It’s been quite the week for Giants fans, including another brilliant Bumgarner start, some surprising offense and a little perfect game for Matt Cain. With all the big news stories everyone has heard about, I have forgotten to mention some important ones which somehow fell through the cracks.
Here are your “Quick Hits” of the week:
Brandon Belt: starting first baseman
In the first 36 games of the season, Brandon Belt started in only 18 of them. During the stretch, Belt hit a line of .239/.350/.343 with zero home runs, seven RBI and only six runs. He hardly contributed to the already struggling Giants offense.
Belt would lose time to Brett Pill and Aubrey Huff (who would also be struggling just as bad as Belt), while sometimes looking lost in the batters box.
Since May 17 (the 37th game of the year), Belt has now started in 18 of the 27 games at first base. Not left field, not bat boy – first base. Some of the starts had to do with Aubrey Huff landing on the disabled list with anxiety symptoms for two weeks, but Belt looks like he won the job.
Since his rough first half, Belt has hit .258/.383/.492 with three home runs (in back-to-back-to-back games), 17 RBI and eight runs in just 27 games.
Sure Belt is not producing at Miguel Cabrera‘s, Joey Votto‘s, or even Albert Pujols‘ pace, but hey, its an improvement. His season totals in 53 games are: a .248 batting average, a .360 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .415 – big improvements from the 63-game output of .225/.306/.412 in 2011.
Belt seems to be swinging a bigger bat these days, looking calm with runners in scoring position (as opposed to looking like a nervous baby giraffe every time someone was on base), actually hitting home runs like he was projected to, and he still plays some slick defense at first.
I know some of you may be thinking: “so what? Belt still wont be an all-star…”
Look, I know there are a lot of high expectation for the kid, but lets face it, he is in his third year of professional baseball. Outside of college (where he was a pitcher for crying out loud), Belt is still learning the ins and outs of perfecting a swing. A swing we all saw hit 23 home runs in 2010 in the minors.
I know the improvements he has made may be minimal, but the way I see it, any improvement at all is a step closer to the hitter we all expect him to be. In the mean time, watch him play, grow and develop into a pretty spectacular ball player.
Anyway, just keep an eye on him. It took him 48 games to hit his first homer of 2011, he has hit three in the five games since. Patience…
Ryan Theriot‘s new, unexpected role
That’s right folks, Ryan Theriot has a very important role for the Giants this year: second base!
Coming into spring training, most of us knew Theriot would eventually overtake Emanuel Burriss’ spot as the backup second baseman. Great. I guess that was good, he had just won a World Series title with the St. Luis Cardinals in 2011.
With Freddy Sanchez still fighting back injuries in rehab assignments, Theriot got the call to make starts at second base. At the beginning of the year, he didn’t play like he had just won the winter classic. He was playing like he just picked up a bat for the first time.
In the first 20 games he played in (he only started in 13 of the first 30), he had a .179 batting average. A guy with a career .281 batting average over seven major league seasons, a low average like that was just confusing.
After a trip to the 15-day disabled list on May 9th, he came back and did this:
19 games started out of 20 Giants games
.321 batting average, .368 on-base percentage, 10 runs, eight RBI
.324 batting average of balls in play
Basically, he has turned things way around and has played solid defense at second base.
Also worth noting: in 39 games he has four steals in six attempts this year. In 132 games last year, he had four steals in 10 attempts.
So clearly Theriot (who had three hits and two RBI in last nights 7-4 loss to the Mariners) has made us all forget about the struggling Sanchez. Has anyone heard of him? When he is coming back? How his rehab is going?
I have only heard negative notes toward Sanchez’s recovery, and quite frankly, I couldn’t care less. Theriot is Sanchez. Sanchez is Theriot. Finkle is Einhorn. Einhorn is Finkle.
We have our second baseman, folks.
Blanco makes big catch, answers big question
Coming into this season, we all were safe to assume Nate Schierholtz was to be given a solid season’s chance to start in right field.
But just like a little mosquito somehow finding our flesh every night while we sleep, afterthought Gregor Blanco made nagging strides to make our assumptions wrong.
I embarrassingly wrote a piece before the season to pick the most likely “breakout MVP” much like Ryan Vogelsong was last season, and Andres Torres was in 2010. They are the least likely candidates to put up big numbers for the the Giants.
This year, I picked Aubrey Huff to bounce back and re-break out. Stupid, I know.
In that post, I worte this about the possibilities of Blanco making the cut:
“Sure, Gregor Blanco can be ‘that guy’ as he got an invitation the camp as an outfielder, but because the Giants already have Nate Schierholtz, Angel Pagan,Melky Cabrera and Belt fighting for starting spots. The best he can come out of spring as is a fifth outfielder, a position the Giants don’t really need.
So barring a serious injury of one of those guys listed above- and I have a feeling Giants fans would prefer a healthier season than last year – Blanco doesn’t really have a good chance to breakout with the Giants.”
Ha… Did I say that?
Since he was picked up for dirt cheap on the Giants, Blanco has made it clear he deserves a starting spot in right field.
Before joining the Giants, Blanco hit just two home runs and 52 RBI in 253 games with the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals from 2008 to 2011.
In 55 games as a Giant, Blanco has not only saved a perfect game with one of the greatest catches in franchise history, but he has also been hitting well from the lead-off position while also providing speed on the base paths.
His on-base percentage, from the lead-off spot, is a sweet .368. He has eight stolen bases in 10 attempts (third most on the Giants behind Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan), while scoring 36 runs. Blanco has scored 14% of the Giants total runs this season and I guarantee no soul in baseball predicted a season like this.
So there you go, a few bright spots I forgot to mention earlier, but this Giants team looks to be taking shape into a playoff caliber team once again. I love baseball.
Also, I’d like to shout out to my awesome dad and to all dads who are enjoying a wonderful father’s day today. Let’s hope the Giants can take the series against the mariners for all the Giants dads out there.