There are few players more riveting on the Dodgers roster than Cody Bellinger. His talent is tantalizing – this in part his own doing with the brilliance he flashed in his rookie season. Bellinger is a ballplayer who when going right, appears so smooth in all facets. There simply aren’t many players in the game who can hit for power, run, throw, and offer near gold-glove defense at a corner infield and outfield position. The Dodgers’ young slugger is indeed that player, and he’s adored by the fanbase for that reason and so many more.
In a confounding season where we have covered Bellinger’s high points, and his struggles; it’s been a pleasure to watch and write about the guy. For the same reason, when he plays his best baseball of the year; it’s going to get major mention by us.
Signs Of Life
When the month of July ended, Bellinger was posting a .237/.323/.453 line. He had 17 home runs, 44 runs batted in, and five steals to his credit.
However, when the calendar flipped to August; Bellinger simply looked different. He settled on the stance he had during a torrid hot stretch in early June when he homered in four consecutive games. The young player ran the bases with aggressiveness and abandoned a swing that was favoring simple contact through the backside of the shift.
I was lucky enough to be at early batting practice at a game the first few days of the month to see Bellinger painting both pavilions and center with home runs. You hear too often that ‘a light went on’ – but something just looked different in his mannerisms.
The August Surge
You hear in March a lot of times that a player is ‘in the best shape of his life’. In an August stretch run of a sophomore season – it’s nice to be able to say that a player is playing the best baseball of his life. Taking a look at his body of work, that’s exactly what I am suggesting Cody Bellinger is doing.
After Friday night’s contest in Seattle, his slash line for the month sits at .417/.500/.563 for an OPS of 1.063. Despite just two home runs, that’s been fueled by hitting line drives to all fields and taking walks. He’s back to having quality at-bats, which have led to an important 8:8 walk to strikeout ratio. It’s possible that the biggest sign of Bellinger coming into his own and playing with confidence is a stat that comes without holding a bat. In the month of August he’s stolen five bases in five attempts, bringing him to a perfect 10 for 10 in that department on the season.
Altogether, he’s looking like a player who has had his trips through some very rough trials and survived. He knows he belongs and has the ability to adjust.
And let’s not forget his first hit of the month. The foul pole grand slam at Dodger Stadium in which a franchise-record 21 runs were scored. This will always be special to me because I was sitting in right field that night.
What Bellinger is doing is quite reminiscent of Joc Pederson early on in the season. Without huge power numbers, he’s going through the necessary adjustments to become a complete hitter. In time, the power numbers will return. That tool hasn’t gone away. Dodgers fans can expect a windfall at some point – just as Pederson has done at some points this season in the home run department.
At press time, his slash line sits at .257/.343/.465 – and when compared with his end of July numbers – Bellinger has come so far.
The Crystal Ball For The Rest Of The Way
Bellinger was a 4.0 fWAR player in his rookie season, and sits at a 2.5 fWAR thus far in 2018. He’s playing the type of baseball that invokes confidence that he could close the gap on that number between now and season’s end.
Regardless, Bellinger is proving that the immensely high stock he held around baseball should remain such. Anyone who has watched him fall from grace to his lowest points should realize this is a player who is able to adjust at a young age. The 2018 season had a chance to become a lost season for Bellinger – but it’s not going to end that way in the second chapter.
His long-term future remains so very bright. The franchise cornerstone figures to settle in as a player who has the ability to hit 30 homers, steal 20 bases, and possibly slash a .270/.360/.540 line with regularity; all while playing plus-defense in center or first base. Simply, that’s a rare player archetype in the game of baseball.
Someday into the future, those who were along for the ride from the beginning may look back at this August of 2018 as the most pivotal month in Bellinger’s career. The month he really became a ballplayer.
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