Cody Bellinger has not set the world on fire thus far in 2021. The 2019 NL MVP has missed significant time due to injury and has yet to his stride this season.
The primary problem? Bellinger hasn’t been able to make consistent contact at the plate. Once again, he’s struggled with pitches on the inner third. He’s hitting well below .100 on pitchers high and inside and low and inside. One would have to credit the 2017 Houston Astros with exposing Bellinger in those specific zones. In total, Bellinger owns a .187 batting average and a meager .604 OPS through Thursday.
Bellinger By the Numbers
Even when Bellinger has made contact, he’s not driving the ball. According to Statcast, he has the lowest hard hit % of his career (34.2%) and the second-lowest average exit velocity (89.6 MPH). Of his 20 hits through Thursday, only five have been for extra bases.
The silver lining? It’s a small sample size.
Including Friday’s game against the Diamondbacks, Bellinger has appeared in just 32 games for the Dodgers. That total is the equivalent of a cold March and April. Plenty of high-caliber players have had a tough start to the season. The difference for Bellinger is that it’s July, not April.
There’s no doubting Bellinger’s immense talent. When he’s making consistent contact, he’s hitting .305 and winning an MVP. When his inherently long swing gets even longer, he’s below ordinary at the plate.
That being said, his .243 BABIP shows that the 25-year-old has been less than lucky when putting the ball in play.
The small sample size, bad luck, and talent level all provide reasons for optimism that he can turn it around this season.
Considering the Dodgers’ sudden starting pitching shortage, the offense will have to pick up the slack.
Bellinger will need to be front and center.