There seem to be two schools of thought about Brandon Belt when it comes to the fans andmedia; those who think he is the team savior and those who think he’s overrated and needs to be sent back to Fresno. The former thinks the Giants need to be a little patient with him while the latter think that he’s gotten plenty of playing time and can’t cut it. I don’t think he’s exactly a savior, but I would probably side up with the patient crowd. While he has played in 96 major league games which might seem like plenty of opportunities, he hasn’t been given very consistent playing time, which I think is the crucial point.
Bochy has said on numerous occasions that they need to see what they have with the young guys, which makes a lot of sense. Assess what they can provide the team and make a decision on whether or not they will be a long term contributor to the team. The problem is you can get a good idea of how a player is going to perform at a major league level if he doesn’t get consistent playing time! Instead of focusing on the game at hand and what he needs to do to help his team win it, he will likely be thinking about whether or not he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow.
Going back to last year, Brandon Belt has seen 1 streak of eight consecutive starts. He got seven games at once last year as well. Other than that, he’s had 1 five game streak, 5 four game streaks, 4 three game streaks, and all the rest of his starts were standalone or in groups of two. His longest so far this year has been 4 games. This is out of 96 total games he has played in over those two years; you do the math.
Now let me offer up a few players from bygone years who were not subjected to this.
- Robby Thompson: started 20 out of 20 when he was brought up, batted .244
- Rich Aurilia: started 21 out of 25 games when he was brought up (16 in a row), batted 240 with 2 HRs
- Matt Williams: got to start 71 out of the first 73 games after he was called up (and the two he didn’t start were double headers, in which he started only one of the games), he batted .192
- And of course there is Willie Mays: started the first 15 games in a row, he hit only .218 and 2 HR. (The day after the 15th game was a double header in which Mays went 8 for 8 and never looked back).
All four of those gentlemen above went on to have fantastic Giants careers. Imagine if they had been benched after 4 games of not performing. Of course, we don’t know that Belt will turn out like any of these guys (though I think we can say with fair certainty that he won’t be the next Mays), but we do know that those 4 great Giants likely wouldn’t have gotten the chance to find their swing and prove themselves on this current team, and, who knows, maybe that means they wouldn’t have turned into the players they were
I know this has been beaten to death over the last year and a half by anyone who knows how to type, but I’m proposing that Belt plays 20-25 games in a row. And by that I mean Bochy taking him into his office and telling him (and the press) that he will trot out there every game no matter what. That would be 20-25 games of Belt not glancing into the dugout after swinging at a ball in the dirt, not worrying about whether he will be playing tomorrow, or the rest of the year, but instead thinking about the current AB, the current game. If he could get that kind of consistency, and he still couldn’t cut it, then fine, send him down. But don’t drag it out, starting him in fits and bursts for the next 3 years until he is burned out.