The 2022 Los Angeles Dodgers are so replete with offensive talent that the curious case of the receding Cody Bellinger has become nothing more than a footnote.
Most teams would be sunk by regularly running out a regressing 2019 MVP and watching in horror as he posts a 75 OPS+ and a .264 OBP, one season after a 44 mark with a .240 OBP. But not the Dodgers. They’re free to keep running out Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor, Trayce Thompson and Joey Gallo and hoping something sticks.
We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again (until he’s non-tendered), but Bellinger has looked much more like himself in recent contests, and the buzz has begun anew that he could be a factor once the postseason arrives.
Despite a regular season that’s been more Ted Turner than Ted Williams, it’s not completely outlandish to envision Bellinger turning it on once again when the lights are brightest; we’re not even a full year removed from the fastball he smashed out to right-center to briefly reset the NLCS against Atlanta.
But after another season of poor production, can Dave Roberts assessing a Bellinger hot streak really factor into anyone’s postseason plan for lineup stability?
In other words, Bellinger tomahawking a 96 MPH fastball from Jordan Montgomery was a welcome sight, but how impactful was it on the months still to come?
Dodgers could use effective Cody Bellinger in 2022 MLB Playoffs, but how could they count on him?
According to Roberts after Sunday’s win, Bellinger’s swing is under control more so now than it was earlier in the season. But is this a reason to believe we’ll see Bellinger earn increased playing time down the stretch? Or just a method to keep him motivated as the most important time of the year approaches?
"“He’s a lot more controlled with his body. And when you’re talking about controlling the lower half of the body, then the head stays more still. He’s controlling the strike zone really well. And he’s taking much better swings and having great at-bats.”"
Say what you will about Bellinger’s regression — and we’ve said plenty — but 16 at-bats of .375 ball isn’t quite enough to bank on, no matter how controlled it looks.
Bellinger will get his looks this October — how could he not? — but a few games worth of laser focus shouldn’t slot him into a Game 7 lineup automatically. Hot or not, he’ll be the first one shuffled out when a change must be made.