Cody Bellinger is running away with NL Rookie of the Year, but he should also be in the MVP discussion as well.
Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger has been unreal. He has taken the league by storm along with New York Yankees rookie OF Aaron Judge. He is not only running away with ROY he is also making a case to be in the NL MVP conversation. This might sound ridiculous, but some key things are going for Bellinger that help to make a case for him to at least be included in the race.
First off, I want to say this would be a long shot for Bellinger. It is very rare when a rookie wins an MVP as only two players have ever done it in MLB history. Those two players are Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki. Lynn did back in 1975 for the Boston Red Sox’s at the age of 23.
That year Lynn led the American League in runs, doubles, slugging %, OPS, and had an impressive .331 BA. Ichiro was a special case because he had already been a professional baseball player for nearly a decade in Japan before he came to the Mariners in 2001. Ichiro was already 27 years old at the time and led the American League in BA (.350), hits, and SB.
If Bellinger can pull it off, he would be the first NL player ever to do it. There are a few things that are going for Bellinger that warrant MVP consideration, and they are team success, impact on a team, and individual success. So far Bellinger has all three of those going for him.
We know about the individual success, he leads the NL in home runs with 24 despite not playing his first game until April 25th and is the fastest player in MLB history to reach that number.
He is also first in the NL in slugging % at the moment. The statistical categories that are hurting him compared to other candidates are batting average and strikeouts.
His BA isn’t terrible hitting .271, but other candidates like Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Charlie Blackmon are all hitting over .300. I consider these guys to be the best candidates for the MVP race based on numbers and team record.
In the case of Zimmerman, he leads the NL with a .347 average. The rest of the candidate’s averages are as follows; Goldschmidt (.335), Blackmon (.328), Harper (.310), and Arenado (.301).
This is a pretty significant difference that is hard to overlook. If Bellinger can get his average closer to .300 that would help his case a lot. Strikeouts have been an issue for Bellinger who has already struck out 68 times in only 54 games. However, this is not so much of a big deal if he keeps crushing home runs at the rate he is.
The league is largely a strikeout or homerun league nowadays anyways, so I don’t really hold this against him, most of the best hitter strike out a lot too. As far as the things that are benefiting Bellinger, the biggest case going for him is the Dodgers record since he has been called up.
The Dodgers are 41-13 with him in the starting lineup which correlates to the best record in baseball since his debut on April 25th.
They were only 9-11 before then. This is huge because MVP isn’t about simply having the best stats or being the best player. It is all about who is the most “valuable” player to their team’s success.
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Another thing that is benefiting Bellinger’s “valuableness” to his team is the fact that some of the other MVP candidates play with each other. Out of the other MVP candidates, I previously mentioned Harper and Zimmerman both play on the Nationals, and Arenado and Blackmon are both Rockies.
Outside of that the Nationals also have Daniel Murphy who many people consider to be the best pure hitter in the game and the Rockies have Mark Reynolds who is having a great all-around season.
Goldschmidt is the only other player that doesn’t play with an MVP candidate that stands out, but even then he has teammates like Jake Lamb who has similar power numbers to his and helps him carry the offensive load.
When two MVP candidates play with each other, they often take away from each other’s value to their teams. It makes it hard to distinguish sometimes which player is driving force behind their team’s success. This helps Bellinger’s case because two MVP candidates on the same team can often take away votes away from each other.
Now, this argument can also be made against Bellinger with Corey Seager who has been on a recent hot streak, but the difference between home run and RBI production between them is much greater than the teammates I just mentioned.
Bellinger is not the only one driving his team, but the Dodgers success with him in the lineup cannot be overstated. In general, it has also been a long time since a Dodgers position player won an MVP.
Clayton Kershaw won the award in 2014 which was the rare case in which a pitcher has an all-time great season while a hitter doesn’t really stand out. But the last Dodgers position player to win it was Kirk Gibson in the 1988 championship season.
The Dodgers currently have the best record in the NL, and a big part of that has to do with Bellinger. If the Dodgers start to run away with the division and Arizona and Colorado start to fall back, this could make Bellinger’s case much stronger even if his numbers are not quite as good as the other candidates. I’m not saying Bellinger should be the MVP so far, but he should at least garner some consideration as we reach the midway point of the season.