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Dodgers: Has Cody Bellinger Lost Grasp of the MVP Award?

Can Bellinger finish it off?

Once thought to be a lock, Cody Bellinger is now part of what figures to be one of the closest NL MVP ballots in recent history. Surely, Bellinger has made a strong case by having a career year; including matching his career-high home run total on Tuesday night.

However, it’s no longer a virtual certainty that Bellinger wins the award. An award that would be the first Dodgers’ position player to win it since Kirk Gibson in that magical 1988 season.

Let’s take a look at what lies ahead for Bellinger to win the award, and whether or not he still has a firm grasp on the NL’s Most Valuable Player Award for 2019.

The Big Three Candidates

Unquestionably, it seems to be a three-horse race. As of August 2nd, only two mainstays were listed in the NL MVP odds on major betting sites. At that time, the consensus had Bellinger (-150) as a slight favorite over Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers (+110).

Still, that was then, and this is now. With a torrid two-week stretch, Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Atlanta Braves has moved into the running a bit with a rare blend of power and speed. Realistically, there are three big candidates in play to take down the hardware.

Here they are by the numbers.

  • Christian Yelich: .333/.425/.699, 39 HR 89 RBI, 6.0 bWAR
  • Ronald Acuña Jr.: .299/.378/.543, 34 HR, 81 RBI, 28 SB, 5.1 bWAR
  • Cody Bellinger: .316/.414/.663, 39 HR, 90 RBI, 9 SB, 7.7 bWAR

Side-by-side, Bellinger looks to have a clear edge in one category; Wins Above Replacement measured on Baseball-Reference which accounts for defensive play. Also, it helps that the Dodgers have a nine-win lead over Atlanta. Because of this, Bellinger has a chance to be the de facto best player on the best team in the league.

Objectively, it’s very close. There are also other candidates like the New York Mets’ Peter Alonso or Pittsburgh Pirates’ Josh Bell who have a very remote shot of climbing into this race at some point depending upon what happens.

With all that being said, the award is most likely going to end up in the hands of one of the three players listed above.

How Have They Done Lately?

Bellinger and Yelich are going to take the NL MVP race of 2019 down to the wire.

So often in life the old expression of ‘it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” applies. Furthermore, you can’t win this award by backing into it – you really have to go out and win it against the field. A slow finish can cost someone with an incredible first half the award.

What will stay fresh on the minds of the voters isn’t what was done in April or May. It’s going to be the moments and numbers put up during the heat of a pennant race or a signature week of games down the stretch that allows someone to likely take it down.

While still having overall numbers worthy of being an MVP, Bellinger has slowed down a bit. In fact – since June 1st – he’s represented a slash-line of .257/.369/.576 which is a far cry from his full-season numbers. Indeed, Bellinger started the first two months of the season at an unsustainable pace. By the same token, he’s not hitting quite at the level of an MVP since that date.

By comparison, Acuña Jr. has a .316/.392/.596 slash-line with 23 home runs and 21 stolen bases. This has allowed him to close the gap a bit with Bellinger.

What’s more staggering is when you look at Yelich since June 1st. Since that day, Yelich posts a slash-line of .360/.434/.706; by far and away turning it on the most of the three players.

Finally, when you look at the three candidates for the last few months; they have bested Bellinger at least offensively. Now, does Bellinger deserve to win the award based on a strong first two months and solid remainder of the year? Luckily, there’s time left on the clock.

The Award Will Be Won From This Date Forward

Recently, FOX Sports debated who deserved to be the NL MVP. The conclusion they came to was that a bad week or two was going to allow someone to win this award. Truly, it’s going to be that close.

Here’s what Dontrelle Willis said in the segment, which I think will hold true.

“It’s too close to tell. These guys are on the barrel – they’re two of our best players – especially in the National league. It’s going to take someone having a bad week, it’s going to be that close. If Yelich gets Milwaukee into the postseason, he wins the award.”

Factors like a spectacular couple of weeks or a team like Milwaukee missing the playoffs entirely could change things a bit. Furthermore, an injury could cost someone to slide in their chances to emerge as the winner. Still, it’s likely that the player who slumps a little over the final 45 or so days of the regular season is going to not win it.

Remember, the MVP is about remaining steady from start-to-finish until the final game is played. With the season being referred to so often as a marathon, it’s about going through the finish line with a strong gait; unaffected by the pressure. This is why an MVP award is so tough to win.

