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Dodgers: ESPN Insider Breaks Down What’s Wrong With Cody Bellinger

Buster Olney sits down with our Blue Heaven Podcast.



Dodgers fans already know that Cody Bellinger isn’t playing the way he is capable. Entering the weekend series against the Astros, Belli carries a weak .714 OPS, a far cry from his 2019 NL MVP campaign. 

It isn’t just the fans that have realized how badly Cody has struggled, though. Our Blue Heaven Podcast got to chat with ESPN insider Buster Olney this week about everything Dodgers related. One of the things that came up was Cody Bellinger.

In talking to experts around the league, Buster felt like he might have found the hole in Belli’s swing. 

It’s funny, today I talked to some evaluators, and they think he needs to back off of the plate. That he is continually getting beat with fastballs. It’s amazing if you go to Fangraphs, and you look at the damage he did against fastballs last year versus what he is doing this year. They have a value chart, and last year the number was +30. This year the number is -3…

It’s no secret at this point that Bellinger is getting beat by those fastballs, especially when they up in the zone. His strikeout rate has not gone up dramatically, though his walk rate has taken a decent hit. Bellinger also isn’t barreling up balls nearly as often as he was in his MVP campaign. He hit more than 100 points higher on fastballs in 2019 than his .224 mark with the Dodgers this year. 

Buster was of the opinion that something needs to change with his approach, and soon. 

What I got back a lot of was that he needs to do something different than try to loom over the plate and take away the inside corner the way we see Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs do. Maybe a better solution for him is gonna be what Jason Heyward did this year which is actually to back away from the plate a little more. Because the guy is a phenomenal athlete, he’s a lot better of a hitter than what he is showing so far. 

With a slash line of .211/.292/.422, it’s sort of amazing that the Dodgers have the best record in the league. Fortunately, production comes from all around heir lineup in 2020. Having Mookie Betts added into the mix certainly helps things. But if they can get Cody even close to his 2019 production, the Dodgers lineup will be virtually unstoppable. 

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. We’ve been talking about getting Bellinger back to being Bellinger, but it wasn’t like he was tearing it up in the the later half of last year. He started out other-worldly strong and then became merely above average in the second half. Maybe this is what Bellinger is? I don’t know. He made some adjustments before the season and they didn’t work out, but he has hasn’t been able to get to where he was the beginning of last year. Maybe that was the outlier.

    • The first approx 170 ABs last year were the outlier, at least so far. His second half was more his norm. After an MVP season, its easy to conclude he has reached to super star status, and he is a multi-talented player, but he has strong and weak spots in his resume. His post season performance has been a disaster.

        • He has a long swing. Tough to barrel fast balls up and in. Decent MLB pitchers are going to live there and with the slider down and away. Cody is going to have to adjust. Maybe like the rest of the team, Cody needs to concentrate less on hitting home runs and More on putting the ball in play.

    • Cody looks to me like he has been playing in a haze all season. Not just the two times he hit a ball and had no idea where it went, the time he was picked off first, some eratic routes on fly balls [he seems a way better right fielder than center fielder], but more than that, he just has had a dazed look in his eyes that I haven’t noticed in other seasons..

      • One more comment about Belli, way too friendly when playing 1st base with the other team. Concentration is lacking in my opinion. Hasn’t made an over shoulder catch on any foul balls that I have seen either while others have. The opposing pitchers have made changes, he hasn’t. Yes Jackson there definitely some fog happening here !

  2. What he has to do is back away from the plate at least 6 inches so he can hit the inside fastball like he was doing last year. But so far this year he’s getting beat with inside pitches up and down the zone and out of futility he swings flat footed just trying to make contact which shows that he’s frustrated and lost at the plate!! We, the fans, see it every game over and over!!! Don’t the hitting coaches see it? Don’t they view game videos anymore? Or Bellinger thinks he knows everything about hitting? He’s a Dodgers employee and he has a manager that should talk to him more often before he becomes another water talent!!!

  3. Thank you, people, I’ve been putting my 2 cents out there about Belli Bomb for a while now. There is something off with Belli. Being too close to the plate is one, one other thing is pitchers know now what he likes to hit so they are playing with him. Being so close to the plate what he thinks away pitches are out of the box and he doesn’t swing. The other thing like I said before is mental or physical he just doesn’t have the are or the speed he had last year. Maybe he just doesn’t pick up the ball as quickly as he used to? All in all the Dodgers should be doing better all the way around.

    • I totally agree that Cody is much to close to the plate. The toes of his shoes are actually out of the batter’s box. When they pitch Cody is is usually down and in and since Cody is so tall he takes a looping swing which results in a lot of pop ups. Also he has never been one to bend his knees nor does he step into the pitch so all of his power comes from his upper body. One other thing that bothers me is that when he plays first base he is always laughing and chatting with opponents. If I went from MVP to a .200 hitter I’d be pissed. Kirk Gibson wouldn’t take it so lightly.

