Is Brandon Belt beginning to turn things around at the plate for the Blue Jays?

May 6, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Brandon Belt (13)
May 6, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Brandon Belt (13) / Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Belt is one of the most decorated players of the past 10 years, being one of the few to have earned multiple World Series rings. On top of this, he has been a huge producer with the bat, consistently hovering around 20 HR and an .800 OPS but skyrocketed in the 2020 and 2021 seasons where he launched 38 HR and combined for a .988 OPS in 148 games, by far the best spell of his career. From this, an immense amount of pressure surrounded him heading into the 2022 season, with the question being could he produce a stat line like this and stay healthy? Plain and simple, he did not. 

In fact, it was his worst season as a major leaguer as he posted a subpar .676 OPS in only 78 games before receiving season-ending knee surgery. Because of this, the Giants allowed him to go into free agency where he would go on to sign a one-year "prove it" deal with the Jays hoping he could rekindle his past form. 

Brandon Belt may finally be turning things around for the Blue Jays.

But it was the worst start to his Blue Jays career imaginable. In the first 11 games he was striking out at an alarming rate with 19 during this spell and he paired that with an abysmal .154 AVG, .233 OBP, and a .231 SLG for an OPS of .463. The pitching departments had totally figured him out and it had all been from the approach they are taking when facing him. This season, he is seeing the fastball 55.3% of the time, by far the lowest in his MLB career, and 32.9% of the time seeing the breaking ball, by far the highest.  

When facing this influx of breaking pitches, he has not been mashing them like his normal self. Per his baseball savant page, during the 2020 season against breaking pitches he had a .233 AVG and a .500 SLG with a 24.5% whiff rate. Then in 2021, he had a .274 AVG and a .750 SLG with a 28.4% whiff rate. Now in the early going of the 2023 season, his numbers lie nowhere near these. So far, he has posted a .179 AVG, and a .393 SLG with a 40.4% whiff rate. This horrible display against the breaking pitch has contributed to a 42.5% strikeout rate, that figure is bottom 1% of the league.  

These stats are a sign that he needs to get his timing back and once this happens, he could finally break out; which may have happened on April 21st. He went 2-for-4 with a run and four RBI thanks to a double and a home run in a 6-1 Blue Jays victory. Since that game, he has hit for a .290 AVG, with a .386 OBP, and a .553 SLG, for an OPS of .939. During this time, he has also raised his season OPS from .609 all the way up to .700.  

But what has been the most impressive part about this spell has come in the last five games. In that time, he has gone 7-for-15 at the plate with a homer, three doubles, and four walks for an OPS of 1.446. He is still striking out a lot, with seven in these five games, but it is far lower than what we had previously seen from him and could tell us that he may be starting to get a better feel at the plate this season.  

Hopefully, this stretch is a sign of things to come since getting him going is crucial for the success of the team. Because having an impact bat in the 6 or 7 spot could act as a second clean-up hitter and would be a huge bonus for the bottom half of the lineup which has not been producing too much early on this season.