San Francisco Giants’ first baseman Brandon Belt has heard quite enough from you about bunting, thank you very much.
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Brandon Belt, the San Francisco Giants’ All-Star first baseman, took to social media on Friday to combat the notion that he needs to bunt more, and he can blame Anthony Rizzo for starting this latest round of Belt Bash.
In the seventh inning of Thursday’s NLCS game five, the Los Angeles Dodgers shifted against the Cubs’ first baseman. As is normal against the left-handed slugger, three infielders took their place to the right of second base. Rizzo took advantage of the wide open space to his left, laying down a perfect bunt against Luis Avilan and reaching first before the closest defender even put a hand on the ball in play.
So of course, some vocal Giants’ fans took to the Twitter machine to tell Belt that he needs to take notes. If he were more willing to lay down the bunt, they would stop shifting. If he weren’t so insistent on not bunting, blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda.
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Belt sees plenty of shifts. Only eight players in baseball saw more than Belt’s 323 plate appearances worth of shifts. He was shifted on more than any other Giant, by a very wide margin. He saw 34.3 percent of the total shifts against the Giants’ hitters.
But here’s the crazy thing: Belt actually does just fine against the shift. Belt hit .352 when defenses shifted, well above the league average of .310. The guy that started this whole thing for Belt, Rizzo, hit .303 against the shift, below league average.
Belt has no problems going to the opposite field without bunting. 30.4 percent of the balls Belt put in play went opposite of his pull field. That led the team, including beating out guys like Buster Posey and Joe Panik, who are constantly praised for their smart and almost effortless approaches to the opposite field.
When Belt was defending himself on twitter, he brought up his ability to hit line drives, and how consistent line drives are what combats shifts.
He wasn’t lying, either. He hit line drives 27.8 percent of the time, the highest on the Giants and tied for the second-highest in baseball (Freddie Freeman led the league at 29.1 percent). His hard-hit percentage was 36.4 percent, the second-highest on the Giants (only Mac Williamson‘s 37.7 percent was higher, minimum 100 plate appearances).
Sure, it can seem like all Belt does is hit weak groundballs into the shift. But that’s entirely wrong. Belt knows exactly what he’s doing when he sees a shift, and he does it better than most hitters. He doesn’t need to bunt to take advantage of what the defense is giving him, no matter how many times someone brings it up to him online. When Belt is this successful as he is, hitting line drives and using the entire field, a bunt is basically a waste of an at-bat.
Besides, it’s not as easy as just “laying it down”, especially for a guy like Belt who rarely bunts.
So let Brandon Belt enjoy social media and talk about Olive Garden or his daughter or his favorite giraffe at the zoo. He’s doing just fine.