Bellinger and Betts could form best defensive tandem in baseball

Fans excited about Dodgers baseball returning can’t wait to see Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts in the batting order together, but they should be looking forward to their defensive play, too.

When you close your eyes and think about a sunny, afternoon game at Dodger Stadium, with a crowd full of people no longer worried about passing on a novel virus, you might let your mind continue to wander to the thought of Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts in the same lineup together.

How many home runs could they hit together? How many extra base hits?

The 2019 National League MVP and the 2018 American League MVP in the same lineup. Imagine? Ok, I know you don’t want to tease yourself too much with baseball seemingly forever away.

But when you do allow yourself a moment of escape in thinking about Bellinger and Betts playing together, you probably spend more time thinking about doubles and home runs than you do about Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) or Outs Above Average (OAA). Perhaps you should consider expanding your imagination to their defense, too.

If baseball is played in 2020, the Dodgers have the chance to field one of the best defensive tandems in baseball: Betts, the four-time Gold Glover, and Bellinger, who earned his first Gold Glove Award last season. It will be nearly impossible for opposing hitters to find a hole from center to right field with those two monitoring the outfield together.

Just how good can they be? Consider this. Using FRAA, which is the most accurate predictor of defensive play for outfielders, Bellinger and Betts ranked first and second in right field defense last season, among qualified defenders. Of course, Bellinger will need to translate that skill to center field, after manager Dave Roberts already said Betts will start in right, but Bellinger’s ability to track down fly balls suggests the transition shouldn’t be a problem.

Having two right fielders in the outfield at the same time will also make it exceedingly difficult for opposing teams to score on base hits. Bellinger (3rd) and Betts (6th) have two of the best ranked arms in baseball according to the Fielding Bible.

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With Dodger Stadium offering Betts more room to show off his athleticism than the confines of Fenway Park, it will be quite the show to see him play next to Cody Bellinger, if the circumstances facing the country allow for it.