Cody Bellinger Isn’t Going to be Magical Forever…or is he?

Cody Bellinger

They say when a door closes, a window opens.

Yesterday the stoic Butter and Eggs Man, Adrian Gonzalez, stepped off the field and on the disabled list for the first time in his career. However, fans of Gonzalez weren’t too sad for too long, because Cody Bellinger stepped right into place and impressively led the Dodgers to a 10-2 victory over the San Diego Padres. It wasn’t the first time he’s done so.

Ever since Bellinger joined the big club, less than two weeks ago, he’s placed his stamp on almost every game he’s played in. He’s come on like a big blue buzzsaw, slicing through opposing teams like a hot knife through butter. What’s more, he’s already smashing ancient Dodgers’ rookie records like a sledgehammer crushing eggs.

Television sports highlights and our Twitter timelines are full of Cody Bellinger’s massive home runs, the latest being a grand slam he blasted against the Padres. While those fireworks are dazzling, the real magic in Cody Bellinger springs from his baseball instincts, and more importantly, his ability to act on those instincts successfully.

A case in point comes from the fourth inning of yesterday’s game. The Dodgers and Padres were locked in a scoreless tie through three innings, and then Bellinger came up to the plate with Justin Turner in scoring position.

Conventional baseball wisdom these days calls for a defensive shift on left-handed power hitters, and the Padres dutifully put on said shift. Bellinger simply did something he’s already done a couple of times before. He took advantage of the vacated left side of the infield and poked a single through the empty shortstop’s position to knock in the Dodgers’ first run of the game and advance Franklin Gutierrez to third.

With Yasiel Puig at bat, the Padres committed a throwing error that brought Gutierrez in and send Bellinger to second. Young Cody wasn’t content to stand on second and wait for Puig to do something.  Bellinger saw an opening and he took it, stealing third base, rattling the Padres, and multiplying the ways the Dodgers could score. Puig singled and Bellinger trotted home with the third run of the inning.

It wasn’t flashy like a home run, but in that one sequence, Cody Bellinger kept a Dodger rally alive (something they’ve been sorely lacking all season), beat the shift, broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single, stole a base, and scored a run. He was directly responsible for two of the first three runs the Dodgers scored, because he recognized opportunities and took advantage of them.

Later, when he hit the grand slam, he was responding and executing on another opportunity. A straight fastball that was so high, lots of other left-handers on the Dodgers might have fouled it off. Bellinger  saw that mistake – bases loaded, big moment mistake – and capitalized. In a flash, the Dodgers scored four more runs.

Instincts and execution. Bellinger shows these in every game he plays, whether he launches a home run or not.

Cody Bellinger is going to hit plenty of home runs. No one can deny that fact, but he’s not the first guy to come on the scene and blast homers in every direction. Baseball’s long road is littered with rookie power hitters who had breakout inaugural years, but couldn’t adjust after opposing pitchers  figured them out. Teams will adjust to Bellinger and find new weapons to use against him. He’ll need more than a powerful swing to succeed over the long haul.

That’s where instincts and execution come in – and the kid is showing he has plenty of both.

 

 

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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51 thoughts on “Cody Bellinger Isn’t Going to be Magical Forever…or is he?

  1. Like I mentioned at the end of the previous thread, all of these adjustments that Corey makes has go to have an influence on Pederson. He who I thought was going to work extremely hard on adjustments to his approach at the plate the last 2 off seasons.
    I like Joc but he has got to aware of what is happening around him.
    Taylor making some post spring training adjustments and look what he has done. Then Cody making in game adjustments.
    Joc has got to step us his game and get away from the “chicks dig the long ball” approach. Or he just may be swatting mosquitoes in the outfield in Wisconsin this summer.

    1. I am actually hopeful Joc can improve. I think he does try to hit pitches the other way but I have to say watching Bellinger and Corey hit to all fields really shines the spotlight on Joc’s shortcomings. I’d actually like to se Toles make improvements too. If Puig, Toles and Joc can improve over the next 5-6 weeks if how they hit with runners on, it will take the decision out of FAZ’s hands on trading prospects (which FAZ does not have a good record on and I’d rather we not make any prospect trades),

      1. YF

        I don’t know why you would say that about Toles, with the way he has hit his way out of his slump, like he did.

