It works because I literally am in the need of a new belt! Wow, as if time and space collided with both my content and consumer needs. And while you shouldn’t care about what or why I Amazon the things I do, you should care about one Brandon Belt. What is this, circa 2010? Once the perpetual little engine at 1B who just couldn’t quite do it, he has grown, perhaps even evolved into what we have now, a mediocre producer at a position where mediocrity goes to die. My life story! And so after averaging around 15 homeruns and roughly a .250ish average for the past millennia, what exactly has changed this year and why should you care? Give me a chance to tell ya, or at the very least, convince you to go shopping for the perfect pants accessory.

So not to burst the hype train, but what I think makes Brandon Belt a bit more attention-grabbing this season is the fact that while he’s doing what he usual does, there’s some great underlying signs that Belt could end up having a quietly stronger season than he usually has combined with the fact that his value has been going down the past 15 years and if you want to try on this Belt (MORE FASHION PUNS), it’s not that hard of a thing to do any more.

Already approaching his homerun total (9) in last season’s 51 games, his 6 in just 101 plate appearances so far has helped fuel a .476 SLG and .250 ISO. While his batting average remains a low .226, I remain optimistic that a lower-than-normal BABIP is the main culprit here, but lets go over the rest of the numbers and see what goes where and why where goes what. No clue man, just move along…

Year G AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2019 156 0.234 0.339 0.403 0.319
2020 51 0.309 0.425 0.591 0.427
2021 30 0.226 0.347 0.476 0.357
ROS Proj. 102 0.239 0.350 0.427 0.332

Crazy times last year, no?

Year HR R RBI SB wRC+
2019 17 76 57 4 98
2020 9 25 30 0 172
2021 6 13 18 2 127
ROS Proj. 15 53 53 4 107

And while the batting average was something of an outlier, the short season last year really reflected the beginning of his power spike that still seems to be hanging around.

Year PA BB% K% ISO BABIP
2019 616 13.5 20.6 0.169 0.275
2020 179 16.8 20.1 0.282 0.356
2021 101 15.8 32.7 0.250 0.283

No surprise there, BABIP mostly fueled his 0.309 BA in 2020, but the good news is that even with a deflated BABIP so far this year, the season is young, there is plenty of time for regression, but even if there is no regression, say Belt ends up serving a lot of time at BABIP prison (totally a thing and not a random metaphor!), this doesn’t seem to be affecting the power output as of yet. Small sample aside, but if you stretch the trendlines back into last year, you get a bit more comfortable. Take off your Sketchers and it’ll be a little less comfortable, but you you my point.

Year LD% GB% FB% HR/FB
2019 23.0 28.3 48.7 8.8
2020 27.0 30.6 42.3 19.1
2021 25.5 33.3 41.2 28.6

So I’d reckon (cowboy mode engaged) that we’d start seeing some signs in his hitting profile right about now. Granted, the only true litmus we can take away here is that he’s been hitting homeruns. Duh, thanks me. But I won’t lie, some of these changes shouldn’t really be viewed as a net-positive. I mean, he’s grounding balls into the dirt and hitting less flyballs, generally something you don’t want to do if you want to hit homeruns. A contrarian homerun hitter? Yeah, no, it’s just not something you do man.

Year Soft% Med% Hard%
2019 13.6 45.4 40.9
2020 11.5 47.8 40.7
2021 9.6 48.1 42.3

But… his power profile remaining stable offsets that a bit. While he’s hitting at a slightly harder clip, these changes are no doubt on the margins, but can still move them.

Year Pull% Cent% Oppo%
2019 41.4 32.8 25.8
2020 43.4 34.5 22.1
2021 53.8 30.8 15.4

And I think we’ve arrived at the answer. Hitting the ball into the dirt more? Not good. Hitting the ball just as hard? Pretty good. Pulling the ball more? I dunno man. Here’s my take, and it’ll be super hot. I think Brandon Belt is getting older. WOW. I think he’s actually a slightly worse hitter than he was in the past. OMG. Yes, all wild statements. As you can see in the numbers, he’s kinda the same as he always was, just getting a bit worse year-after-year, but the caveat appears to be that he’s pulling the ball more, and that could be related to his power output. I won’t bother with his strikezone judgement and plate discipline, if you look at the numbers, they’re the same as they always were. And that would just distract from the fact that it’s pretty much the only obvious outlier that could perhaps explain the uptick in power. With a 40.3% career pull percentage, sitting currently at 53.8% tells me a few things.

Combined with the fact that he’s hitting more groundballs, hitting less balls in the air (slightly), but still hitting the ball just as hard as he’s used too, looks to me that he’s generating power by going pull happy at the plate. In a vacuum, it’s a mixed bag, as he’s obviously changing into something like a two-outcome player, ala homerun or groundout. That doesn’t really work for a player that only hits 10-15 homeruns, no matter how good your on-base numbers are, it’s not a super stellar asset. However, you take Belt this season, we have a whole (quarter-Covid) season under our own belt (tee-hee) to combine with this year’s numbers so far, and you begin to see what the projections also see. The power appears to be real, and on top of that, if the BABIP can jump up a bit, you’ll absorb an average you can swallow while netting another 15 homeruns. Pretty solid value for a guy that hasn’t really offered that for at least several seasons.

Is this the year that Brandon Belt goes ham? Probably not, but if you’re looking for a corner that should be readily available, I give you a guy who might end up hitting .250 with 20-25 homeruns and a few stolen bases to boot. And yeah, that ain’t special, but it’s more like what a corner hitter should look like, and even after like 10 years, it’s nice to see that a bit. Even if he’s cheating a bit, we can definitely conclude that his intention is to hit the ball to left field and over the fence. You add a shirt and some pants to that equation, well baby, you got yourself an ensemble.

I’m not sure what that really means, but we’ll let it stand as is.

 

Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell. You can follow him @jaywrong, or read his rarely (like never) updated blog Desultory Thoughts of a Longfellow.

 
  1. scoboticus says:
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    So, Bell or Belt?
    L or T?

    • Jay

      Jay says:
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      I like Belt slightly. I’m also crazy.

  2. Mike Honcho says:
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    Is Pavin Smith what Belt was supposed to be?

    • Jay

      Jay says:
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      Yeah man, need to see more abs, but for sure his triple slash is what we dreamed on for Belt.

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