Total Pageviews

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bochy 'committed' to consistent playing time for Belt

It was somewhat reassuring to hear Boss Bochy say on his pre-game show Sunday that he was "committed" to getting Brandon Belt "consistent" playing time. It was even more reassuring to hear him acknowledge that Belt can provide the Giants offense a much needed left-handed bat with some pop.

It may have been 40 games late, but it was nice to hear that the Giants were finally committed to going with Belt.

Still, you couldn't be absolutely convinced that Bochy would keep his word, especially if Belt got off to a slow start. It could have been that Bochy would have given Belt just enough rope to hang himself to settle the issue once and for all this season and to quiet the madding crowd pining for the prospect's place in the lineup.

Belt, instead, settled the issue for good Sunday. His two home runs, monstrous and majestic, were instructive in so many ways.

They were the displays of a very powerful young man -- his first home run was more prodigious than the first inning blast over the center field wall by the Marlins' stud outfielder, Mike Stanton.

They were dramatic. For the second time this year, he answered his call-up from Fresno with a home run, only in this case he apparently felt he needed some insurance. Last time, Bochy rewarded Belt with a spot on the bench, soon followed by a bus ticket to Fresno. Two home runs cinched his place, not only on the roster but in the lineup.

His second home run, another solo blast in the eighth inning, argued for Belt's place in the lineup full time, even against tough left handers. Belt had a truly seminal battle against Mike Dunn, a filthy left hander who has no respect for left-handed hitters.

Dunn had never given up a home run to a left hander in his two-plus years in the major leagues, and had held them to a .175 batting average (21-for-120) and a measly .233 slugging percentage.

Here's how that at bat went, and notice how Belt set himself up for a slider on the payoff pitch:

Dunn backed him away with a 95 MPH fastball that could have intimidated a weak soul, and then had Belt bailing on a slider, which bent in for a strike. Dunn tried another slider but Belt stayed back on it and watched it break low and away. He then fouled off a 94 MPH fastball, and stayed cool on a 96 MPH heater that dipped low. Dunn had given him his best, some nasty pitches, but Belt had pushed the count full with his good eye and professional restraint.

Dunn, recalling Belt's bailout on the 1-0 slider, tried another, but Belt was waiting for it and put on a swing reminiscent of Darryl Strawberry, perhaps even to some old-timers, of Ted Williams. It was actually a short stroke, but filled with such rangy-armed strength, that it carried 15 rows up.

It was Brandon Belt's branding moment as the Giants' future first baseman. And though he won't take Aubrey Huff's spot outright, Belt will now take his place in the lineup somewhere permanently.

As Giants TV colorman Mike Krukow put it after his second home run, "You know what that swing says right there? I ain't going back to Fresno."

So, here's how it should play out in the coming days.

Belt will likely be considered more as the starting left fielder who will occasionally spell Huff at first. This is a natural conclusion, given the choice that Bochy has now between Huff and Aaron Rowand. Not a tough pick, though Monday night, if Bochy wants to go with matchups, he may go with Rowand against Tim Hudson.

Rowand is 8-for-24 against Hudson, likely a lot of those numbers compiled in his halcyon days in Philadelphia. Rowand also matched up well against Chris Volstead, coming into Sunday's game 3-for-7 (.429), but could barely touch the ball Sunday, striking out twice and flying out easily. What did they say about damn lies and statistics?

Huff hasn't been so bad against Hudson -- 6-for-27 -- and has been hitting with much more authority of late than Rowand, who continues to muddle along in the low .240s and hasn't had an RBI in 38 at bats. It's time to re-install Rowand firmly back on the bench, and hope that his late inning defensive inserts don't haunt the Giants offensively.

Belt's move into left field will push Cody Ross, whose bat is heating up, to center field, with Nate Schierholtz in right field.

That should hold until Carlos Beltran returns, at which point Bochy will be faced with the real decision: Who sits among Belt, Nate, Huff, and Ross. Or, if you believe Ross is the only legitimate backup center fielder, it would be between Belt, Nate and Huff.

Cynics might say the real battle would be between Belt and Nate, given Bochy's devotion to Huff at first, his insistence that Huff must be there for the Giants if they're to win.

It gets back to the main problem: how do you get that extra left-handed bat in the lineup. Could it be that Nate has center field in his future?

Here's a lineup to go against a tough right hander:

Keppinger, 2b
Cabrera, SS
Sandoval, 3b
Beltran, RF
Schierholtz, CF
Belt, LF
Huff, 1B
Stewart/Whiteside, C

I like putting Cabrera up to the No. 2 slot to take him out of RBI positions, and it stretches out the lineup, putting Huff in the non-threatening No. 7 slot. And I've always felt that Sandoval belongs in the No. 3 slot to provide Beltran an additional opportunity to hit with runners on.

Pre-Beltran, the lineup could go this way:

Ross, CF
Cabrera, SS
Sandoval, 3b
Belt, LF
Schierholtz, RF
Keppinger, 2b
Huff, 1B
Stewart/Whiteside, C


I was pretty stunned to see how poorly Andres Torres took his assignment to the disabled list. To pout and run off to Puerto Rico shows a serious lack of self-awareness. Did he not see that his performance was pulling the team down? Did he think he was owed a spot on the active roster?

I thought he would have understood the reality: the Giants could no longer stand for a .228 hitter at the leadoff spot, and he had shown no sign of raising his game though he'd been given ample time to get his game going again.

Then again, when you see your career flashing before your eyes, it's tough to remain composed. It's just that for all he's gone through with this team, you would think Torres might have some concern for his teammates.

