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What’s the best streak of Brandon Belt’s career (so far)?

Was it that Player of the Week stretch from earlier this season?

Cincinnati Reds v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“McDeep Dive” is our new series that spotlights one Giants player every day for a week. We’ll move backwards and forwards through time, look at on the field stuff, off the field stuff, and see if we can learn something new about them. Here’s part 6 of our look at Brandon Belt.

Brandon Belt has been unfairly maligned his entire career for never hitting 50 home runs with 162 RBI in a season. He’s a “streaky hitter” in the worst possible way. Never mind that all baseball players of any stripe are streaky — that’s what happens in a sport where failing the majority of the time still means you’re a good player — it’s that Belt’s slumps are usually “pronounced”. They... have a certain look to them.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

And that’s riled up fans and season ticket holders alike. Every 0-for-10 ignites people’s recollections of Will Clark and, to a lesser extent, J.T. Snow, both of whom definitely, absolutely, had 0-for-10 streaks. But neither of them had to make dramatic changes to their hitting approach in order to keep playing, and that’s something Belt had to do.

Remember all that talk about Brandon Belt’s grip? Back in 2013?

At the behest of hitting coach Hensley Meulens, Belt talked to Phillies All-Star outfielder Domonic Brown when the Giants visited Philadelphia late last month. While coaching the All-Star team earlier in July, Meulens saw in Brown a player similar to Belt. Both are 6-foot-5, 25-year-old left-handed hitters who came to the majors as top prospects.

But while Belt has bounced in and out of the lineup at times this season, Brown has finally put it all together. He has 26 homers after totaling just 12 in his first three seasons, and he made his first All-Star team. In New York for the All-Star game, Meulens asked Brown how he had managed such a turnaround, and Brown explained that he had changed his grip on the bat and seen immediate results.

Domonic Brown hasn’t had a major league at bat since the end of the 2015 season. Call it stance, call it grip, call it position in the batter’s box, but Belt’s struggles were never because of a lack of immense talent. Just how talented?

This past May, he was named the NL Player of the Week (for week of May 14-20) for the second time in his career. The first time was the week preceding that article about his grip adjustment. We know that in between the grip change and this season, basically from Player of the Week honor to Player of the Week honor, he’s only become a more patient hitter, because that change in grip and stance eventually closed a key hole in his hitting zone (basically up above the wrists on the inside corner), allowing him to get to pitches he used to just swing through.

And when he does swing, it’s a good one. Back in February, MLB.com declared he’s the hitter who takes the most “good” swings.

There is one important way in which Belt truly stands above the crowd as a hitter, and it helps explain his success over the years.

A player ideally will lay off bad pitches and swing aggressively at good pitches. Doing one against big league pitching is tough enough, but doing both at the same time is a truly difficult task. This is where Belt excels.

...

... he has put himself in the top two in this metric every year since 2012, looking at players with a minimum of 200 pitches seen in both zones...

I love Brandon Belt.

How does this help? Well, I’m trying to make the point that Brandon Belt has, essentially, been really good for most of his career. What’s the best streak of that career? Was it in 2013, when he was first named the NL Player of the Week...

August 5-August 11, 2013
7 games (7 starts)
28 PA, 11 H (3 2B + 2 HR), 8 R, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K
.440 / .500 / .800 (1.300 OPS) | .474 BAbip | 0.729 WPA

... or was it this most recent Player of the Week honor? Let’s see:

May 14-May 20, 2018
7 games (6 starts)
30 PA, 12 H (2 2B + 5 HR), 8 R, 11 RBI, 2 BB, 9 K
.444 / .500 / 1.074 (1.574 OPS) | .538 BAbip | 0.913 WPA

A quick reminder about WPA (Win Probability Added):

WPA quantifies the percent change in a team’s chances of winning from one event to the next. It does so by measuring the importance of a given plate appearance in the context of the game. For instance: a homer in a one-run game is worth more than a homer in a blowout.

Taken together, that’s tremendous. He hit 5 home runs in a week and increased his team’s chances of winning by 91%. He affected the outcome of the game a bit more, too. You would have to argue that based on the number of home runs alone that the 2018 streak is better than the 2013 streak. So, let’s start there.

