Dodgers: Why you shouldn’t be surprised Cody Bellinger won MVP
The Dodgers’ homegrown 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger took home the NL MVP award on Thursday, Nov. 14 over Christian Yelich and Anthony Rendon.
In doing so, Bellinger broke a drought that had lasted since 1988. No, it wasn’t the World Series drought of the same length, but it was the last time a Dodgers position player won the MVP award. That player was Kirk Gibson, another important Dodgers outfielder.
For now, we’ll just have to settle for an MVP and not a World Series ring, but Bellinger certainly seems to be the future of the franchise, and at the ripe age of 24 years old, he seems to be the player that will have to carry the team to a championship.
Bellinger was a deserving winner as he played an integral part in the Dodgers franchise-best 106-win 2019 campaign. Here’s part of how Michael Wittman broke down Bellinger’s case for MVP for Dodgers Way:
"While the Dodgers would likely make the postseason without Cody Bellinger, they would not have led the National League in wins without him. Given the extended absence of A.J. Pollock during the first half of the season and the struggles of Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger’s hot start was exactly what the Dodgers needed to pace them towards the best record in the National League."
Beyond being the best hitter on his own team, Bellinger was an important defensive contributor, as he won a Gold Glove in right field while also filling in at first base and center field with similar skill. He also led his team in steals with 15 bags and gave them an important first-half boost. Belli Bomb’s overall stat line finished with a triple-slash line at .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs.
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Despite all of this offense and defense, plenty of Dodgers fans and 10+ writers felt that Bellinger was not worthy of an NL MVP. This is likely due to his poor second half and postseason performances. Both were worthy of criticism.
His second half saw him hit just .261 with 17 home runs. He hit just .235 in August even as other teams began to surpass LA for the best record in the Major Leagues, and as the Atlanta Braves threatened the Dodgers for the best record in the National League.
But even during these trying times, especially during the second half (since the BBWA does not consider the postseason when voting), Bellinger still provided his team tons of value on defense, as a baserunner, and as an anchor in the middle of the order. He never wavered on defense, even as his offensive numbers tumbled, and he even took on more varying positions without a solid offensive position. On the basepaths, Bellinger went from eight steals and five times getting caught in the first half to going a perfect seven-for-seven in the second half.
Even if you believe Bellinger’s campaign was certainly valuable, you may feel that Yelich or Rendon were more deserving, and while both put up plenty of offense as the leaders of playoff offenses, they either had less defensive success (Yelich) or had too much offense surrounding them (Rendon). Both also had less time on the field than Bellinger, which also may have cost them.