In the first half of 2019, Cody Bellinger has put up some insane numbers. If you’re a Dodgers fan, or a baseball fan in general, you already know this. But just exactly how good has his first half been? The answer may be surprising.
At the season's halfway point, Cody Bellinger is batting .353 with 25 homers and 50 walks, putting him on pace to hit .706 with 50 homers and 100 walks!
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) June 26, 2019
Of course, Weisman is having a little fun with it in that tweet.
Looking back at past seasons, there’s been some really great first halves put up by Dodgers players. Below we list some of the greatest one’s in franchise history (in chronological order) and compare them to Bellinger’s first 81 team games of 2019.
Keep in mind, before 1961, teams only played 154 games compared to the 162 they play now. But for continuity, and to keep things even, we still took their first 81 games total, regardless if it wasn’t exactly half of the team’s season.
Babe Herman, 1930:
First 81 Games: .386/.447/.669, 1.116 OPS, 22 HR
End of season WAR: 7.5 (oWAR) & -1.2 (dWAR)
Herman had two incredible years in 1929 and 1930 but the first half of 1930 was really something. He clubbed more homeruns in that 81-game span than he had in any other full season, helping him post a 1.116 OPS.
Jackie Robinson, 1951:
First 81 Games: .353/.452/.567, 1.019 OPS, 12 HR
End of season WAR: 8.2 (oWAR) & 2.4 (dWAR)
Robinson still holds the Dodgers all-time record for total WAR in a season with the 9.7 mark he put up in 1951. He got off to a blistering pace that year offensively but it was his superb defense that really set him apart from everyone else.
Duke Snider, 1954:
First 81 Games: .363/.442/.691, 1.133 OPS, 20 HR
End of season WAR: 8.6 (oWAR) & -0.3 (dWAR)
Duke Snider has the highest career oWAR in Dodgers history with 68.6, which is 11 points higher than the next player. He also has three of the top six highest single season oWAR marks in team history. He had great years throughout the 1950s, but 1954 was probably his best first half, when he posted a remarkable 1.133 OPS.
Roy Campanella, 1955:
First 81 Games: .336/.406/.621, 1.028 OPS, 23 HR
End of season WAR: 5.3 (oWAR) & 0.6 (dWAR)
Campanella won the league MVP in 1951, 1953, and 1955. Although he probably had better overall numbers in those first two MVP years, he had his best first half in 1955, mashing 23 homeruns and posting a 1.028 OPS during those first 81 games.
Mike Piazza, 1997:
First 81 Games: .364/.431/.595, 1.025 OPS, 16 HR
End of season WAR: 9.0 (oWAR) & 0.5 (dWAR)
Piazza had many great years in the 1990s but in 1997 he set the single season team record for oWAR with a 9.0. As great as his first half was that year, he did even better in the second half when he slugged 24 homeruns and put up a 1.147 OPS.
Gary Sheffield, 2000:
First 81 Games: .333/.441/.663, 1.104 OPS, 27 HR
End of season WAR: 6.5 (oWAR) & -0.9 (dWAR)
Sheffield had a terrific first half in 2000, putting up the 2nd highest OPS of his career. If you’re wondering why he had such a low oWAR for such great offensive numbers, it’s because of the era he played in. Back in 2000, there was a big offensive surge. That year 19 different players had an OPS higher than 1.000. In comparison, only four players in baseball had such a mark last year.
Adrian Beltre, 2004:
First 81 Games: .316/.356/.581, .938 OPS, 22 HR
End of season WAR: 7.4 (oWAR) & 2.5 (dWAR)
In his last year with the Dodgers, Beltre put up career best numbers. While his first half was great, his second half was even better, as he finished the year with 48 homeruns and a 1.017 OPS. Because of his superior defense, Beltre’s overall 9.6 WAR in 2004 is the 2nd highest in Dodgers history for a single season, behind only Jackie Robinson’s 1951 year.
He would end up finishing 2nd in NL MVP voting behind Barry Bonds.
Matt Kemp, 2011:
First 81 Games: .332/.417/.630, 1.047 OPS, 22 HR
End of season WAR: 8.7 (oWAR) & -0.4 (dWAR)
Kemp had an outstanding first half back in 2011. He finished the year with an 8.7 oWAR, which is the 2nd best mark for a single season in team history. He also stole 40 bases that year and won a gold glove. Like Beltre in 2004 though, he’d finish 2nd in MVP voting.
Cody Bellinger, 2019:
First 81 team Games (77 games played for Bellinger): .353/.450/.702, 1.152 OPS, 25 HR
On Pace for 8.7 (oWAR) & 3.4 (dWAR)
As great as all the above first halves were, you could argue that Bellinger’s first half this year tops them all. The stats certainly back it up, illustrated by his 1.152 OPS, higher than any of those other Dodgers players through 81 games. Because of the great offensive numbers, along with first-rate defense, Bellinger is on pace to set the all-time Dodgers single-season WAR record.
Obviously, keeping up the pace he’s set won’t be easy, and he’ll need another outstanding second half to do it. But it just goes to show how good Bellinger has been so far in 2019. Not just good, but very likely the best in team history through 81 games, which is saying a lot.