It’s been easy to overlook, but Brandon Belt is on an absolute tear right now. Belt has missed a little bit of time with tummy troubles and a sore neck, but when he’s been on the field, he’s been an on-base machine. He currently owns an 18-game on-base streak which just edged out Joe Panik for the longest such streak by a Giant this year.
In these 18 games, Belt is hitting .310/.474/.466. He only has five extra-base hits including two homers, but the impressive thing has been the walks. Belt has drawn 17 walks in 18 games which is incredible because Belt has an above-average amount of pitches called against him. Still, he’s walking in 22.5 percent of his plate appearances. That’s the best in the majors, and the only player who comes close is Mike Trout. Trout is walking a normal-for-him 22.1 percent of the time, and behind him is Daniel Vogelbach at 17.8.
Belt hasn’t really changed his approach. He’s still swinging at around a quarter of pitches outside the zone which is generally what he’s done throughout his career. His high walk rate is still a product of his discipline, but the spike has mostly been caused by pitchers not throwing him strikes. Only 35.8 percent of pitches have found the strike zone against Belt and pitchers generally throw around 45 percent pitches over the plate.
Couple that with his .364 BABIP over the last 18 games, and Belt’s hot streak looks more like Belt finally getting lucky rather than Belt flipping a switch. Regardless, any Giant consistently having good outcomes at the plate is a gift, and it’s not like he’s succeeding despite a bad approach. He’s a good hitter, and good hitters manufacture their own luck. Pitchers don’t want to throw Belt strikes because he can hit the ball hard. Belt doesn’t swing at balls because he knows he doesn’t have to.
Kruk and Kuip often say that Belt is the kind of player that can carry an offense when he’s hot, and the Giants are 9-9 in the games that Belt has played. You might not expect a hot stretch like this to do much for an anemic offense. Even if Belt is getting on base in roughly half his chances, he still has to rely on those other knuckleheads to drive him in. But even the Giants are finding a way to bring him in. He’s scored 13 runs and driven in 10 himself. Since his on-base streak began, Belt is 12th in the majors in win probability added which is remarkable because he has missed two games and the Giants have had a lot of off-days.
Enjoy this hot streak while it lasts. It’s given us something to watch when the Giants are up to bat, and it’s even helped them win some games. For the Giants, things like that are a rarity.