Start Paying Attention to Cody Bellinger
It's easy to get overshadowed by the great Aaron Judge.
The monster New York Yankees outfielder is dominating the headlines with a rookie season that compares to one of Babe Ruth's all-time great campaigns. It's easy to see why the entire baseball world is fixated on Judge -- he's simply been from another planet.
But there's a rookie over in the National League playing for another one of baseball's marquee teams who isn't getting nearly enough recognition for his power season. His numbers aren't as dynamic as Judge's, but the Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger is hitting bombs with great frequency, and he's doing it off of some of the most difficult pitchers in baseball.
On Tuesday night, Bellinger hit a couple of dingers against the Cleveland Indians, his fourth multi-homer game this season.
Strength vs. strength.
Advantage: @Cody_Bellinger. 💪 pic.twitter.com/vDgOFNyaEk
— MLB (@MLB) June 14, 2017
.@Cody_Bellinger now has FOUR multi-HR games in his first 45 career contests.
He’s the only player in @MLB history to do that. pic.twitter.com/daz5b9kEXH
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) June 14, 2017
His bomb in the 8th inning that broke a 2-2 tie came off one of the toughest left-handed relievers in baseball, Andrew Miller. It was the first regular season homer allowed by Miller since September 7, 2016, and Bellinger is the first lefty to hit one out against the dynamic southpaw since Joe Mauer did it in August of 2016.
In 44 games (180 plate appearances), Bellinger is batting .261/.335/.630 with 17 home runs and 39 RBIs. He has 26 extra-base hits, which susses out to 17 singles and 17 homers -- and he's just 21 years old. And despite not making his Major League debut until April 25, he sits just two homers behind the NL leader, the Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman.
What's particularly impressive is who he's taking deep. Like Miller, Bellinger's second dinger victim last night, Boone Logan, rarely gives up blasts to left-handers.
Lefties homer off Andrew Miller once every 50 PA. For Boone Logan, it's once every 48 PA. Cody Bellinger homered off both in same game.
— Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot) June 14, 2017
Since joining the Dodgers on April 25, Bellinger has spurred Los Angeles to a 31-14 record, the best in baseball. His stick work is a big reason why the Dodgers have been able to keep pace with the red-hot Colorado Rockies -- with whom they are tied for first in the NL West -- and stay ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who sit a half-game behind both teams.
Certainly there are some areas of Bellinger's game that need improvement. He's striking out 32.2% of the time, a rate that is simply too high, but he offsets the Ks with a 10.0% walk rate. His batting average is lower than one might hope because slightly more than half of every ball he hits are flies, something that limits his batting average on balls in play (.281). On the other hand, his ability to get the ball in the air amps up his dinger potential.
So fawns all over Aaron Judge as much as you want, but don't ignore the rookie slugger on the West Coast who's inflicting some serious damage of his own.