Three years in the past, Cody Bellinger was in a a lot better place. Hell, three years in the past, we had been all in a a lot better place. Now, we’re nonetheless coping with COVID-19 (and will likely be as a result of individuals are egocentric, unempathetic, willfully ignorant and have been radicalized in opposition to SCIENCE … however I digress), a tumultuous economic system and the prospect that Bellinger could have performed his final sport for the Dodgers.
Bellinger was on the quick observe to superstardom. He gained the 2017 Nationwide League Rookie of the 12 months, the 2018 NLCS MVP and the 2019 NL MVP. He has give you some large moments within the postseason, together with the game-tying residence run in Recreation 7 of the 2020 NLCS that helped propel the Dodgers to the World Sequence. He drove within the game-winning run within the 2021 NLDS in opposition to the Giants. Massive-time moments for him!
At 27 years previous, he ought to have been on observe to have his jersey quantity sit between Sandy Koufax and Roy Campanella (and, actually, it ought to be Fernando Valenzuela and Campy … retire No. 34, Dodgers!), and be in line for one of many richest contracts the sport has ever seen. As an alternative, Bellinger began simply two of the 4 Dodger postseason video games in 2022 and was on the bench in opposition to Joe Musgrove — right-handed pitcher — within the final sport of the Dodgers’ disappointing season. With an arbitration wage determine of $18.1 million and one 12 months from unrestricted free company, it’s changing into more and more probably the Dodgers non-tender Bellinger. And you already know what? It’d be justified.
I’m as large a Stomach fan as there’s. I adopted his ascent by way of the minors, was excited for his prospects as a giant leaguer and thought he’d be a Dodger for all times. That would nonetheless occur, however I’m not going to place any cash on it.
Issues began to go south for him, actually within the second half of his MVP marketing campaign. After hitting .336/.432/.692 within the first half of ’19, he regressed to the imply a bit by hitting .261/.370/.544. That line can be lots good for a mean season for a participant of Bellinger’s capacity. However since then, he has been — in a phrase — terrible.
From the beginning of the 2020 season by way of the top of the 2022 season, he hit a paltry .203/.272/.376 with a 78 wRC+. He’s additionally seen his plate self-discipline and strike zone judgment take an enormous downward swing since his MVP season.
That has been a part of his drawback. He additionally isn’t hitting the ball as arduous as in earlier years. After topping out at 91.1 MPH common exit velo in ’19, he has averaged 89.3 MPH over the past three seasons. It’s been constant, however beneath his functionality and simply barely above league-average. His most exit velo has been 107.4 and 107.3 MPH the final two seasons after being a constant 110+ MPH man. His common launch angle elevated over the past two seasons — 22.2 levels in ’21, 20.3 levels in ’22 — after being between 16.2 levels and 17.9 levels for the opposite 4 seasons of his profession. Decreased exit velocity and a better launch angle goes to imply extra outs … when contact is made.
The shoulder damage he sustained after hitting that go-ahead homer within the ’20 NLCS is partly in charge, however I’m undecided that accounts for the huge lower in plate self-discipline. Positive, pitchers aren’t going to be as afraid of him in the event that they know he can’t do what he did within the first three years of his profession, however Bellinger has all the time had a gap in his swing, and pitchers are extra prepared to use it, particularly in the event that they don’t suppose he’ll have the ability to regulate and punish these choices — or mistake pitches.
A pair issues working in Bellinger’s favor is his protection and pace. In three of his final 4 seasons, he has been within the ninetieth or higher percentile in outs above common (a centesimal percentile in 2020). His pace percentile rating has fallen from the 90s to the 70s, however he’s nonetheless lots quick. With the Dodgers not having a surefire substitute for him in middle discipline, they might roll the cube on him for yet one more season and kick the proverbial can down the street. In the event that they lower bait, then a platoon of Trayce Thompson/Chris Taylor/James Outman is a sensible chance. That’s arduous to fathom for a staff just like the Dodgers, however maybe they put these monetary assets they save in middle discipline into the beginning rotation and determining shortstop.
Bellinger’s tenure with the Dodgers has been a story of two halves. The primary half of his profession, he was a fan favourite and franchise cornerstone. The second half has been riddled with poor efficiency, damage and subpar play, when you think about expectations.
If I’m Friedman, I most likely take an opportunity on Robert Van Scoyoc and Brant Brown getting Bellinger again to at the very least common type, however I’m not Friedman. The Dodgers have till Dec. 2 to determined about tending him a contract. He is also traded by that point. We’ll see what occurs. And no matter occurs, Bellinger has definitely given Dodger followers some good and not-so-good recollections.