LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 01: Brandon Belt (R) #9 of the San Francisco Giants is congratulated by his teammates after hitting a three-run homerun against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on April 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
It’s not as if the Giants are doing anything wrong when it comes to Brandon Belt. It's the first week of the season. No one's panicking. The biggest decision was when to bring him up in the first place, but now that the Giants have already pulled that lever, here are some ground rules for his continued handling:
Rule #1 - Talk about Brandon Belt whenever you can.
Before I signed for a package today, I talked to the UPS guy at my door for a few minutes about Brandon Belt. His swing, his fielding, his patience. The driver faked a phone call to get away, but I think he’s a better person now.
Rule #2 - TALK ABOUT BRANDON BELT WHENEVER YOU CAN!
I followed the driver’s truck for a block, and stopped him at his next stop. I could tell he wasn’t a true believer. I handed him a pamphlet and told him to go to a couple different pro-Belt websites. He assured me he got the point and thanked me for my vigilance.
Rule #3 - When he goes into his first slump, weather the storm
The Giants did this when Buster Posey complemented his insanely hot start with a stretch of play in which he looked quite mortal. While we know he was doing it to throw amateur Mulder and Scullys off his otherworldly trail, there was no guarantee that the Giants would know that as well.
And, hey, look at that: Brandon Belt already had his first slump. He had two hits yesterday, but you never know when another slump is around the corner, waiting to pounce, slump-fangs first. It’s really, really tough to separate when a guy doesn’t belong and when a guy is just having bad luck. This is why bar fights start up every night about John Bowker. Well, they should. But Belt isn’t chasing pitches outside of the strike zone. He isn’t swinging through the same pitch over and over, exposing a hole in his swing. He’s grounding out, he’s flying out, and he’s occasionally striking out, but his approach is sound. Ignore the batting average and stick with him. It seems like the Giants are of a similar mind.
Rule #4 - Keep him at first, regardless of the other permutations that are possible
The more clomping that goes around in the outfield corners, the more likely people will clamor for a shift in the defensive alignment. And when Cody Ross comes back, that will leave three players for two spots. Belt is a pretty good athlete, and there’s a pretty good chance he could handle an outfield corner spot. If he was drafted out of high school as a pitcher, his arm is probably pretty nifty.
But I’m not a fan of learning a player learning a new position in his first month in the major leagues. There's no tangible evidence that it affects performance at the plate, but I'll just light up a gas lantern and side with the armchair psychologists on this one. My next post: THAT CLOSER MENTALITY AND WHY YOU NEED IT.
I don't like having a position that isn't based on logic -- just ignore the past eight years of my blogging, please -- but I want Belt as a first baseman. That's what he's comfortable with, he's good at it, and I feel like it would just confuse things to move him around.
Rule #5 - He doesn't get sent down until he's hitting .130 with a K/BB ratio of 41/4
He belongs. This is the kind of my-eyes-done-told-me nonsense that leads to Eugenio Velez starting after a hot streak. This is exactly the sort of anecdotal observation masquerading as rational analysis that usually leads to 600-word screeds at this very site. So, yeah, I'm a bit of a hypocrite. But Belt is a major league hitter right now. Feel it in my bones, I do.
Maybe this is just the rambling of a fanboy who wants desperately to watch his shiny new toy do well. Fair enough. Belt stays, though. He's kept at first, he's allowed to hit through his slumps, and he stays in the majors. If I had to guess, I'd say the Giants agree on all counts.