SAN FRANCISCO – Brandon Belt gets criticized at times for having what Mike Krukow calls “Gumby shoulders” when he goes into a slump.
Absolutely, Belt is in a funk now. It’s not that he entered Sunday 1 for 14 over his last three games. It’s that he struck out seven times over that span, often waving through four-seamers down the middle.
But here’s the reason Belt is in the lineup as the Giants go for a sweep over the Cleveland Indians: He isn’t taking those at-bats – and those shoulders – out to first base.
Two dropped throws in Colorado aside, Belt has been a dynamo with the glove. He snagged several line drives over the past few days and is making quick and accurate throws to bases, including a no-hesitation bullet to third that resulted in a double play after he fielded a sacrifice bunt Saturday.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he was going to give Belt a break to clear his head, instead playing Buster Posey at first base.
“But with all the left-handed hitters (in the Indians lineup), I want him at first base,” Bochy said of Belt. “He’s done a great job. Guys will go into their little deals and you like to give them a break. But we need his defense out there because he’s been doing a great job with the glove.”
Belt’s seven home runs aside, he leads the club with 27 strikeouts. His strikeout rate of 27 percent is higher than previous years, but not obscenely more than his career average. The difference is that his walk rate is half of his career average, at five percent. And obviously, his ratio of 5.41 strikeouts per walk is the worst of his career.
He likes hitting third and he’s getting a chance there, but strikeouts kill rallies and Belt will have to make more contact to stick in that spot.