Cody Bellinger’s maturation as a hitter on display in second half

The wrap on Cody Bellinger coming into the majors was big power, big swing and miss. That was on display in the first half of the season (when he was really good), but since the All-Star break, he has shown a maturation of sorts as a hitter.

First, a table:

Half PA ISO BB% K% Pull% Soft% Hard% Exit velo
1st 292 .358 11.3 29.1 46.6 14.4 46.0 90.1
2nd 107 .296 8.4 18.7 38.5 7.7 46.2 90.5

Yes, the second half has seen a smaller sample size, but we all thought the league might adjust to Bellinger after his power-filled first half. It did, but he adjusted back, and that’s the mark of an intelligent and talented hitter. His overall production hasn’t dipped much either:

  • 1st half wRC+: 144
  • 2nd half wRC+: 136

What’s most notable here is his strikeout rate has fallen my more the 10 percent from the first half to the second. And while his isolated power has fallen, too, it’s still the 29th-best among MLB hitters (minimum 50 PA) in the second half. That number is still elite-level power, as .140 is the league-average ISO. Honestly, a .358 ISO wasn’t exactly sustainable, as that would have ranked as the 29th-highest since 1900, sandwiched between some guy named Babe Ruth (1924, .361) and Babe Ruth (1922, .357).

Bellinger has reduced his soft contact percentage while not sacrificing his hard contact percentage. His walk rate is down, but he’s still seeing 3.99 pitches per plate appearance, down just slightly from 4.16 P/PA in the first half.

This maturation is important and something you’d expect from a hitter in his second or third season, not for a newly 22-year-old in the second half of his rookie season. This is even more impressive considering the reports coming up through the minors didn’t lead evaluators (internal and otherwise) to believe he was capable of this kind of adjustment.

——

Cody Bellinger is going to strike out. A lot. But you have to dig deeper and beyond the raw strikeout numbers to see truly what a good hitter he is and can be. Corey Seager will be this team’s best hitter for the next decade, but Bellinger won’t be that far behind. Combine that with his power and you have a future elite-level hitter. That is, if things keep trending this direction. And his maturation in the second half of his rookie season leads me to believe he’s going to be just fine.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin’ Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.