Phillies Opposition Roadblock: Brandon Belt
The Philadelphia Phillies open a three game weekend series in San Francisco, and the Giants 1st baseman will be a big roadblock to their success.
As I sat around waiting for last night’s NBA Draft (Let’s go Sixers!), I am relieved. I do not think I would have been able to stomach being swept out of Minnesota by the team with baseball’s worst record. It would have been even more difficult to swallow, knowing the Phillies scored 15 runs in their first two losses of the series.
Luckily for all of us, the Phillies came through with a victory this afternoon. Jerad Eickhoff continues to be the most consistent pitcher in the rotation with yet another quality start (6 innings of less than three earned runs), his tenth of the season in 15 starts. His win total does not show it, but Eickhoff has received some of the worst run support in all of baseball this season.
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But I digress. We are here to talk about who the Phillies need to focus on as they move out to the west coast. Before a rematch in the desert with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phillies have to head to AT&T Stadium to play the San Francisco Giants. It is one of my favorite ballparks in baseball, but it is terrifying knowing the Phillies are heading there amid their recent struggles.
Not only do the Phillies have to deal with Jake Peavy, Madison Bumgarner, and Johnny Cueto, but they have to deal with a team that has become the Best in the West.
The Giants lead the NL West by six games heading into tonight’s opener. They come into the series having won three of four in Pittsburgh, including a 15-4 onslaught on Tuesday night. In their last five games, the Giants have scored 32 runs…and that is including a game in which they were shutout.
The triumvirate of Phillies pitchers in the upcoming series, Zach Eflin, Jeremy Hellickson, and Aaron Nola, have a difficult task at hand. The Giants are 22-13 at home this season, and while they do not score a ton of runs, their pitching is good enough to put pressure on the Phillies right handers.
The Phillies offense is not very good. And I am putting it mildly. As a result, the Phillies starters have to keep the scoring low to give the team any chance of beating the aforementioned trio of Peavy, Bumgarner, and Cueto.
In order to tame the Giants offense, a guy they want to lock down is Brandon Belt. The lefty-swinging 1st baseman is the owner of 19 multi-hit games in 2016. He currently leads the club in extra base hits (32), homers (10), average (.302), on-base percentage (.409), slugging percentage (.529), and as a result, OPS (.938). This season, he is on pace to break his own personal bests in virtually every offensive category.
The former Texas Longhorn was drafted twice, once by Boston and a second time by Atlanta, but did not sign, before finally being selected by the Giants in 2009.
After being named the 26th best prospect in the game before the 2011 preseason, he made the team out of Spring Training after a solid showing in 28 games, in which he hit .282 with 3 bombs.
Inconsistency and injuries were the stories of Belt’s early career. He missed almost all of the 2014 season with a broken thumb and multiple concussions.
2015 was a much more successful stint for the 28-year-old. He slashed .280/.356/.478 with 18 homeruns and 68 RBIs, which were all among career highs. Between his full season last year, and the start he was off to in 2016, Belt earned himself a 5 year deal from the Giants worth almost $73 million.
Belt is pull happy on the ground, so do not be surprised if the Phillies decide to shift him to the right side of the field. Ironically, Belt sprays the ball on a line all over the field, but sees many fly balls carry toward left field. The way to pitch him is directly entrenched in the description shown here.
Belt does not like the ball on the inner half of the plate at all. He wants the ball away, so he can extend and drive the ball that way. As a result, the Phillies pitchers have to keep the ball in on Belt’s hands. Do not give him the chance to drive the ball to right field. Keep it in a spot where he is unable to extend and is more likely to hit the ball into the shift on the right side of the infield.
Belt is absolutely more effective against right-handed pitching, slashing .321/.421/.537 so far in 2016. Lefties fare much better against Belt, forcing him to slash 266/.389/.519 in the first three months.
Strikeouts are nearly similar considering the amount of at bats he has against both, and walks are not too far separated. As luck would have it, the Phillies have no left-handed starters. However, it would not be out of the question to see Elvis Araujo late in the game to deal with Belt.
Belt will be one of the main offensive focuses for the Phillies the next three days. If they want to keep games from getting out of hand, it could fall in the realm of containing the big lefty.
My grades for the Minnesota series
My Minnesota ‘Roadblock’ player: Eduardo Nunez
His statline: two games played; 2-10 (both singles) with a walk and an RBI
Many players hurt the Phillies over the course of the three game series. Nunez did not do much as it turns out to help the Twins take two of the three games.
Although he was the Twins team leader in many categories entering the series, the Phillies help to lower my grade by stopping him. My Grade in selecting him as a ‘Roadblock’: a generous C-
The Phillies were able to keep Nunez pretty quiet. The problem was that they could not silence the rest of the Twin lineup. However, the grade is given for how my pick performs. The team grade is a mix of containment of player and the result of the series. Phillies Tea Grade: B-.