SAN FRANCISCO — Brandon Belt is subjected to constant conversation, whether criticism or adulation from Giants fans. Some argue his play has not warranted the $73-million deal he signed in 2016, largely the result of unfortunate persistent injury issues, and decent, but not great, numbers for a middle-of-the-order hitter.
It seems you’re either for or against Belt, who has become a polarizing figure among the Giants fanbase. He has a theory for why that is.
“I think it’s because I am so sexy that people either really like me or people are really jealous of me,” Belt quipped with KNBR’s Tolbert and Lund Tuesday evening. “I think it’s very divisive.”
Belt laughed, then gave a more serious, reflective answer.
“I am not 100 percent sure,” Belt said. “I think there is kind of a new age of baseball and then there are some old school people who really focus on batting average and RBIs and stuff like that. And I think a lot of it has to do with expectations. I think people have expectations of me to be whatever they have me to be in their mind. And if I don’t reach that, to them I am a failure.”
Some of the hate surrounding Belt stems from the perception that he chases pitches out of the strike zone too often. That thinking has devolved into a misconception this year.
Entering Tuesday night’s game against the visiting Chicago Cubs, Belt has swung at pitches outside of the strike zone only 27 percent of the time, which ranks 68th out of 246 batters with 200-plus plate appearances this season. He has struck out in just 20.1 percent of his at-bats, the 85th-best mark out of all MLB hitters.
Belt has produced the best hitting season of any Giant hitter any way you slice it. He leads the team in average (.303), homers (13), RBI (42), on-base percentage (.396), and OPS (.905), despite missing 13 games last month due to an appendectomy. He is also tied with Andrew McCutchen for the most walks on the team with 40, despite having 70 fewer at-bats than the outfielder.
Belt is on pace for the best season of his career, which has him on the cusp of his second All-Star appearance. He is one of five finalists for the National League’s Final Vote for the upcoming MLB All-Star Game.
Regardless of whether plays in next Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic, Belt has done his best to tune out the criticism.
“I try to tell people, you can still be good and not be the MVP of the league,” Belt said. “I think that is hard for some people to grasp. It is what it is. I can’t worry about that. I know I am a productive, good baseball player. I go out there and try to help my team win, that’s it. All the rest is a bunch of noise. If I don’t meet someone’s expectations, that’s their problem, not mine.”
Listen to Belt’s interview with Tolbert And Lund below.