        He not only did that, he has hit in some important runs, for this team.

        I see improvement with every new at bat, he has.

        The only thing I think he should might improve is maybe trying to get more walks then he does, but that may mess with his ability to hit, like he does too.

        Because sometimes the first or second pitch, will be the best pitch, that a hitter might get.

        He hasn’t had the chance to start everyday like Joc had, in his first year.

        And he hasn’t been given a position as his own, like Joc has either.

        Toles has earned anything he has gotten, on this team.

        And he is only a few runs back in RBIs, from Corey and Puig.

        And he shares the team lead in HRs too.

        And both those guys, have started and played, in almost every game.

        1. MJ, I am not picking on Toles. I observe him getting impatient and wanting to jump on pitches, especially high fastballs outside. He is a very good low ball hitter, even low and away, and I think he can hit both RH and LH if he stays off the high pitches. I also would want him to steal more.

          For what it’s worth, I think Joc is further behind (and way more frustrating) than Toles. But I do see Joc improving from his rookie year, and I see Toles getting out of his slump, but based on this year and last year, I think there is still more room to learn and control his swing. For both Joc and Toles, their speed on the basepaths is wasted for different reasons and seeing a guy like Bellinger, who can hit the high inside pitch as well as flare a low and away pitch, should make us hold them both to higher standards. I like Toles a lot more than Joc actually as I don’t like three outcome hitters.

          For Puig, I think he can get back to that .300 hitter and improvement is there, but slow.

          1. YF

            No problem!

            And your analysis is correct.

            I bet Roberts feels like his hands are tied, with the speed, he does have on this team now, if the front office is involved, in this issue.

            They have at least five players now on the team , Joc, Puig, Toles, Cody, and Taylor.

            But I think you can run with almost any player, if it is done correctly, where it is a surprise.

            I know everyone thinks that all sabers don’t believe in the running game and bunting, but Joe Maddon did all those things, when he was the manager for the Rays, and he still does that now.

            The only purest saber we have in the office, is our GM.

      2. YF

        I don’t think we should trade for Braun, but what Puig does, will probably mean more, when it comes to Braun.

  2. I agree with Oscar. Bellinger is well trained. The next adjustment we’ll see is when he starts to struggle and gets sent down to AAA, how he improves will tell us a lot.

  3. That comparison with Kersh and Kobe on that thread should start and end with their competitive drive and will to win, but that’s it.

    Kersh has not come thru in big situations very often in the playoffs, where Kobe carried the Lakers thru the first 3 rounds of each playoff series in 2000-2002, and then Shaq totally dominated in the finals to get MVP each time. Kobe hit big shots in big games in big moments. Kershaw lost last year in game 6 at Chicago. He was great in his Game2 start. He wasn’t that great vs Wash, but did get that huge save in game 5. I can keep going back, and there’s no comparison between the two other than their inner competitive desire.

        1. Badger

          Did you see that Anderson went out with a back strain?

          He only lasted one third of an inning, and gave up five runs.

          That sounds more like our Anderson.

    1. There was that pivotal 7th game against the Celtics when the Lakers were losing in the 4th quarter. Metta sank that key three pointer and after the game, in one of the best post game interviews ever, exclaimed, “He passed me the ball!! Kobe passed me the ball!!”

      Kobe acknowledged that, the harder he pressed, the less headway he was making. He had to let go a little and trust his teammates and accept a little fate. That was really hard to do for such a control freak.

      Kobe made big shots, but his shooting percentage was never that great. We remember the big shots because they were big shots…and because he made the degree of difficulty unnecessarily hard. We don’t remember the misses necessarily. I remember Derek Fisher’s big shots more.

