ST. LOUIS — The Dodgers have a Cody Bellinger drawback.
He can not hit. There’s no different solution to say it. Finally, he’ll begin to hit. He has to, proper? He’s too good of a participant. He received the NL rookie of the yr award in 2017 and the NL MVP in 2019, with 47 house runs and an 8.6 bWAR.
However proper now? He can not hit. One other 0-for-4 evening Thursday in opposition to the Cardinals dropped his season common to .158. In his previous 21 video games, he’s 5-for-65, a .077 batting common. All 5 hits have been singles. He has 14 strikeouts and one stroll in that span. And as a substitute of being the man within the Dodgers lineup groups needed to sport plan about the best way to pitch fastidiously to, he’s turn into the hitter groups hope they face in the important thing moments.
MORE: Up to date magic numbers for playoff race
Such was the case Thursday in St. Louis. Los Angeles supervisor Dave Roberts gave a whole lot of his regulars the time off for the early 12:15 p.m. native time first pitch, so Bellinger was within the No. 5 spot within the order, increased than he’d been since mid-August. Cardinals starter Jake Woodford strolled by the primary two innings, then obtained the primary two outs within the third.
Then, growth. The Dodgers regulars within the lineup, those that give them a better-than-average likelihood at repeating as World Sequence champions, kicked into gear. Mookie Betts, batting leadoff, labored a full-count stroll. Max Muncy doubled. Trea Turner adopted with a sharply hit RBI single, scoring Betts. Justin Turner walked on 5 pitches to load the bases.
Up stepped Bellinger.
Woodford’s first pitch was a 92-mph fastball over the center of the plate however up a number of inches out of the strike zone. Bellinger swung, his rally-killing pop up into shallow proper area registering extra top than distance. After the sport, Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner tactfully talked about his membership’s method to getting out of that jam.
“We kinda,” he stated, pausing as if reminding himself to watch out, “not essentially pitched round a pair guys there, however did not need to get beat by sure guys and located the matchup we preferred and executed the pitches once we wanted to to depart them stranded.”
It didn’t matter to the Cardinals that Bellinger had hit a grand slam off Woodford simply three months in the past. They checked out Bellinger’s present type and fortunately exploited the matchup they wished. Think about eager to pitch to Bellinger, who has six profession grand slams, with the bases loaded at another level in his profession. Lunacy.
The matchup had labored out effectively for the Cardinals within the second inning, when Bellinger struck out to steer off the body. And within the sixth, when he struck out swinging, and within the prime of the ninth, when he led off the inning in a 2-1 sport — his staff trailed — with a top > distance pop-up on the infield. The Dodgers misplaced by that 2-1 rating, they usually’re now 2 1/2 behind the Giants within the NL West standings.
MORE: Why does not anybody imagine within the Giants?
That’s vital. It’s the distinction between being in a win-or-go-home one-game wild-card contest, and being in a best-of-five sequence. There’s zero margin for error within the wild-card sport. A dominant pitcher can finish your season. A nasty hop on a grounder up the center can flip a possible rally-ending double play right into a two-run single. Fluke occurs.
However a five-game sequence? The margin for error expands significantly. The longer the sequence, the extra doubtless the higher staff is to win. And if the Dodgers do certainly wind up as the primary wild card, they’ll be a considerably higher staff, irrespective of who they wind up enjoying. Proper now the Padres personal the second NL wild-card spot, they usually’re 13 video games — 13!!! — behind the Dodgers within the standings.
So the Dodgers are hoping Bellinger figures it out. He was out on the sphere earlier than everybody on Wednesday at Busch Stadium, working with the coaches.
WATCH: Catch the MLB playoff race on fuboTV (7-day free trial)
“There’s just a few mechanical issues they’re making an attempt to wash up, and clearly they have been doing that for fairly a while,” Roberts stated. “They’re simply looking for one thing that clicks and that sticks. A number of it’s the mechanics and method and all that stuff. Simply getting on the sphere, simply him working when it is quiet and simply methodical, typically I believe that may be useful for the hitter.”
