Dave Roberts: Cody Bellinger Keeping Disciplined Approach More Important Than Matching Early-Season Production As Dodgers Head Into NLDS
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and bench coach Bob Geren greet Cody Bellinger after a home run
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports

While Cody Bellinger getting off to a blistering start this season was reassuring for himself and the Los Angeles Dodgers, it also set up an invariable pitfall. The production Bellinger provided through May raised expectations to astronomical heights, much like his 2017 campaign.

Bellinger was a unanimous National League Rookie of the Year that season, and through the first half of 2019 was running away with the MVP Award. But regression after the All-Star break — and in particular August — opened the door for the likes of Anthony Rendon and Christian Yelich.

Bellinger bounced back with a month of September that paled in comparison to the early months of the season but offered reason for encouragement as the Dodgers begin a seventh consecutive trip to the postseason.

While the Dodgers have preached a collective approach, manager Dave Roberts acknowledged the club needs Bellinger to recapture his previous form. Just not necessarily through actual production.

“I will say that we need him to be the guy that took walks, that when they threw the ball over the plate, he put the barrel to it. That’s what we need from him,” Roberts explained. “To say he’s going to slug ‘X’ or whatever, we don’t need that from him.

“I’ll bet on the result if he’s doing the process that he was doing in the first half of the season. I think there was a three-week or month’s stretch where he got away from it a little bit in August.”

There was speculation being part of the MVP race had an impact on Bellinger’s approach as it appeared there were several cases of getting away from the disciplined approach that had led to a wealth of success.

Bellinger, however, remained adamant the MVP Award didn’t have an adverse affect. “I’m enjoying it,” he recently said said.

“You never know when it’s going to happen again, so I’m just going out every day and doing what I can to help the team win. If it happens, it happens. A lot of other guys in this league are having great years. I’m just going to focus on myself and just play every day like I have been.”

As Roberts was outlining what the Dodgers required from their MVP candidate, he also voiced confidence the 24-year-old was already back to his peak level.

“He’s back,” Roberts said with a smile, even before Bellinger finished the season batting .305 with 47 home runs.