Continuing with the “Biggest Dodger Surprise” series, it’s fitting that we address Cody Bellinger, as his 24th birthday just passed. Bellinger’s 2019 is probably the least likely to be viewed as a “surprise.” Fans saw what he was capable of in his Rookie of the Year 2017 season and they also saw his minor sophomore slump last year, he was still good. However, his 2019 campaign has been surprising none-the-less, no one expected him to be this good…
Offensively the case for Cody Bellinger is easy. Everyone knew he had power, what they didn’t know was everything else he could do at the plate. Bellinger currently leads the National League in Offensive WAR (4.8), On-Base% (.433), Runs Scored (70), and Total Bases (221).
Whatever major offensive category he doesn’t lead, he still ranks top 5. Bellinger is currently 2nd in NL Batting Average (.336), Slugging% (.688), OPS (1.122), HR (30), and RBIs (71) making him a a very real candidate for a Triple Crown.
Who finishes the season with more dingers? pic.twitter.com/QQICr1eIBr
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) July 14, 2019
Last season Bellinger hit a respectable 25 HRs and 76 RBIs to follow up his phenomenal rookie season when he hit 39 HRs and 97 RBIs. Through 93 games, he’s just 9 HRs and 26 RBIs shy of matching that rookie season with 69 games to go. Beyond his power, Bellinger has hit 8 infield hits this year, most of which have come from his speed allowing him to beat out the defensive throw. His 10.7% infield percentage is 4th best in the NL. Bellinger is just doing anything an everything he can to get on base and help his team win, defensively he’s doing it all too.
While Cody Bellinger has been dominating the offense game, you can’t ignore his incredible defensive contributions this year either. Among all MLB outfielders, his 18 DRS (defensive runs saved) is the highest by 7, he has top-3 UZR (ultimate zone rating) at 8.9, and 4th best 1.5 dWAR. Additionally, Bellinger has put his impressive arm strength on display this year and has gunned down a NL best 8 baserunners from the outfield.
Also worth noting, he holds a NL second best .994 fielding percentage among outfielders and has just 1 error to his name this season.
Cody Bellinger’s has yet to look bad in his 2 1/2 seasons at the major league level, but his “sophomore slump” clearly lit a fire in him to get back to and improve upon his 2017 self. It would’ve been easy for him to focus solely on hitting or to take the ego approach and assume he’ll be able to make in-season adjustments. Instead he put in the off season work to improve on both sides of the field. At best he’ll be rewarded with the National League MVP award, at worst, he’s positioned to win the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards.
Cody Bellinger’s well documented improvements and impressive numbers aren’t what makes his case for “biggest Dodger surprise”, it’s his overall mindset and approach. Accolades of being the best player aren’t what interests him most. Cody Bellinger is most interested in being and doing what he must to push his Dodgers team to achieve what his father Clay achieved, a World Series Championship. The biggest surprise is the emergence of Cody Bellinger’s leadership.