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Travis Ishikawa once had a nice power streak over a couple months in 2009 for the Giants, and I noted back then that his homers came mainly on changeups or mediocre fastballs. Since that year, he has hit eight more major league home runs. If a schmo like me can see the holes in a swing, what do you think the pitching coaches and professional video marmots are looking at? 

Which brings me to this: Remember when the book on Brandon Belt was to bust him inside with hard stuff? Here's a chart of the pitches Belt, major-league home run co-leader, has hit out of the park this year, procured by the Mighty Pavs. I wouldn't normally advise this, but check out the tweet-chatter that follows the chart. The general gist of it goes something like this: 

  1. Wasn't he defenseless on inside pitches last few season? Shows how he is now a big giraffe


That's only half true. Belt historically has had trouble with hard stuff inside. What's not included in the chart Pavlovic posted are the actual pitches that Belt has hit for his five homers. From the MLB Gameday records, here's the list: 

3/31 McCarthy (R) 92-MPH sinker
4/1 Miley (L) 82-MPH slider
4/3 Arroyo (R) 77-MPH slider
4/6 Greinke (R) 84-MPH cutter
4/8 Cahill (R) 89-MPH sinker

In other words, we don't know if Belt has solved the "inside-pitch" problem, because that particular problem had to do with good fastballs. Other than the Opening Day dong against McCarthy, Belt has been feasting on ill-placed soft stuff. The updated book on Belt, if only based on the first week of the season, is this: Don't leave your mediocre junk down around the thigh, middle-in. And that's an admonition that applies to nearly all major league hitters, not just Belt. 

Am I saying Belt is another Ishikawa? Not at all. Belt is obviously talented and keeps improving. Specifically, it's possible the improvement this year isn't just hitting the soft cookies out of the park, but also recognizing earlier the good fastballs just off the plate inside -- and not swinging at them. 

Or not. I think this chart is trying to tell me that Belt in 2014 is still swinging at a lot of hard stuff on the inner third of the plate, and even half the pitches at the mid-thigh/belt level just off the plate inside. 

Has he changed his approach from the previous years? Is he doing something different? He's certainly not striking out less frequently in this early going.

beltKs.tif
That doesn't include the home opener Tuesday: four PAs without a K. Throw those in, and the K% is still 28.5%. Yeah, and if he keeps hitting five home runs every eight games, we'll give a flying squirrel about the Ks. 

But he's still striking out a ton, and also note that he hasn't walked yet. I'm not predicting a swift fall from opening-week grace. Just pointing out what's different so far, and what isn't, and hopefully lending some nuance to the chatter that Belt has solved the inside-pitch bugaboo. 

I'll let the people with more time and patience wring more insight from all this, but I wouldn't be surprised if we start to see a lot more soft stuff down and away against Belt, and those breaking balls down and in become mainly a product of a pitcher's mistake, not his design.


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