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Dodgers: The Struggles At The Plate Continue For Cody Bellinger

Dodgers
July 31, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger (35) hits out to center against the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2017 season, the power-hitting Cody Bellinger took the baseball world by storm. His rookie season was nothing short of spectacular. Not only were all eyes on Cody, but Aaron Judge was getting just as much attention back east. This was a good ol’ fashion East vs. West home run derby, basically.

Rookie Season

In Cody Bellinger’s rookie season, he exceeded the expectations of everyone. Appearing in 132 games, Bellinger finished the season with a .267 batting average, .933 OPS, along with a NL-best 39 home runs. At the age of twenty-one years old, Bellinger was named an All-Star for the mid-summer classic in Miami. He joined his teammates Justin Turner, Alex Wood, Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw, and Corey Seager in Miami. Cody had 3 opportunities at the plate that game, but did not reach base.

Oh yeah, Bellinger was also a participant in the 2017 Home Run Derby. He bashed 23 home runs before losing to the yet-to-be-named American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, in the semi-finals.

Speaking of bombs, here’s a fun clip of all 39 jacks from Cody Bellinger in 2017:

At the All-Star break, Bellinger’s average sat at .261. Fluctuating through the last few months of the season, his season average ended up at .267. Cody went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year award at twenty-two years old. He also finished 9th in the MVP voting.

With the spotlight beaming on the hottest team in baseball, the Dodgers knew that this was their year to take it all. Bellinger made an appearance in each of the fifteen games that postseason. Bellinger finished the 2017 postseason 14-64, including 9 RBI’s and 3 long balls. Cody went 0-8 in games 6 and 7 of the World Series. Obviously not the ending the Dodgers had envisioned, but Bellinger was a bright spot for them all season long.

So, as you might assume, the pressure was on for the young slugger the following season. As the baseball world ranted and raved about Bellinger, he knew the expectations were high for the 2018 season.

Sophomore Slump

As of July 30th, 2018, Cody Bellinger is slashing .238/.323/.455 at the plate. Yeah, not great. At this exact point last season, his slash line was .266/.349/.599. The difference in the slugging percentages is drastic! Take those numbers however you’d like, but there is something missing this season that Cody wish he still had.

Home vs. Away 

You can ask any professional athlete whether they prefer to play at home or away. The majority of the time, there’s a good chance they would much rather plate in front of their fans at home. Not only do you have the home fans on your side, but you feel a lot more comfortable in the box. You know the field, you understand the layout, and in Los Angeles, you’re going to have those beautiful crisp night’s to look forward to.

According to his stats this season, Bellinger has fared better on the road compared to playing in Los Angeles. Bellinger has played two more games on the road than at home. He’s had 96 total bases on the road compared to only 78 at home. When I look at road games, I automatically think about Coors Field, hitter’s favorite ballpark and a pitcher’s worst nightmare. Believe it or not, Bellinger is hitless at mile high altitude including four strikeouts in seven plate appearances.

The road average is at .255 while the home average sits at just .220. Bellinger has stepped into the box eleven more times on the road. He also has five less strikeouts on the road. I guess we can say Cody would much rather play as a guest.

RHP/LHP Splits

If Superman’s weakness is kryptonite, one could argue Cody Bellinger’s kryptonite is left-handed pitchers. The south paws have straight up dominated Bellinger over the last year and a half of his career. In this season, Bellinger has over double the at-bats against right handers compared to lefties.

Here are Bellinger’s splits against both lefties and righties this season:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
vs RHP 97 289 257 47 64 12 5 12 30 31 66 .249 .329 .475 .803
vs LHP 75 144 125 14 27 10 0 5 14 16 43 .216 .313 .416 .729
vs RHP as LHB 97 289 257 64 12 5 12 30 31 66 .249 .329 .475 .803
vs LHP as LHB 75 144 125 27 10 0 5 14 16 43 .216 .313 .416 .729
vs RH Starter 69 67 301 270 45 66 15 4 13 35 30 77 .244 .322 .474 .796
vs LH Starter 37 29 132 112 16 25 7 1 4 9 17 32 .223 .326 .411 .736

Swing Rate

When I think about Cody Bellinger with the bat, as far as his swing goes, I think about two aspects. Long and strong. Bellinger has some length to him, standing at six feet, four inches. Cody has bit the dust 109 times in just 106 games. I’m pretty certain I won’t have to do the math for you on that (about 1 K per game).

