Break gave Belli chance to tinker with swing

July 13th, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- turned 25 on Monday and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts marked the birthday by confirming that the 2019 National League MVP Award winner changed his swing over the quarantine.

Why would the best player in the league pick now to mess with success?

“That’s a fair question,” said Roberts. “He won the MVP, but I think for him, his words, he didn’t have a good second half and as he finished the season didn’t feel comfortable and felt that he was open to a change and feels comfortable with the change. We haven’t seen the results yet, not that results matter right now. It’s a feel thing. For me, as long as he has confidence in it, conferring and talking through things with the hitting guys, I’m optimistic.”

Bellinger rewrote the Dodgers record book with a season-ending .305 average, 1.035 OPS, 47 home runs and 115 RBIs. But the splits tell a different story.

In April, he hit 14 homers with a .431 average and 1.397 OPS. Over the first half, he had 30 homers, a .336 average and 1.124 OPS. But over the second half, he had 17 homers, a .263 average and .917 OPS. He had an .891 OPS in September and continued postseason struggles with no homers, a .211 average and .549 OPS.

Results during Spring Training continued the decline, as he hit .250 with one homer and a .780 OPS. Then came the pause and the tinkering. In a week’s worth of intrasquad games, Bellinger has shown another new stance and a waggle of the bat instead of last year’s quiet and upright set-up. He hasn’t shown much offense yet.

“He was in Arizona working, thinking through some things and there is definitely a swing change. You put eyes on him, you see it’s different than last year,” said Roberts. “It’s just a question of getting him live at-bats. You can work in a cage or batting practice, but syncing up new mechanics takes time. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m confident that he will work through it and do just fine.”

Bellinger’s new stance – as noted by SportsNet LA broadcasters Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra -- appears a bit pigeon-toed, which usually is meant to keep the front hip and shoulder closed. He begins with the bat on his shoulder, then rocks it on more of a horizontal than vertical plane. Such changes are mostly implemented to improve rhythm, timing and correct launch position.

Speaking with reporters last week, Bellinger touched on his work during the break.

“I’ve never had that much time and I got a chance to work on my swing and it could be a blessing in the long run,” Bellinger said. “I’m not making any big adjustment. There’s always small points in your swing that you realize make you good. You just try to be as consistent with those as you can. I just had time to work on it in a stress-free environment. So, nothing major at all. Just the minor things I always think about throughout the year.

“Figuring out why I was so good and remembering the feeling and also not being too caught up on last year and not try to be identical to last year, because you’re always growing and always evolving. I just feel really good with where I am this year.”