Freddy Sanchez' absence from the dugout since his injury has also been notable. He has always seemed somewhat detached from his teammates -- just slightly above the fray -- and his decision to stay away from the Giants calls to question whether there are some signs of strains between the second baseman and his team.


Santiago Casilla provided maybe the funniest moment of the year, when he stood in the furthest corner, the deepest recesses, of the batter's box against hard throwing Jose Ceda, the 6-foot-4, 275 pound 24-year old kid whom Krukow described as a beast. He did not take his bat off his shoulder, and actually bailed out on each pitch, making you wonder why he bothered to wear batting gloves. And of course, he drew a walk, heading down to first after appearing somewhat confused after taking the last pitch out of the strike zone.


Did anyone notice the Braves just lost two of three to the Cubs? And that their starting staff is in disarray?

Tommy Hanson is on the disabled list, Derek Lowe has been atrocious (since June 13, he's had a 6.15 ERA, giving up 90 hits, 23 walks and 45 earned runs in 65.2 innings; sadly, the Giants will miss him in this four-game series).

Hudson (2.68 ERA in his last 83.2 innings), who has been the most consistent starter for the Braves, gives Madison Bumgarner a tough assignment Monday. But afterward, the Giants have a chance to capitalize on the Braves' rough patch.

Tuesday, Jonathan Sanchez goes up against 21-year old rookie Randall Delgado, whose only appearance came in June against the Texas Rangers, where he gave up three earned runs and seven hits in four innings.

Wednesday, Matt Cain is paired with Jair Jurrjens, who has kept close to Ryan Vogelsong in the ERA title chase, but has been shaky of late (16 earned runs in his last 23 innings).

And Thursday, another rookie, Mike Minor, gets a big task: he goes up against one of the hottest pitchers in the major leagues, Tim Lincecum. Minor has a 4.84 ERA in 44.2 innings, but since being called back up on Aug. 7, he has given up seven earned runs in 11.1 innings.

Meanwhile, the scorching Arizona Diamondbacks will see how their momentum fares against the Philadelphia Phillies. They face Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley beginning Tuesday.


  1. Phils pitcher Vance Worley (from Sacra-tomato, like us. I can never quite BELIEVE NorCal players playing for any team other than the Giants. Traitors! ;-/).

    I remember Panda taking a trip to Venezuela mid-season last year, so I'm not going to begrudge My Andres getting a little Boriqua TLC right now. I believe he will be back.

    That said,

    Could it be that Nate has center field in his future?

    I've wondered about that, too. He's got the speed, the arm (!!!) . . . why not?

  2. Vance! Thanks for catching that, JCF. He really is a great story. I hope he doesn't fade any time soon. He had a rough start last time out. I wonder if in the deepest thoughts (or when his home town friends prod him), he'd think that beating the Diamondbacks would be doing a favor to the Giants.

    Yeah, Andres needs his mama's comfort right now; nothing wrong with that. I just hope he isn't assuming a diva's posture.

    Nate: if Mickey Stanley can move from center field to SS down the stretch and through the World Series for the '68 Tigers ...

  3. An interesting and thought provoking, if a tad opinionated column. No one else that I know of is saying what you are about Andres and Freddy, Steve.
    I don't know what to think. Personal or inside info. Where there's smoke, there's usually fire, but you could be dead wrong on either or both. Not mine to judge, and you see and know more than I.
    One thing is certain - having less to do with the above - this column comes right after my Baggs fix.

  4. yeah, From the Crow's Nest, sometimes I inject myself a little more forcefully. I have always liked Andres Torres, pulled for him, so maybe I should give him some more slack. But that's what a blog does sometimes: it tries to provoke thought. Thanks for being such loyal readers, guys!

  5. A little bit of a different take on Torres, than yours Steve. Hopefully, the detour to Puerto Rico has more to do with Miami's proximity to home, coupled with a need for a physical, mental and emotional time-out, then a tantrum.

    Being in the dugout and physically unable to contribute just kills some guys. You feel like an intruder to a certain extent. And sometimes, the omnipresence of certain guys who are not contributing can be wearing under certain conditions too.

    Like everything, its about balance and individual circumstances. A lot of stuff we're not privy to. So we're left to speculate.

    Torres is the epitome of an "over-achiever". I wrote about him last year and again last night . He's a pretty high strung guy which is part and parcel of the intensity he brings to the game, so you could be correct in surmising he's pretty hacked. And if he is, its probably inward aimed and not outward towards anybody else.

    The USA Today article about Bochy, Towers, Alderson, DePodesta and the controversy surrounding Vinny Castilla is here

  6. Steve, I value the content here and drop by, daily. The Giants getting it together. is my hope. It looks pretty bleak, though. This season will be wrapping up, before you know it.

    Do you have any ideas regarding Bochy's fixation with Huff?

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. ey, Ernie, great piece on Andres. Very nice.

    Paul: Let's see if they can build on Florida, and see how Philadelphia treats Arizona. We may have a better picture by the end of the week.

    On Bochy, I think, still values Huff as a leader on this team, and has seen some good swings from Huff in recent weeks (his average has been well over .300 in the last two weeks). But even before that, Bochy's approach was to say that the Giants were going to live or die with Huff. He has extra faith in Huff because he was such a core guy last year. More than Uribe (who was hot and cold; remember he had long cold spells last year), more than Burrell, who was limited defensively, and never got it going this year (his bat speed was a tad slowed down). I think it comes down to hunches and manager's instincts: he felt Huff would eventually turn it around, which you can argue he has (though he still freezes up in clutch spots!).

  9. Belt's swing=Strawberry - exactly! Thanks for the reminder!!

    p.s. I also think Torres cares too much, he's an overachiever - he needs R&R bad.

  10. Thanks Steve. From you, that means something.