Los Angeles Dodgers-swallower Cody Bellinger was at the top of the world when he won the 2019 National League MVP award after hitting a monster .305 / .406 / .629 with 47 homeruns, 121 runs, 115 RBI and 15 stolen bases.
After that season, however, he has been downward in subsequent seasons.
In 2020, he hit .239 / .333 / .455 with 12 homers in 56 games during the pandemic season: not MVP-like, but adequate.
Still, people began to worry about his performance decline.
The disaster came in 2021.
A 2021 to forget
In 350 record appearances, the left-handed slugger hit a paltry 0.165 / .240 / .302 with just 10 homers and a career-high 26.9 percent strikeout rate.
He was much, much worse than the MLB average judging by his 48 wRC + (weighted Runs Created Plus, where 100 is considered average).
For reference, he had a 161 wRC + during his MVP year and he was at 113 by 2020.
His ugly performance in 2021 complicates his prospect of getting an extension from the Dodgers.
Los Angeles is not afraid to spend some money, but with two arbitration seasons left on Bellinger’s contract, they will certainly be happy to see if he can come back in 2022 before committing to bringing him in for the long term. .
In early 2020, he was a first-class extension candidate, but at this point, it would not make much sense for the Dodgers to make such a proposal given his ugly 2021 and subpar 2020.
Bellinger, a low ball batsman, was utilized with high fast balls for much of the 2021 regular season.
He hit .150 against fastballs in 2021, far from the .236 he had in 2020 and .327 he had in 2019.
The situation was so bad at one point that the Dodgers had to put him against the left-handers: he hit .116 of them.
He was worth minus 0.8 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) last season.
However, there are reasons to be optimistic about his outlook for 2022.
Make adjustments to the plate
To begin with, Bellinger hit .353 / .436 / .471 in the post-season in 2021 with some crucial hits.
He made adjustments with his swing to better hit high fast balls.
By FanGraphs’ Brendan Gawlowski:
“From the off-season, Cody Bellinger has made a few adjustments. He has changed his position in the field, he is moving more towards the pitcher (as opposed to the first base dugout) and he has shown an ability to level his bat court on high fast balls. Anecdotally, he looks a little less stiff to me, and his swing decisions work better. “
During the National League Championship Series, he had an impressive home run against a Luke Jackson 96 mph fastball far up the zone.
You have to credit Cody Bellinger for adjusting his big swing and suffocating on the bat. He has been so much better since he made the adjustment. .292 BA .851 OPS in post-season. https://t.co/EXFmRklU2E
– Jason McClure⚾️ (@ Jmcclure83) October 20, 2021
It is a very important development for him with an eye to the future.
He has shown that he can inflict low injuries, but if he can consistently do the same against high heat, there is a way for him to return to being a percussionist who is well above average.
If that happens, the Dodgers might be open to extending him beyond 2022, given that he contributes defensively to a crucial position (midfield), is athletic, can run and has a solid track record before 2020.
Cody Bellinger is such a special player.
He struggled tremendously this season – hitting only .165 / .240 / .302 with 10 HR. He just hit a clear RBI single in the top 9, in a do-or-die, NLDS game 5 away.
Superstars perform in October. Bellinger has done just that.
– Kyle Malzhan (@KyleMalzhan) October 15, 2021
Even during his matches in 2021, Bellinger has glimpsed his enormous potential and was able to turn things around in 2022.