  4. Major league pitchers are extremely good. Major league scouts are just as good. A scout can “pick up” on a batter’s tendencies on every pitch. For example, a batter may be able to hit a 2-1 breaking ball better than a 3-1 breaking ball. It is the batter and hitting coaches (mostly the batter) that have to learn how to handle these situations. Bellinger has been in the league long enough that other teams have figured out the best way to pitch Cody. We have heard forever how a batter has to adjust; now is the time for him to “adjust” ….. He will.

  5. He should begin to bunt and slap balls to the left side to beat the shift. If he did so, his BA would be much higher and he would not be the rally killer he has turned out to be this year.

  6. Cody has to be more of a team player, at the moment when he make contact (which is not very often) he tries to jerk everything into the seats. He is a little like golf’s Bryson DeChambeau who’s ego takes control more often than not and attempts to show off at just how far he can hit a drive. If Cody would shorten up his swing when the situation calls for a base hit and find a gap he would help the ball club a heck of a lot more than now and thus become more of a team player.

  7. He may be putting extra pressure on himself trying to match Mookie. He needs to lower his attack angle a bit to keep the bat in the zone longer.

  8. Cody IMHO needs to not bet so straight up like a statue up there, but also concur with you all here that getting a bit off the dish would be a good idea. Pitchers talk, then adjust. Now he needs to or he will have another miserable October and if that’s the case it will be a quick exit for the team in the PS unless the rest of the offense can make better contact and our pitching can keep the ball in the yard. These last 2 team issues are what’s kept Dodgers from the WS ring in the past few seasons. Oh. and of course there’s Robert’s decision making in October to be concerened about too.

  9. Hope we dont have another Dave Kingman or Darrel Evans in the making. It seems like Bellinger wants to hit the ball 500 feet every at bat. Need to drop him in the order.

  10. It’s a bit presumptuous to give advice to him online. It’s a conversation that he is having with his coach, trainers, teammates. They see him every day, they see his results, he talks to them. The Dodgers also have pitching coaches who can let him know how pitchers are dealing with him. It’s a team effort, but he needs to listen to his coaches, not armchair advisors. It could very well be that his first-half 2019 was an anomaly and he is just an above-average, but not a great hitter. Putting him 6th or 7th in the batting order may be just what he needs to adjust to the limited reliance on him to carry the team. Guys like Pollock and Taylor are picking up the slack. Muncy will come around, hopefully soon, and Turner will be back.

  11. He has too much of an upper cut with his swing. Which results in the huge amount of pop ups he has. He needs to prioritize making contact then concentrate on the power aspect. Bunt more towards third base to make the defense pay for over shifting instead of hitting into it.

  12. Soundguy, I am not an “armchair advisor”, I played the game and was a coach in the minor leagues for four seasons. In batting practice one of your rounds is called “get on, get them over and get them in”. Presently Cody does apparently not subscribe to that practice, he seems to be more interested in “hitting it out” and that is not working.

  13. Actually, I find it great to see the concern of all the Dodger fans above. I am one who thinks Bello will find his groove.

  14. From the Penthouse to the outhouse . Get off that line so close to the plate , you are killing your swing …. No big salary increase for people that cant figure it out , you are the MVP of the National League start carrying your load , your experiment is not working !!!

  15. CODY NEEDS TO BACK UP AT LEAST 6″, DO NOT HAVE D.R. TRY TO HELP HIM,AND YES WHERE IN THE HELL ARE HITTING COACHS D.R.ASLEEP @ THE SWITCH

  16. Cody needs. To change the his stance seop is shoudlersbyhis side and swing level he’s trying hit a homerun everytime he bats the same for Christmas taylor go blue see you in October
    Go blue

  17. Living in Arizona don’t see many games, but what I see shows him pulling his right foot back on every pitch. If he stood farther back like most great hitters and stepped into the pitch should do wonders for all parts of his hitting, average, walks and power.

  18. I do NOY get what the big deal is about Cody. Except for about 45 days of last season he is a career 260 hitter. Beginning of last year he was hitting to all fields and actually bunted for a base hit to beat the shift. Haven’t seen him do that since. Needs to tone down his swing and stop swinging for the fences on every pitch and get back to hitting to all fields instead of hitting into the shift. Problem is he doesn’t have a manager to manage him and his ego won’t let him.

  19. Bellinger is struggling. He looks lost. Jansen is terrible this month. The Padres are, slowly, gaining on us. NOT good!!!

  20. All this season Bellinger has been flat-out letting his head move too much while swinging! Drops over a foot every swing. Everybody is making similar points and why the Dodger coaches aren’t doing their job is costing us. Dropping his head so much while swinging is keeping him from being able to focus on the incoming pitch as long as possible. Again, watch a really good hitter- like Mookie-and his head is virtually motionless the entire swing! This is basic fundamentals and Cody is the very worst at this you will see now..geeez.

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