We’re here every year, it feels like. May rolls around, we notice that Brandon Belt has been doing new things in the early part of the season, and then we forget about it until the next season rolls around when we start all over again. Maybe it’s because he’s been the victim of a few impact injuries that have caused him to miss time in the second half of the past two seasons. Maybe it’s because he plays in the hardest park at which to hit home runs as a left-handed hitter for 81 games a year. Either way, it seems like Belt doesn’t really get his due. By all accounts, he should: by WAR, he was a top-five first baseman in 2013, and he was top-seven in 2015. Last season, he produced more offense by wRC+ than Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Abreu, or Eric Hosmer. What’s most impressive about Belt, however, is that he has always been evolving, and once again he’s showing some pretty significant adjustments so far this season.
We can trace a long line of Belt’s many evolutions. There was his breakout toward the end of 2012 and into 2013. There were his aggressive swing%/pull% adjustments in 2014. And finally, there was his plate coverage/opposite field power increase in 2015. Belt has obviously always been looking to improve on the craft of hitting, even if the overall results haven’t followed the perfect trajectory: removing an injury-marred 2014 that saw him play only 61 games, Belt has recorded wRC+ marks of 119, 140, and 135 in 2012, 2013, and 2015, respectively. Early adjustments brought him to a very high level, but subsequent ones haven’t quite vaulted him into the elite.
There’s not much that can compare to his wholesale improvements this year, however. I considered holding off on this article until the point at which we could get stabilization on a few more of his stats — ISO, in particular — but the changes are simply too glaring to ignore for another month or so. They’re exciting. We couldn’t wait. Let’s start with these few key offensive statistics: