Cody Bellinger’s Ability to Be Great

Cody Bellinger was called up by the Dodgers to the big leagues on April 25th of this year. Coming in at only 21 years of age, Bellinger was looking to make a name for himself. Toward the beginning of the season he would split starts between left field and first base. Eventually Adrian Gonzalez would go down to injury, giving Bellinger the opportunity of being an everyday first baseman. Bellinger rose to the occasion, cementing himself in the history books, as he will be the National League Rookie of the Year. Not only will he achieve this award, but he helped bring his team to the World Series. Before Bellinger’s arrival to the team, the Dodgers were 9 for their first 20 games. The Dodgers would go on to win 104 of their 162 games.

During the course of the season, Bellinger put up incredible numbers. He played in 132 games throughout the year, driving in 97 runs, scoring 87 times, and belting an astonishing 39 home runs, finishing only behind the powerful Giancarlo Stanton (with 59). Bellinger had a respectable .267 batting average while maintaining a .352 on-base percentage and .581 slugging percentage. He was a force at the plate, putting fear into the eyes of many pitchers. Although he didn’t walk so much — only 11.7% of the time — he still managed to have a wOBA of .380, staying in the top 30 for the MLB. On average, he would draw a walk for about every two strikeouts; not the best, but still better than most players belting over 30 homers. His plate discipline was above average for power hitters throughout the season, but come postseason, this would all change.

Throughout much of the postseason, most people were reflecting on Aaron Judge’s struggles, after having himself a historic season at the plate. Judge would break the record for strikeouts in a postseason until Bellinger would then beat this unfavorable record with 29. Through Bellinger’s 15 postseason games, he would belt three home runs, driving in nine runs and scoring 10 times while walking only three times. Most of these statistics happened during the NLDS and NLCS. His wOBA would fall to .295, with a .219 batting average, walking 4.5% of the time, while striking out in an astounding 43.3% of his plate appearances. In fact, in the World Series alone, he would achieve 17 of his 29 strikeouts. Bellinger would struggle immensely at the plate throughout the World Series, with the exceptions of Games 4 and 5.

During the series, the Astros pitching staff would focus on beating Bellinger in on the hands with curveballs falling out of the zone, and with fastballs tailing up and away. Amazingly, Bellinger during the regular season only chased pitches out of the zone 29.7% of the time. This would change immensely as the Astros pitching staff’s effective deception would often pull Bellinger’s bat out of the zone.

In Game 4, Bellinger would face Astros pitcher Charlie Morton in the top of the 5th with no outs in a 1-2 count. Bellinger’s stance is in a more upright position with his bat also in a vertical position. This makes creating torque through his hands a little more awkward, as he rolls his hands into a hitting position. When this curveball begins to spin further in on his hands, it becomes too difficult to bring his hands in further, leading to this awful swing and follow-through shown. His approach on this pitch looks as if he’s trying to hit the ball 500 feet over the right-field wall; not an optimal mindset in a 1-2 count when you know the curveball is coming. His head was nowhere near the zone; he may as well have swung with his eyes closed. This is the position we often saw Bellinger in throughout the World Series when thrown an inside curveball. However, Bellinger would use this at-bat for his next plate appearance.

Now we see later in the game Bellinger is in a 1-1 count facing Morton in the top of the 7th. He knows he’s going to see a curveball in on his hands and adjusts accordingly. His body is in a lower position with his bat in a more angled approach, with his hands staying back, anticipating curveball, looking to stay in on the ball with his hands and drive it to right field. Bellinger manages to fight this pitch off, fouling it back, showing his adjustment helped. His follow-through is also in a significantly better position, with his head staying back looking at the ball, and his body stays in a more balanced stance. This approach, showing that he’s able to make even a small adjustment to making contact with the low and in curveball, led pitchers to start targeting the outside upper half of the zone with the fastball again.

Here we see in Game 4, Bellinger faces Astros pitcher Charlie Morton with a 1-1 count and 0 outs in the top of the 5th. Bellinger’s body is not in an effective hitting position for hitting this outside fastball. His body is falling out away from the zone, his pivot foot is not providing any power, and his hands reach out from his body too far. Bellinger would acknowledge this issue and had this to say before Game 4:

“I hit every ball in BP today to the left side of the infield,” Bellinger said. “I’ve never done that before in my life. Usually I try to lift. I needed to make an adjustment and saw some results today. I’m pulling off everything. Usually in BP I just try to lift, have fun in BP. But today I tried to make an adjustment. I needed to make an adjustment, and so I decided I’m hitting every ball to left field today.”

This is exactly what Bellinger would do.

In the top of the 9th in Game 4 with a 1-0 count and no outs, Bellinger faces Astros closer Ken Giles with runners on. Bellinger has his eyes locked in on the ball as he’s seen this pitch before. He’s using his approach from batting practice earlier to drill this ball into the gap. He keeps his body in an athletic hitting position, keeping his hands in and generating all his power through his lower half, creating torque through his strong hands. We see him drive this ball into the left-center gap, keeping his eyes on the ball the whole way and maintaining a strong follow-through. Bellinger did exactly what he said he would do and helped his team win this game. He would then carry on this adjustment into Game 5, showing people why he will be this year’s NL RoY.

Although Bellinger would fall into his old habits in Games 6 and 7, his ability to recognize where the problem is and the ability he has to adjust is what makes him an effective hitter. Through this, Bellinger will only continue to become better and will continue to become one of the most feared hitters in the league this next season. At only 22 years old now, Bellinger will become the next big star in this great sport we call Baseball.

Print This Post

newest oldest most voted

The post season means nothing. He was very good in the regular season at a very young age.

However his K rate is not low and his pull/elevate approach makes him effective but could depress his babip some. I think there is still some room for contact improvement but not that much, could be like 23 to 24% with like a 285 babip at his peak.

I think he will be very good but not a 290+ hitter, more like 250 to 270 in most years but with 35+ hr.maybe a little like mark Teixeira when he was young.

Larry Bernandez
Larry Bernandez

“Although he didn’t walk so much — only 11.7% of the time”

An 11.7% walk rate is fairly good, ranking 28th out of 144 qualified hitters. League average was 8.5% this year.