      Optimal performance comes from a proper state of mental arousal for big moments, but there is a point where it becomes excessive and performance can suffer or the player loses an understanding of team chemistry. As far as pitching goes, maintaining command and getting the ball to spin ad sink in predictable ways means throwing the ball the same way and not overthrowing. I can see a scenario where Kershaw, in getting too wound up, throws to hard and his slider doesn’t sink the same way.

      Actually….Kershaw, in the early going this year, was getting hit a little bit with an uptick in home runs. According to Pitch fx data, his slider had lost some three inches of vertical drop…it was flatter and getting hit more. That’s his money pitch.

  4. I wonder whether the agents of Brett Anderson and Rich Hill are “gaming the system” based on WAR components. Yes Hill was acquired via trade but he was resigned to a 3 year contract, not 2.

    1. YF

      The trade and what we gave up, and the money, is over the top if we never get the use out of him, like they thought they would get.

      1. That was weird….Didn’t mean to post that.

        I was going to say that I don’t see how the system is being gamed with Anderson. If anything he blew it by not signing a 2 or 3 year deal for around 8-10 million based on his moderately successful 2015 with the Dodgers. Now he’s got a one year 3.5 million deal after accepting the QO last year.

        Meanwhile, the Cubs pitching is a little suspect. Arrieta’s velocity is down and Lackey isn’t as consistent and Anderson is blah. They might be buyers at the deadline, which means they have to give prospects up to plug holes in the rotation.

        The Dodgers, in spite of the Ryu and Maeda stumbling to begin the year and Hill on the DL have the second best pitching staff in baseball.

        I know most of you don’t like to hear it, but depth actually is a thing. Thank goodness for McCarthy!! That Friedman guy was a genius for signing that guy.

  5. Bellinger will face struggles, all players do, even guys like Willie Mays. Sometimes I think we as fans expect way too much from the younger guys. An example of that is how Cueto exploited what they conceived as a hole in Bellinger’s swing the very first game he played. As close to the plate as he stands, they were busting him inside, and he was missing by quite a bit. Pitchers will find your weakness and prey on it. They have done it with every hitter ever, and todays pitchers have so many more tools than guys like Koufax had. They have video rooms, and watch video of opposing hitters all the time. In the old days a starter and his catcher would sit down and go on memory of how they had pitched players before. Of course, that was when there were only 7 teams you played 22 times each. So a book was a lot easier to compile. For Cody, teams will rely on their scouts, available video of their at bats, which nowadays is totally accessible for every game, and accounts of pitchers and players who faced him at the minor league level. We will see how he adjusts to what they come up with. Corey did it well last year. Puig did it well his first year, but since then has struggled. Joc did not fare so well in the 2nd half of his rookie year, and started off in the same rut last year, but his 2nd half was much better than his first. He still over swings sometimes, and slips back into his habit of wanting to pull everything, but I have seen him as more patient, taking more pitches, and generally have better at bats. The results are not there yet, but I believe they will be. Puig has improved his patience at the plate, is not arguing near as much as last year, and for the most part is scorching the ball, but not finding holes. I think he has really matured a lot this year, as for trading for Braun, I think it would be a total mistake. His age and contract and the fact that he is then blocking the youth that is on the way makes no sense, and their is no guarantee that he will be the player that pushes them over the top to the series. Braun has 103 career at bats at Dodger Stadium, 7 homers, and 22 ribbies and a .359 average, by comparison he is hitting .230 against them in Milwaukee with 4 dingers. In 3 less at bats. Toles is a work in progress. He has raw tools, but anyone who thinks he will be playing everyday has not been watching what this FO likes to do. They play the numbers, and they like platoons, Toles will get his starts vs RH, and he might get a couple against lefty’s, but he will not be out there every game the way guys like Baker, Smith and Monday were.

    1. Michael

      Kike is hitting 188 against lefties, so it isn’t just numbers.

      And the last time I looked, Puig is hitting below 150 against lefties.

      And we all know that, but when the numbers don’t back these platoons like they didn’t all last year, it makes no sense!

      1. you are right, it does make no sense..to us…but the FO, whatever formulae they are using, it looks right to them. Joc has been terrible against RHP this year, and anomaly because he usually kills them, but he has better numbers against lefty’s go figure, Puig is killing RHP this year, all his HR’s have come off RH.

