Dodgers: Bellinger’s power collapse dampened by hustle, humility

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a solo home run in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Dodger Stadium on September 18, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a solo home run in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Dodger Stadium on September 18, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /
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We all have watched the Dodgers’ MVP Cody Bellinger struggle over the last few weeks. He’s been worse than he has been at any other point in 2019.

To this point in September, Belli has hit three of his 45 home runs and is hitting .273, a bit lower than his season mark of .305. His numbers, and more importantly to many fans his NL MVP chances, grow bleaker by the day.

That is the perception at least. But has his September really been that bad?

Not by the numbers. While the power is down, he did homer off of the Rays’ best reliever Emilio Pagan last night. But more importantly, Bellinger legged out a bloop double and stolen base, his second of the month.

He has stolen two bases or more in a month only four times this season, the first two months of the season, August and September. Of course, Bellinger’s first two months were his best two months, and if he can begin to replicate those in any way, that would greatly help the team.

A Bellinger hot streak would be especially because the rest of the team is having a rough time (outside of Corey Seager of course). Will Smith is also having a tough time at the plate, and the bullpen is having a rough go of it from top to bottom.

But by most measures, it’d be hard to say Bellinger was hot right now. And in comparison to his season line, he surely is not. But what about in comparison to his June, July or August? Has he really cooled the most in September, or has he been trending downward all summer long?

I’d argue that he hasn’t been playing at an MVP level since March, April, and May. He hit a lot of home runs in June, July, and August, but his batting average peaked at .272 back in June. That’s not MVP caliber, and neither is his September batting average of .273. But he’s done other things this month, as I alluded to in the headline.

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He’s run well and shifted over to centerfield for the aging and ailing AJ Pollock. He’s remained in the four-hole in the order, soaking up RBI chances often, even though he’s been unable to come through quite often as of late.

But really, I’m just here to tell you that September Bellinger does not look that much different than any summer month version of the MVP-hopeful outside of the power department. In fact, outside of the lack in home run production, he actually looks like he’s rebounding.

Part of the problem is that in August, he’s hit roughly 10% more groundballs at the expense of fly balls and line drives, while also making hard contact 19% less than he did in August. This has translated into a 9% decrease in home run to flyball rate. He’s not only hitting fewer flyballs, but they also are not being hit as hard, on the whole, so he’s lost some home runs.

To make up for that, again as I alluded to in the headline, he’s running more and has been humble enough to move around on the field and continue to struggle in the spotlight without complaining. He also seems to have recognized his power struggles and has adjusted his approach. Compared to August, Bellinger is striking out less and walking more.

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If Belli can start to find the power stroke again, it’ll be just like the May version of Bellinger never left. And even if he can’t, he still has a lot that he brings to the table.