According to Fangraphs, Bellinger is making contact  71.4 % of the time, which actually isn’t too bad considering the number of strikeouts he has this year. His contact percentage is almost 2% higher than his Rookie of the Year season.

Season Team O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% Pace
2017 Dodgers 28.5 % 64.7 % 44.4 % 54.9 % 78.1 % 69.7 % 43.9 % 23.5
2018 Dodgers 29.8 % 60.6 % 44.2 % 60.7 % 77.4 % 71.4 % 46.7 % 23.3
Total – – – 29.1 % 62.8 % 44.3 % 57.5 % 77.8 % 70.5 % 45.2 % 23.4

The stats in this case that stand out the most for me is O-Swing %. Bellinger has swung at pitches out of the zone (O-Swing %) nearly 30% of the time this season. I believe that is one of the biggest obstacles for Cody, and definitely not an easy one to overcome.

Analysis

As Bellinger continues to struggle at the plate, there are many improvements to make. I’m sure Turner Ward, the Dodgers hitting coach, and Cody are working tirelessly at moving towards a better place at the plate. Bellinger has been splitting his appearances both at first base and center field. While Muncy takes reps at first base, Bellinger is given the opportunity to control the outfield in center.

There are only a few short months left in the regular season, and the NL West race is as tight as it can be. For Bellinger to be in a good place in the batters box can make all the difference in the world. The Dodgers offer one of the stronger offenses in all of baseball, and once they all come together it can be a thing of beauty.

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Written by Tyler Hawk

Currently living in Central California. Life-long Dodgers and Chargers fan.

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  1. It wouldn’t surprise me,once Turner returns, if Taylor goes to center and Bellinger goes to the bench. He’s just not performing. Maybe a trip to AAA would help.

    • Cody seems over anxious and unable to handle pitches on either side of the plate . I agree a stint in AAA during August will help him the same way it helped Puig last year , and others . Otherwise , he becomes a platoon player and a left-handed threat off the bench . But an everyday player he is not – yet ! wake up Dodgers . Give the kid a break from the pressure.

  2. Why would you bench him? Send him down until he learns how to hit. We have 2 better options in triple A.

  3. Why would you bench him? We have 4 guys on the bench already who can’t hit. Send him down to learn how to hit. We have 2 guys in the minors who are better.

  4. Last season (and paricularly in the playoffs), teams found he couldn’t hit gghe breaking ball at his back foot. This year, teams hav efound he can’t hit the inside, outside or down-the-middle pitch. All he does, as do many Dodgers hitters, swing for the fence and hope for the best. This 3-game losing streak is a microcosm of their issues. No HRs, no scoring. And a trip to OKC might do Cody a world of good.

  5. Last season (and paricularly in the playoffs), teams found he couldn’t hit the breaking ball at his back foot. This year, teams have found he can’t hit the inside, outside or down-the-middle pitch. All he does, as do many Dodgers hitters, swing for the fence and hope for the best. This 3-game losing streak is a microcosm of their issues. No HRs, no scoring. And a trip to OKC might do Cody a world of good.

  6. Belly needs a timing device. Long swing, he’s getting burned by fastballs up. I too think he needs a trip back to AAA to figure it out. Leg kick may help.

  7. I had a bad feeling after watching Cody get dominated by the Astros for the most part in the Series that teams would be better prepared to face him this year. I was right. Max Muncy has a better swing than Cody. He should not play against LHP at all. He and Taylor could platoon in CF.

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