lineup for such a long time. They’ve needed a player in their lineup that can take pitches, work a count, and do so many of the wonderful things that Belt can do. You know, like hit a streak of lighting to the opposite field. In the worst kind of way they’ve needed that. Given that need, the Giants have, for the most part, said “No thanks.” All season long.
So Belt, for his effort, has kept his head down and repeatedly headed to Triple-A (where he’s played outfield and first base) and he’s hit .309/.448/.527 in 212 plate appearances there. All those plate appearances down there and all the time sitting on the bench on the big club has afforded him just 94 plate appearances at the major league level.
After today, he has four home runs and a line of .232/.330/.415 with the Giants. That makes his on-base percentage lower than only Pablo Sandoval (.353) and Ross (.331) for those Giants with a decent number of plate appearances and still healthy enough to play (Posey, Sanchez and Burrell drop offf due to injury).
The Giants are coming off a brutal stretch. They took two of three from Philly, in Philly way back when (July 26-28). After that, they strolled into Terribleville and lingered a while, losing 11 of their next 14 contests; it remains to be seen if they’re headed out of town. That included two series losses to the reeling Reds and plummeting Pirates.
Anyway, today I won’t talk about the expensive asset that’s blocking this talented young man. I’d rather focus on Belt. And while doing so, I can’t help but see his rookie season as a missed opportunity. A missed opportunity for him to contend for the Rookie of the Year award. And, though I hope this doesn’t come to pass, a missed opportunity for the Giants to head back to the postseason.
The Giants were four games up on the Diamondbacks when they left Philladelphia. Now they’re two games back and Arizona is playing the best they have all season. They just swept the Mets. They have a 35 point run differential advantage. And they have a September callup in Trevor Bauer that’s on a collision course for the Giants and a 2011 good ol’ fashion pennant race. They’re being extremely aggressive with their talent.
The D’backs are playing extremely well, and I worry the Giants may not catch them. Last season, the Giants waited ’til nearly June to promote Buster Posey. When he arrived, he went off and they claimed the NL West crown on the final game of the season. On August 14, he already had 273 plate appearances, and the Giants needed every single one of those and all the rest he got over the remainder of the season to claim victory. Belt’s far behind that mark.
A lot has gone wrong for the Giants this season. Key players from a year ago just haven’t played as well (Andres Torres) and others have missed time (Cody Ross). Others, worse yet, were cornerstones of the lineup and were lost for the season (Freddy Sanchez). Others, even much worse yet, were cornerstones of the franchise and were also lost for the season in horrifying fashion (Buster Posey).
And in the too-be-determined category, the acquisition of Carlos Beltran for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler does thus far look terrible. If his hand heals up, he gets back into the lineup and starts producing as he was expected to, propelling the Giants back into the postseason, it won’t look so bad. Heck, it might even look good.
But a lot has gone right, too. Ryan Vogelsong has gone very, very right for the Giants. So too has Nate Schierholtz, an athletic outfielder that has found a way in 2011 to hit more than any of us (at least me) ever thought him capable of.
But I cannot help but feel that Belt was another thing that could have gone right for this team. Instead, he’s yet another thing that’s gone terribly wrong. It’d be tough to find anyone to agree that he hasn’t been dreadfully mishandled this season. And the Giants can only blame themselves on this one.
So I’m happy. I am. He’s here. Maybe for good. Probably not. Two big flies.
Happy. But I also feel like the San Francisco Giants don’t deserve Brandon Belt. Sort of like how the Florida Marlins don’t deserve Logan Morrison. All that’s left to do is hope he goes off, and then start hoping the Giants have finally learned their lesson. Doubt it.