Last season was a frustrating one for Brandon Belt. On pace to hit more home runs than in any season of his career, and with an OPS that was second best on the team, Belt once again was unable to stay on the field, missing 58 games with concussion issues.Belt, like many of his teammates, is ready to put the 98-loss 2017 season in the rearview, and build on the success he had as he enters the prime of his career.
Belt is often maligned by Giants fans despite his typically impressive raw numbers, specifically targeted for being prone to stretches of inconsistency. With that in mind, Belt was asked by former Giant Kevin Frandsen what adjustment he plans on making at the plate in 2018, and the veteran first baseman gave an interesting answer.
“One of my goals this year is to keep the ball off the ground as much as possible,” Belt said on KNBR’s Hot Stove Show. “I hit a lot of balls hard last year but with defensive metrics and positioning and shift and everything like that, when you hit the ball on the ground it’s tough to get those base hits. It was especially for me last year. Keeping the ball in the air, hitting line drives, that’s going to be the key for me to bounce back average wise. I want to get back to where I have been in the past and even better. I think if I can maintain the power numbers that’s going to make for a pretty good season. I think I was on pace for 25 homers and 40 doubles, that’s a pretty good year.”
What’s especially interesting about Belt’s desire to keep the ball off the ground is that he’s already doing that at an extremely impressive rate. Belt’s ground ball rate in 2017 (31.1 percent) was the best on the team by a significant margin amongst players that had at least 100 at-bats. But Belt knows that the infield shift is death for ground ball hitters, and the more he can keep the ball off the ground, the easier it’ll be to improve upon his career low .241 average in 2017.
“In 2016, I did really well against the shift because one of the main things was I didn’t think about it really,” Belt said. “It’s there, you just accept it and move on. If your goal, which mine is, is to hit line drives and drive the ball into the gaps, well the shift doesn’t really play a huge part. Yeah you’re going to have some times where you hit the ball hard and they get you out when they’re not supposed to, but for the most part if I go out there and do what I’m looking to do, then the shift is a non-factor for me.”
Listen to the full interview below. To hear Belt on these topics, skip to 4:15.