Bellinger had shoulder surgical procedure this previous offseason, and people with the staff really feel that is nonetheless impacting him. For now, he’s nonetheless within the lineup as a result of the Dodgers have one hell of a lineup, they usually really feel they will nonetheless win video games even with Bellinger hitting like a pitcher as a result of he’s one hell of a defensive middle fielder.
He nonetheless brings that worth. Particularly with A.J. Pollock on the IL with a hamstring situation.
“Cody, athletically, is as gifted as anybody,” Dodgers starter and Cy Younger contender Walker Buehler advised Sporting Information on Thursday morning. “We’ve stated it for years, he might win a Gold Glove in any respect three outfield positions and at first base, in all probability. He’s a particular participant on the defensive aspect of the ball. We simply need to get him wholesome. The shoulder factor, I believe, is at all times going to be lingering for some time. I believe as soon as he will get that proper, he’ll be the hitter he at all times has been. He’s off to a reasonably particular begin to his profession. We’ll get him again wholesome, and he’s nonetheless on the market operating down balls for us. We’re pleased to have him.”
They’d be actually pleased to have him again to the previous Bellinger on the plate.
Consider any nice defensive participant in historical past, at any place, who solely obtained common enjoying time due to his defensive prowess. Bellinger, this season, has been a worse offensive participant than no matter participant reminiscence you simply conjured up in your mind. Take into consideration this: Because the starting of the primary World Battle, there have solely been three gamers with no less than 300 plate appearances and a batting common of .160 or worse.
|Cody Bellinger||2021 Dodgers||.158||315|
|Adam Dunn||2011 White Sox||.159||496|
|Much less Moss||1947 Browns||.157||312|
Batting common isn’t every little thing, after all. Moss’s on-base share was .255, which is 23 factors increased than Bellinger’s .232. Dunn’s on-base share was 60 factors away from Bellinger’s mark. Dunn’s OPS+ was 54, forward of Bellinger’s 42. A rookie catcher for the St. Louis Browns in 1947, Moss’s bWAR wasn’t nice — minus-1.4 — however that’s nonetheless higher than Bellinger’s present minus-1.7.
How about this: Mario Mendoza — the glove-first, hit-never shortstop who was so inept on the plate that he had the notorious line named after him — had three seasons the place he noticed common enjoying time (outlined as no less than 250 plate appearances). His on-base share in these three seasons (1979-81) was .248. Yep, 16 factors increased than Bellinger’s proper now. His OPS+ in these three years was 44. Keep in mind what Bellinger’s OPS+ is in 2021?
Bellinger is wanting up at not simply Mendoza’s line, however his general manufacturing.
Factor is, Bellinger nonetheless has the potential to do harm on the plate. His lengthy, silky swing has a whole lot of holes and useless zones proper now, however there’s nonetheless energy within the bat. Thunderous energy. He nonetheless can sometimes run right into a pitch. We’ve seen this model of Bellinger earlier than, kinda.
Consider 2021 Bellinger just like the Bellinger of the 2017 World Sequence, when he was contemporary off that 39-homer rookie marketing campaign. He seemed fully misplaced on the plate within the first three video games, going 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts. The requires him to be benched have been resounding.
However he bumped into a pair pitches in Sport 4 — two doubles in a sport the Dodgers received, 6-2— and once more in Sport 5 — a house run and a triple in a sport L.A. misplaced, 13-12, in 10 innings. Then, in Video games 6 and seven, he went 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts. Take into consideration how weird that WS was for him. He had 29 PAs and struck out 17 occasions. He had solely 4 hits, however all 4 have been extra-base hits.
Heck, proper now that may be an enchancment. Bellinger hasn’t hit a house run since August 11 — he homered twice in opposition to the Phillies that day, giving him 4 in 4 video games — and solely has three extra-base hits (all doubles) since then. Failures like his on the plate on Thursday, when he was put in a run-producing spot within the lineup, might relegate the Dodgers to the wild-card spot as a substitute of a visit straight into the NLDS.
“We simply could not construct innings, simply could not put issues collectively,” Roberts stated. “That’s sort of been the theme. To kinda poke holes or attempt to give you a solution proper now, I haven’t got one. It is simply that point the place outcomes matter.”
Ain’t that the reality.