Cody Bellinger is having a rookie season for the ages but how does this year compare to Mike Piazza’s ’93 season and other great Dodger rookie campaigns?
Make no mistake about it, Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger is the real deal and will be around for a long time. We have been waiting for his rookie slump to occur but we are well into August and Cody has still shown no signs of slowing down.
At the All-Star break Yankees’ rookie sensation Aaron Judge was the talk of the league and deservedly so, but the rookie slump got to him while Cody has continued to get better.
Every time it looks like Cody is about to go into a slump he makes the proper adjustments and recovery to maintain success at the plate. This success has culminated to Bellinger having one of the great rookie seasons in baseball history.
He was an All-Star, and he is going to run away with the Rookie of the Year award and has a legitimate chance to win the MVP. Because of the season, Cody is now being compared to other great rookies in Dodger history.
The Dodgers are no strangers to having great rookies. They have produced 17 Rookie of the Year winners the most out of any team in baseball. Bellinger is going to bring that total to 18 this year, making it back to back seasons that the Dodgers had the Rookie of the Year award winners with Corey Seager winning it last year.
The last time the Dodgers had back to back Rookie of the Year winners was when they won an incredible five straight from 1992 to 1996. It started with Eric Karros in ’92 and ended with Todd Hollandsworth ’96, but the year that stands out over this period was Mike Piazza’s amazing ’93 season.
Bellinger’s name has been mentioned with Piazza a lot recently because the Dodgers’ rookie home run record is owned by Piazza who hit 35 that year. Bellinger currently stands at 34, and it’s not a matter of if but when will Bellinger surpasses it.
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When you compare their seasons there numbers are really similar. Piazza stat line was .318 AVG/35 HR/112 RBI/ .370 OBP/ .561 SLG/ .932 OPS. Entering Friday, Bellinger sits at .277 AVG/ 34 HR/ 79 RBI/ .357 OBP/ .621 SLG/ .978 OPS. Bellinger has also put up these numbers all while playing 50 fewer games than Piazza which explains the RBI difference and makes his home run total even more remarkable.
Bellinger is averaging an incredible 10.7 AB/HR while Piazza averaged 15.6 his season. The rookie record for home runs in a season was Mark McGwire in 1987 when he hit 49 for the Oakland A’s. To put that into context McGwire that year averaged 11.4 AB/HR.
The rookie record still isn’t out of the question but if Bellinger had started this season in the majors he could’ve easily ended up with 50+ home runs. The only category where Piazza has a huge difference over Bellinger is BA. Piazza made more contact and struck out significantly less than Bellinger. Piazza struck out only 86 in 149 games while Cody has struck out 105 in 99 games.
Part of this had to do with the eras both players played in. Nowadays strikeouts are more common and not looked at as a big negative. Piazza in his prime wasn’t just a power hitter; he was an excellent contact hitter who hit well over .300 with the Dodgers.
Bellinger is currently on a hot stretch hitting .400 over his last 10 games that has his average on the rise. Even though this comparison right now is between him and Piazza, the player Bellinger reminds me more of former Dodger OF Shawn Green.
Green like Bellinger was a tall lanky left hander with a beautiful swing that produced tremendous power. Both had their fair of strikeouts and weren’t going to win a batting title but almost always hit for a solid average and always possessed the threat to go deep.
When I look at the numbers of Dodgers rookies another player we can’t overlook is Bellinger’s teammate Corey Seager. Last season Seager also had a rookie year for the ages batting .308/ 26 HR/ 72 RBI/ .365 OBP. He also hit 40 doubles scored 105 runs and finished 3rd in MVP voting.
Of course, when we talk about great Dodger rookie seasons we have to bring up the inaugural winner of the award and the man who broke baseball’s color barrier, Jackie Robinson.
Jackie hit .297/ 12 HR/ 48 RBI/ .383 OBP and had a league-leading 29 SB as a rookie. He led the Dodgers to the World Series where they lost in 7 games to the rival Yankees.
That may always be considered the greatest rookie season ever because of the scrutiny and pressure Jackie had to endure. Statistically speaking though, Bellinger looks well on his way to having the greatest Dodger rookie season of all time. Even if his average falls significantly short of Piazza’s he is going to shatter his home run record and surpass him in every other statistical category. My prediction is that Bellinger ties the record tonight against the Tigers and surpasses it by the end of the week.