The Los Angeles Dodgers cruised to a franchise-record 106 wins and seventh consecutive National League West title during the 2019 season, receiving contributions from up and down their 40-man roster.
One player who arguably stood out most, however, was Cody Bellinger. He set career highs in virtually every category en route to earning NL MVP honors at the end of the season.
Bellinger not only thrived at the plate, but also graded out as one of the sport’s best defenders, accumulating an NL-best 9.1 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference’s calculations.
It was a complete turnaround for Bellinger, who endured somewhat of a sophomore slump the previous season — one that saw him reduced to a platoon role in the second half.
When L.A. Angels coach Brian Butterfield crossed paths with Dodgers first-base coach George Lombard in Spring Training, he complimented Bellinger on the effort he gave that separated him from the rest of the pack, via Pedro Moura of The Athletic:
“I didn’t mention anything about his ability to hit a baseball or throw a baseball, but I praised him on the effort that he gives,” Butterfield said. “We were well aware of it in Chicago, and we had to make sure we got the ball in the air quick because he was always gonna give you a hard 90 feet. So that’s very impressive for a guy of that ability to do that.”
“It just shows me that he has matured quickly,” Butterfield said. “He has bought into Dave (Roberts) and the Dodger way. He’s bought into everything that’s been presented to those guys and he’s carrying the torch correctly. And it’s really a great thing for this game.”
Butterfield, who spent the previous two campaigns in the Chicago Cubs organization, also pointed out how Bellinger’s maturity stood out to him during the Dodgers’ visit to Wrigley Field last season.
It was only two years ago when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts benched Bellinger for not hustling out of the box on a double to lead off the fifth inning in a contest against the San Francisco Giants. That seemingly was the only instance in which Bellinger has not played with the expected effort.
It’s a testament not only to the 24-year-old, but Dodgers clubhouse as a whole. Players have completely bought into Roberts’ message and regularly push each other to maintain those standards on a daily basis.
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