The Logic of Bruce Bochy (Or Lack Thereof)
I can never pretend to understand the mind of Bruce Bochy. From a managerial standpoint, the guy is rooted in old-timey gritty hard-nosed nicknamey baseball of the past. He’s often referred to as a “player’s manager,” sticking with his “proven” veterans against the tide of public pressure no matter how poorly they play.
His complete aversion to playing anyone under the age of 30 is borderline pathological. If you’ll remember, back in 2010 Brian Sabean had to trade Bengie Molina before Buster Posey was allowed to catch every day. Because hey, Bengie was Bochy’s guy and benching him would have resulted in hurt feelings, and we all know those are more important than winning ballgames.
All snark aside though, this Brandon Belt situation has been downright baffling. During February and March, it was made clear that Belt would have to prove himself in Spring Training if he wanted to make the big club, because benching Aubrey Huff after a horrid season would have resulted in more hurt veteran feelings.
Well Belt rose to the challenge down in Scottsdale, hitting .378/.420/.608 before winning the everyday job at first base, pushing Huff to the outfield. Even in winning the job though, it was made public knowledge that Bochy and hitting coach Hensley Meulens thought Belt’s swing needed to be overhauled. Let’s see if we can find the mythical hitch in the young first baseman’s swing ourselves:
What you see here is a completely balanced, compact hack. Everything from the load to the follow-through looks about as solid as humanly possible, which leads me to believe that management is really grasping at straws to keep Belt out of the lineup. Or that they’re really bad at evaluating hitters, which has been well-documented throughout the last decade or so.
Shortly after winning the starting job, Bruce Bochy came out and said that Belt would get a “fair shake” in the starting lineup, essentially guaranteeing him a chance to fail for awhile before he succeeds. After all of ten at-bats in the first series of the year, it would appear as though “fair shake” means “insanely small sample size,” as Belt is out of the lineup for the second game in a row tonight, with little chance of playing tomorrow with lefty Jamie Moyer starting.
Apparently, Belt was “pressing” and needed a day to clear his head, which is Bochy-speak for “he had his three games, what more do you people want from me?” Part of Belt’s struggles against Arizona could be attributed to him swinging at just about everything; one of the main criticisms management had of Belt last year was that he needed to be more aggressive at the plate. In following the inane advice to swing more, Belt has rightfully looked uncomfortable at the plate. It’s clear that this is a team that’s encouraged to swing away early and often, and anyone who diverges from this strategy promptly has it beaten out of them.
You can’t expect someone not to press at the plate when there’s a chance you can lose your starting job after all of ten at-bats. Imagine being a player in your early-20s who’s been yanked around as often as Belt. Imagine that your starting job is in jeopardy every at-bat. Now try not to press. It’s not an environment conducive to a young player’s development and Bruce Bochy is completely responsible.
If Aubrey Huff can have a full season of rolling over on every pitch, it stands to reason that we can give Belt a couple hundred at-bats to get comfortable. At this point my biggest fear is that this poor kid is going to be a wreck both mechanically and mentally as the Giants management continues to screw with him, as it’s a little hard to adjust to Major League pitching when your fearing for you’re job in every at-bat. Good luck Brandon, your battle will continue to be of the uphill variety.