Remember when we compared the Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman National League Rookie of the Year candidate Cody Bellinger to Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza, and Aaron Judge. Well, Bellinger is still a lock for the Rookie of the Year Award along with Judge over in the American League. Not much has changed, except a lot changed for the Dodgers prior to, during, and after their long-season-perspective-short losing streak.
Bellinger now has more home runs than Pujols and Piazza in their rookie seasons (38), but is chasing Judge in home runs and all three in runs batted in for the season. As of Monday morning, the Dodgers have won four out of their last five games, having taken a series in San Francisco for the first time since 2014 and having taken two of three from the Nationals in our Nation’s Capital. The Nationals being the team with the second best record to the Dodgers in the National League, with the Cleveland Indians knocking on the door in American League (3.5 games back of the Dodgers) for best overall record and World Series home field advantage.
Consider this, during the Dodgers 1-16 win-loss streak, and even prior to that steak when there were signs of things to come, Cody Bellinger did not play in ten games. Nine games as he was on the disabled list and another for rest. During that time, the Dodgers were 4 and 6, four wins with six losses (August 20-August, September 2). However, since Bellinger has returned, he has eclipsed his personal best in batting average and on base percentage in September compared to any other month this year. Furthermore, his slugging and on base plus slugging percentages are his second best compared to any other month.
Cody Bellinger ties the NL Record for Most HRs in a Rookie Season. ???
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) September 16, 2017
There are fourteen games left for Bellinger and Dodgers. Fourteen games left for the Dodgers to (1) retain the best record in the National League and Major League Baseball, (2) eclipse the 100-win mark for the first time since 1974 and only the sixth time in franchise history, (3) keep their swagger entering the playoffs. You almost have to wonder if the Dodgers Front Office thought lets put the rookies, rest our best, and make a later push into the playoffs so we can hit out stride in this race the last quarter mile.
Unlikely, but nonetheless the 1-16 streak was a blessing in disguise because as the Houston Astros, Indians, and Nationals have cooled off and are suffering through some important injuries, the Dodgers are completely healthy and heating up, again. That is a scary thought for any competitor. The Dodgers also now, for the only time ever, have five straight seasons with 90+ wins and will likely take home the National League West Division title for the fifth straight season (again a franchise record that they broke last season as well).
Bellinger has fourteen games to (1) stay healthy, (2) eclipse 40 home runs and 100 RBIs, and (3) raise his batting average above .280 (currently at .273). The ten days off were a blessing in disguise for the rookie first baseman not used to a long 162-game Major League Season (minor league Triple-A seasons are twenty games shorter). With the playoffs, it would have been a 170-180-game season with the playoffs included. Bellinger, whether he being the competitor he is wanted it or not, needed the break and management made the right decision here. If we are lucky, we may see Bellinger come close to Mark McGwire’s American League rookie record of 49 home runs in a season with Aaron Judge (currently at 43) set in 1987.
We may soon be comparing Cody Bellinger to another terrific first baseman in the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, Gil Hodges. Hodges had seven straight seasons of at least twenty home runs and one-hundred runs batted and in eleven straight seasons belted twenty-plus home runs and knocked in at least sixty runs for a season. Hopefully Bellinger does not the same fate of Hodges, a man forgotten by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, but remembered by many Dodgers fans coast to coast.
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