In his most recent article for the Athletic, MLB insider, Jayson Stark awarded Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger the “NL LVP” award. That is the Least Valuable Player award. Stark based the honor on Cody’s Wins Above Replacement numbers in 2021, per Baseball-Reference.
Baseball-reference also tells us Bellinger has been worth minus-1.7 Wins Above Replacement! And that makes him the least valuable player in the National League — literally. If we’re going to use WAR to decide who’s most valuable, might as well use it the other way around, too, right?
Understandably, if you look at Bellinger’s season on paper, it does not look great. Again, as Stark mentions Bellinger has had “historically” low records this year, which is true. However, let’s not forget that Bellinger has been fighting injuries all season.
It is all about the injuries
Before the season started, Bellinger had to undergo shoulder surgery to repair a damaged labrum. Even though Stark mentions this, he didn’t really grasp the difficulty that is healing after something like that. Granted, every player is different and there are some that can bounce back easily. That was clearly not the case for Bellinger. The goal at the beginning of the 2021 season was to allow Bellinger time to readjust his swing and find a new rhythm to get on base.
However, that goal changed quickly after about five games into the season when Bellinger suffered a hairline fracture in his left fibula. Bellinger was put on the 10-day IL and once he was back in the lineup, he was nowhere near where he used to be.
When it comes to players getting injured over and over again throughout the season, it is going to be harder to bounce back each time. Players put their bodies through a lot of physical training and rehab just to regain the same kind of strength back. To brush off an offseason surgery along with multiple injuries seems unfair, no matter how small the injury is.
Not only has Bellinger had to make a comeback multiple times this season, he just suffered a broken rib injury and missed eight games.
Cody Bellinger did not perform to the status of his 2019 MVP year, but with the season he had, fans should be proud that he has been able to keep coming back.