Objectively: Who is Your NL MVP?

We want to hear your opinion. Likely, you’re a Los Angeles Dodgers fan; but we ask you to be objective here. Who do you think will win the award and why? Do you think that Bellinger’s tiny lull in offense over the last few months has cast doubt in the minds of the voters?

Let us know in the comments section below, and check back to see how your prediction played out.

Written by Clint Evans

Clint lives in Ohio, and played collegiate baseball. He loves the Dodgers due to his first memories of Chavez Ravine when he was nine years old. The voice of Vin Scully has been a staple in his life since he was a kid. No amount of baseball talk is ever enough, and he wishes the regular season was year round. He has written about baseball online since 2007.

34 Comments

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  1. Overall I still go with Bellinger.
    IMO he’s better all around.
    That said, if he continues to drop in average, and Yellich doesn’t, the award will go to Yellich.
    Of course we have consider the anti LA bias of the east coast writers / voters. Their envy of the west coast has always been obvious.

  2. We have already been over this in an article last week right? Maybe I’m in a time warp……….Yelich is going to win the award…….that much is obvious if you listen to the sports people on the television everyday.

    Acuña does not even belong in the discussion.

    But Bellinger SHOULD win the award…….and if he were playing in another uniform, other than that Dodgers uni, he would win it hands down. What he (Bellinger) does on the defensive side of the things sets he and Yelich apart by a wide margin.

    • Why should Bellinger win the award? That sounds like a Dodger bias. Yelich is still hitting at a high average, while Cody has reverted to some old habits which has shown in his poor batting average.

      • While I agree with most of what you’re saying, I think the point stands that Bellinger is the better defender. Gold glove in RF or at 1B. That makes a significant difference. That being said, unless he fixes the swing, like you said, it’s going, rightfully, to Yelich.

      • The predominant bias in baseball, especially the East Coast has been and still is against the Dodgers no matter what. Let’s see if what Bellinger ends up doing leads to a WS ring. Then he should get the MVP, but as I told bluz1st, his BA needs to go up a bit again. He obviously has a defensive edge as well being pretty much Gold glove in RF and or 1st.

        • Voting will be long over come WS or even playoffs. So whatever LA does in the post season will have no impact on the voting.

      • JR………My point was that Bellinger is the better PLAYER. Yelich is the better HITTER. That is why Bellinger has a higher WAR rating. Bellinger can play 1st, center, right or left with superior defensive skill to Yelich. Bellinger also has a cannon accurate arm and it’s also better than Yelichs’ arm. He (Cody) is hands down the better player.

    • Bluz1st, it’s true what you are saying here because of a bias against the Dodgers being all too obvious. But Bellinger, if he can get his BA back up a bit should win it ESPECIALLY if what he does carries Dodgers to the WS and they win it for the 1st time in 31 years.

  3. Bellingers average has plummeted. He needs to stop swinging for the fences. He needs to look at film at the beginning of the season when he was hitting to all parts of the park. He is no longer carrying the team. Last night is an example. Everyone contributed.

    • I agree with your comment and one above. Bellinger has worried me for several weeks. I started seeing him swing at the very same pitches that got him out last year. I thought he fixed that for this season, but he has reverted to form. I think the batting coach needs to spend some quality time with him. Roberts should be concerned as well.

  4. Dodgers fan since 1955, and I love Bellinger’s overall game. However, as much as it pains me to say this, his slow decline at the plate over the summer months makes me lean toward Yelich’s consistency as the deciding factor. Would the Brewers be in contention for a wild card berth without Yelich. Most likely not. Would the Dodgers still win the West Division without Bellinger? Probably not as easily
    As they are, but yes, they would still win that division comfortably assuming all the other offensive weapons produced at the sale clip without Bellinger’s looming presence in the lineup. If he snaps out of this slide – it’s not really a slump – over the next 40 games, I might change my mind. But if the vote were taken today, I’d have to say Yelish by a whisker.

  5. 2 great months do not make a season. Belli has gone from great to very average and actually a little below average. Unless he picks it up its Yelich. At the rate he is going he’ll be lucky to hit over 300.

  6. While I agree with most of what you’re saying, I think the point stands that Bellinger is the better defender. Gold glove in RF or at 1B. That makes a significant difference. That being said, unless he fixes the swing, like you said, it’s going, rightfully, to Yelich.

