LOS ANGELES -- Cody Bellinger is favored to be named the National League Most Valuable Player Award winner. But Bellinger’s 2019 season comprised three distinct stages.
The first half of the regular season was, in the words of Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis, “ridiculous.” The second half wasn’t as ridiculous, but Bellinger remained productive. Then came the postseason, and the Nationals’ front-line pitching wouldn’t let Bellinger beat them.
No wonder scouts often say, as Bellinger goes, so go the Dodgers.
What Went Right?
After being platooned much of 2018, Bellinger rebounded like a beast. He ranked among league leaders in batting average (.305, ninth), OBP (.406, third), slugging percentage (.629, second), OPS (1.035, third), total bases (351, first), home runs (47, third), runs (121, second), RBIs (115, seventh), walks (95, sixth) and extra-base hits (84, second). His 47 home runs ranked as the third highest single-season total in franchise history, behind only Shawn Green (49, 2001) and Adrian Beltre (48, 2004). He is the fastest player in Dodger franchise history to reach 100 career homers and his 28th and 29th home runs of the season on July 3 to surpass Gil Hodges and Duke Snider (28) for most homers prior to the All-Star break. He was tied for second among outfielders with 22 defensive runs saved and tied for fourth in the NL with 10 outfield assists. He seamlessly moved around from right field to center field to first base.
He’s got five tools and uses them all. And not to be overlooked, he stayed active and on the field the entire season.
“The most important thing was that I got to stay on the field the whole year,” said Bellinger. “I was blessed.”
What Went Wrong?
Bellinger wasn’t the only Dodger hitter neutralized by the Nationals, but MVPs need to do better than no RBIs and a .549 OPS. As for the second half of the regular season, there was a noticeable offensive drop off from the unsustainable pace of the first half.
On April 21, Bellinger robbed 2018 National League MVP Christian Yelich of an eighth-inning homer with his glove, then slugged a game-winning blast off Josh Hader in the ninth for a wild 6-5 win.
A year ago, Bellinger was dedicated to becoming a full-time player again. The guess here is that he will be just as dedicated to maintaining MVP quality over the entire season and, especially, into the offseason. He’ll probably do it mostly from center field, although the way the Dodgers move pieces around, it could be right field or first base, too.