Expectations were sky-high for Cody Bellinger after he burst onto the scene and slugged his way to a unanimous National League Rookie of the Year Award. Bellinger and the Dodgers maintained confidence he would largely avoid succumbing to pressure or the pitfalls of a sophomore season.
Yet, there was regression at the plate. Bellinger’s home run total, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS+, wOBA and wRC+ all declined from his first season. “I think for Cody it was a tough year,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recently acknowledged.
“I think if you look at the way that he fared against left-handed pitching this year was a little surprising to all of us, and Cody was disappointed in that. I don’t think he was synced up all year with his mechanics.
“So there’s a mechanical piece. There’s an approach piece. I think with two strikes, using the whole field. I think when he did that he was better. But he’s aware of all that. “It was a grind for him with his slow start. But if you look at the surface line, it wasn’t bad.”
Bellinger was one of the few Dodgers who began the 2018 season on a positive note, but he declined in May. He rebounded in June, was average in July and tore the cover off the ball in August before a productive final month of the regular season.
“There were spurts where he was really good, but just looking at the overall production speaks to how talented he is,” Roberts said. “And now you kind of introduce the defense and the versatility for a second-year player, still pretty good.”
Bellinger’s struggles primarily lied when facing left-handed pitching. That of course was a team-wide issue but he nonetheless was among the players Roberts began to platoon as the season wore on.
The 23-year-old also had his share of troubles batting with two strikes. The deficiencies are areas Bellinger is already working with new Dodgers hitting coaches on addressing.
His ability to improve in those areas will go a long way for Bellinger fulfilling Roberts’ vision of being an everyday player in 2019.