    • Hi KJ, if something bails out Cody given he finishes with a solid final 45 days; it’s going to be that he’s been an awesome defender.

  7. Cody Bellinger will win this 2019 MVP award without a doubt. If it means that he has to have a strong start to finish he has missed fewer games than Christian Yelich. Even though he slumped a little through the slash line. He has carried the Dodgers throughout this season for another great year. Now I hope they can take it all this year.

  8. I knew Cody’s start would not be continued but because of his way above average defense I think he is at least even with the others. He seems to have lost his ability to go to left field especially with two strikes. Regain that, he is the winner.

  9. It’s almost certainly Yelich, unless he slumps late and the Brewers miss the playoffs. He’s just been more consistent, and at their current paces will almost certainly beat Belli in all three triple crown categories. That said, if Belli somehow can summon a month similar to whatever he had in April/May (or more realistically June) he could pull it out.

  10. While Bellinger is th better fielder no matter where he plays, during his two month slump others on the team have risen to the occasion. Verdugo, Taylor, Smith, Turner and Muncey. What is his Batting ave. during this time. It definitely is not MVP caliber. I have been a Dodger fan since Bklyn was their home but, if he doesn’t come alive again he will not win! The starting pitching has also carried the team. Forget the relievers.

  11. I didn’t even hear how good DEFENSIVELY Bellinger, has been! Isn’t the MVP supposed to be well rounded and lead their team above everyone else? It’s not even close Acuna, will get demolished by the Dodgers, in the post season. Yelich, probably backdoors into the playoffs if he’s lucky. All around MVP is Bellinger…

  12. Time will tell. I like Bellinger’s chances, although his slump is real. With regard to WAR, why shouldn’t defense be taken into account when determining MVP?? Bellinger is fat and away the best of the 3 on defense and he’s right up there in offense.

    • It’s not an ‘outright’ slump, he just hasn’t remained Ted Williams offensively through a full season. He’s still walking and hitting balls in the seats at a nice clip. Just fewer hits and he was not able to continue an all-time historic season. Still an awesome year, and player.

  13. Bellinger Will squeak by! He just a better overall player than the other two! All three are great players but unless Bellinger gets hurt or just really takes a nose dive IMO he’s a tad better than the other two!

  14. I’m a huge Dodger fan. With that said, IMO Yelich is a few points ahead as of today(No doubt).
    Belli, has a pretty decent hold on second.
    The main point I’d like to express is Freddie Freeman IS IN third place today! That is all…..thanks

  15. I’m seeing a ,ot of comments regarding BA of Belli zand Yelich. However, in this analytics era of the sport, BA and even to some degree RBIs seem to have become less of an important stat than other things…many of which are hard to even understand how they are calculated. That said, with the sabremetrics being so important, I would think Belli wins. But, as several have said, the anti west coast and Dodgers is so prevalent by voters not on the west coast, it likely will go to Yelich. Remember the season Kemp had and had the MVP pulled out from under him by a Brewers player that was found to be a fan of the PEDs? And, in spite of what I just said, if Belli’s BA drops to the low .300s or even into the .290s, he is toast. R

  16. While I’m rooting for Bellinger it’s hard to deny that Yelich matched up very well early on but has sustained a higher level overall As mentioned in the article, you can’t back in to the MVP award.

  17. I agree Belli needs to step it up to finish the year strong and lock it down. But I still can’t help but remember the year of Kemp vs Braun. Anyone care to share the similarities and differences between this MVP race and that one? Clint?

  18. 2 good month doesnt win the mvp award.he is probably 4/5 in the league sinse then. Enjoy the memories, but unless he turns his season around quickly he won’t even be in the discussion at years end. He has pretty much reverted back to the real cody that we know. This was a silly biased article.

  19. I believe with Belanger’s Great defense It makes up for For the Reduction In his Offense What’s really hasn’t been that badd

  20. I know this is going to sound crazy,bellinger needs to go down to Triple A for a week or two to regain his swing and confidence, forget about MVP and hopefully come back as the Bellinger of the early season they need him in the playoffs and World Series, or drastic work with the hitting coach in L.A.. Cody just slow your roll Mr. Bellinger.

  21. Somehow he needs to get his confidence back as i see. Bellinger was a Lion early on. I believe if he has did it once that bellinger is still him.

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