Brandon Belt is making waves this season. From his string of five home runs in six games, to his 21-pitch at-bat that broke the MLB record (for the length of time that such things have been recorded), he is turning heads for many reasons.
Yesterday, there were two.
Belt is in the midst of another batch of home runs. Curiously, this seems to happen with him when he faces the Cincinnati Reds in May during the last few seasons. He not only hit one in every game of this series, but he hit one in the last two games he played against the Reds in May of 2017. This gives him a five-game streak, the first Giant to do so against a single team since Barry Bonds hit six in a row against the Padres in 2001.
But it doesn’t stop there, Belt hit another home run against the Reds in that same week last season, but it was the first of that four-game series with the other two coming at the end.
Further back than that, Belt hit one out in three consecutive games against the Reds in May of 2015. This series was the only of the three that was in the Cincinnati bandbox, so it’s not about the park. Clearly, because two of his eight splash hits have come in May against Cincinnati in the last two years.
So is there any rhyme or reason to this trend? Likely not! It’s just another fun baseball quirk that Brandon Belt has started mashing baseballs against the Reds in May. And it’s worth talking about, considering Belt could potentially be having another All Star Season and all press is good press, right?
The other way in which Belt made headlines yesterday was in his postgame comments about umpire Doug Eddings. Andrew Baggarly reported in The Athletic that Belt had this to say after the game:
I’ve heard that guy multiple times say or insinuate that he’s trying to get through the game fast. And then he makes calls like that that I can’t imagine that he really thought that was a strike. You’ve got to wonder.
This was after Belt “struck out” to end the game, with Brandon Crawford on second and Evan Longoria on deck as the potentially tying run. Longoria is second behind Belt for the most home runs on the Giants this year.
Belt is notorious for knowing his strike zone better than the umpires seem to, but he usually restrains his reactions to a disappointed slumpy shoulders walk and a scowl when he gets a bad call.
His first career ejection came in San Diego in 2016, when he was rung up in the ninth inning on a ball that was clearly inside. Belt slammed his bat against the ground, and was quickly ejected, followed by Bruce Bochy.
So, though easily annoyed by numerous bad calls at the plate, Belt isn’t usually a hot head, or prone to spouting off after games. So it was surprising to see his comments yesterday. He made it clear that he respected the vast majority of umpires, but singled out the one or two who may try to end games early. Adding:
We had a really good hitter coming up after that who could have tied the game for us. And we never got that chance because he calls a ball that was so far off the plate I don’t even think I could have touched it if I swung at it, so …
So...just how bad was the call?
Well, I’d love to embed the video but MLB has made that impossible. According to the picture in the linked Baggarly piece above, it was a couple of inches outside. According to the At-Bat app, it wasn’t even as bad as the strike one call which was even further outside and likely only served to stoke Belt’s ire.
We’ll see what comes of Belt’s statements yesterday, but one thing is for sure - he’s certainly making it hard to ignore him this season.