I’ll be honest, I can’t stop talking about Brandon Belt. Two graphs this morning for your Sunday enjoyment. The first is a graph of Brandon Belt’s batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage by game and the second is a graph of Belt’s strikeout and walk percentages by game.
There’s a lot of impressive things going on in each graph, but for me the most impressive is probably graph number two: Belt has done a modest job of cutting his strikeout rate, while walking more, and that’s coincided with an increase in power. Really, it’s hard to imagine a better scenario for any player. Walks up, strikeouts down, and more power. That’s the winning formula if there ever was one.
If you look at Belt’s 2011 strikeout and walk rates, you’ll see that this year he’s cut his strikeout rate by about five percentage points — 27.3 percent to 22.2 percent — and his walk rate is up by about seven percentage points — 9.6 percent to 16.8 percent. June has been a redeeming month for Belt; this month the first baseman has posted a weighted on-base percentage (wOBA) of .493. Amongst hitters with at least 60 plate appearances in June, Belt ranks third (tied with Trevor Plouffe) in baseball in wOBA. Only Joey Votto (.510 wOBA) and Paul Goldschmidt (.494) have been hotter hitters. And both Votto and Goldschmidt play in much more offensively minded ball parks than Belt does. If you park-adjust things and use weighted runs created plus (wRC+), Belt moves into a second place tie with Plouffe at 220 for the best hitter in the month of June. Votto, at 227, still takes first place.
So, gobs of good things are going on for Belt right now. He’s started to receive steady playing time this month and he’s taken total advantage of it. However, we can’t throw away Belt’s early struggles and just look at June. Doing so would be dishonest, but if you look at Belt’s career line in the majors you’d probably be pleasantly surprised. Belt’s career line in baseball is now .246/.348/.430, 115 wRC+. That’s a solid line in this offensive environment for a first baseman. Part of me thinks that Belt’s never going to hit much over .270 as a player, but he should, in his best years, give you solid on-base skills coupled with a little power, decent baserunning, and good defense.
The Giants have to be pretty excited to see Belt’s development right now. He’s not going to be as good as he’s looked this month, but few players are truthfully this good. If Belt can continue to work and develop as a player, the Giants could end up with one of their first homegrown first basemen in a long, long time.