  6. Yesterday at OKC Jurrjens won his 3rd game, went 6 innings giving up 2 runs, striking out 7 and walking none. His ERA is at 2.60 and he made 95 pitches, 66 for strikes, SVS had a double, Culberson and Muncy homered. Younginer got the save, his first.

      1. 3 MJ. He went 0-4 in yesterdays game and his average slipped to .299. Dickson also has slipped below .300, and Eibner has seen his drop from .329 to .258. The team leader in steals is………..Bellinger with 7. Holt and Sweeney have 4 apiece. Teams BA leader right now is Drew Maggi, and Max Muncy the guy they got off waivers last week is hitting .348 in 8 games playing 2nd base and the outfield.

        1. Michael

          I guess since he lost that weight, he moves around a little quicker.

          Hopefully he won’t lose any power, from losing weight.

    1. If the major league club needs a spot start of someone to fill in for an injury or ineffectiveness, he’s a viable option. ….More better than Badger’s favorite player Trepesch or Scott Baker.

      See folks!!! …Depth.

  7. Pedro Martinez said that with rookies you test them. You give them pitches just to see if they can hit them. Pitchers feel them out and then make the necessary adjustments. Pretty cool stuff.

  8. I don’t know if this is true, but I read someone’s comment that said that Joc re injured himself, and he will be going back on DL, again.

    Another poster ask this poster if that was really true about Joc, and they said yes.

    1. Wow in 1 at bat? If he did, it was probably they pitch he got hit by right on his kneecap, that could not have felt good on a cold night.

        1. You are dreaming…..Joc is in no danger of getting Pipped. 25 years old with that power bat, there is no way they are giving up on him yet, and like I said on a previous stream, check his progress…he has improved..

      1. Michael

        Didn’t he get hit twice once on his calf and just below his knee, in two different at bats.

        I think he got hit just below his knee cap, or he wouldn’t have got up as easily as he did.

        1. Putting Joc back on the DL would not be a big loss right now and might be the way to get Forsythe and whomever else we need back on the 25. DL Games by FAZ…

          1. Jonah

            If that is true, that isn’t good news about Joc.

            It is hard enough for veteran players to come back, and play catch up, after they go out.

            I hope that was wrong, what I read!

        2. That was before he went on the 10 day and it was part of the reason he went on. He had stiffness in that leg. That ball Saturday looked like it dived right into his kneecap. He thought that the umpire had called a strike because of the sound and he said to him, because it was really easy to read his lips, what? it hit my effing knee! He was hopping around after it hit. It did not seem like it broke anything, but I would bet it swelled up a lot after the game.

          1. Michael

            When anything hits you cleanly in your Knee, it is very painful.

            Joc got up pretty easy, if he was hit, that cleanly.

            I remember when Turner got hit on the knee, he stopped and grabbed his knee, and he could barely, make it to first.

            That is why I gave Cody credit, for hanging in there, and hitting that ball out.

            I was thinking the Padres manager, should have took that pitcher out earlier, then he did.

            That pitcher could have really hurt one of our players, worse then he did.

    1. Jonah

      Thanks!

      I don’t know why but when Puig first came up to the team that year, it seemed like he did even more then Cody has, but it is still early.

      And I think the combination of Puig and Hanley, made each other even better, that year.

      It was to bad we were not as hot as we were then, at the end of the season that year.

      But those dirty birds had to hit Hanley straight into his ribs, to win that series that year.

      That pitcher that hit Hanley, went to the same high school I went to, in Corona.

      If Roberts finally hits Cody fourth, and hits Corey second as usual, Turner is going to have some great protection, in the line up.

      But I believe Cody will find out that hitting fourth, as harder then hitting back in the order.

  9. Michael

    That wasn’t true because I just saw our line up tonight, and Joc is in it, so he is fine.

    Toles
    Corey
    JT
    Cody
    Joc
    Taylor
    Grandal
    Puig

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