May 14-20 is a fine run for Belt, but if you go back just one game more and put together an 8-game stretch (7 games), look at what happens:

May 13-May 20, 2018
8 games (7 starts)
35 PA, 15 H (4 2B + 5 HR), 9 R, 11 RBI, 2 BB, 10 K
.469 / .514 / 1.063 (1.577 OPS) | .588 BAbip | 0.978 WPA

He’s essentially better and even more valuable.

“But, Bryan, you brain dead blogger, you’re just using arbitrary end points to make your boy look like a world beater. But I, A Smart Fan, know he is the dumbs,” you might say.

Well, I disagree. 8 games is not too arbitrary. It represents 5% of a season. I don’t know what most people consider “a streak” to be when it comes to slumping, but it’s probably something far more arbitrary. I’m just arguing “here’s how Brandon Belt did in 5% of the season.” That sounds straightforward to me. That’s as formal as the Player of the Week Award’s Monday-Sunday endpoints.

Now, was this 8-game stretch the best of Streaky Belt’s career? Are we seeing the best Brandon Belt yet? Well, even if I think that’s true, that doesn’t mean this was the best streak yet. Let’s take a look at some other possibilities:

June 12-June 19, 2012
8 games (8 starts)
32 PA, 11 H (2 2B + 3 HR), 5 R, 7 RBI, 6 BB, 5 K
.423 / .531 / .846 (1.377 OPS) | .444 BAbip | 0.351 WPA

Good, but not as good as 2018.

May 12-May 20, 2013
8 games (7 starts)
29 PA, 10 H (2 2B + 3 HR), 10 R, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K
.400 / .483 / .840 (1.323 OPS) | .389 BAbip | 0.261 WPA

Nah. But, the rest of Belt’s 2013 was very interesting. He really took off post-grip change. There’s an 8-game stretch that coincides with his Player of the Week performance that was actually better:

August 2-August 9, 2013
8 games (7 starts)
29 PA, 11 H (1 2B + 1 3B + 3 HR), 9 R, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K
.458 / .552 / .958 (1.510 OPS) | .533 BAbip | 0.877 WPA

This comes very close to matching his May 2018 streak. He also has three other streaks (including another one that coincides/intersects with the Player of the Week week) with an OPS above 1.000 the rest of the way in 2013.

August 8-August 16, 2013
8 games (8 starts)
36 PA, 14 H (3 2B + 1 3B + 4 HR), 11 R, 9 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K
.412 / .444 / .912 (1.356 OPS) | .357 BAbip | 0.671 WPA

August 27-September 5, 2013
8 games (8 starts)
36 PA, 14 H (3 2B), 6 R, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K
.438 / .472 / .531 (1.003 OPS) | .500 BAbip | -0.143 WPA

September 9-September 18, 2013
8 games (8 starts)
39 PA, 13 H (3 2B + 1 HR), 7 R, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K
.382 / .442 / .559 (1.006 OPS) | .462 BAbip | 0.909 WPA

Some really good stretches in here, but still not up to par with 2018. If we split his 2013 season into pre-Player of the Week and Player of the Week through the end of the season, we also get these contrasting lines:

Pre-POW: .258 / .338 / .440 (.778 OPS) | 367 PA

POW and beyond: .344 / .399 / .554 (.953 OPS) | 204 PA

That was a pivotal year for him. Maybe we’ve all forgotten that. My journey to find a better 8-game stretch, however, has not been forgotten, so, let’s finish this up. Two more stretches come close to matching his 2018 run:

March 31-April 8, 2014
8 games (8 starts)
35 PA, 12 H (5 HR), 9 R, 9 RBI, 0 BB, 10 K
.343 / .343 / .771 (1.114 OPS) | .350 BAbip | 0.493 WPA

May 15-May 23, 2015
8 games (8 starts)
37 PA, 14 H (4 2B + 4 HR), 12 R, 11 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K
.424 / .486 / .909 (1.396 OPS) | .435 BAbip | 0.578 WPA

A lot of these streaks have really filled out the counting stat categories (hot damn, 12 runs scored in a week! 11 rib eyes! This boy should open a restaurant!), but for overall power and rate stuff, we saw the best Brandon Belt yet before he was shelved with appendicitis.

To me, this means that we’re seeing the best Brandon Belt this season, and since Brandon Belt Has Always Been Good, this means that Brandon Belt just keeps getting better.

If it wasn’t abundantly clear by now, Brandon Belt Is Very Good.