Cody Bellinger has had a nightmare of a year. Less than a couple years removed from his MVP campaign, he has a .175/.269/.323/.591 line — and that’s after his recent hot stretch — and has essentially played like a replacement-level player in 2021.
But that hot stretch is what I want to talk about, because getting Bellinger right would add to an already comically deep lineup that can run out an All-Star at literally every position except catcher, where they could start the best hitting catcher in baseball since his debut. In Bellinger’s last 12 games, he has a .250/.267/.545/.812 line, which doesn’t seem impressive compared to his .984 OPS during his ongoing six-game hitting streak. However, it does track to when I noticed Bellinger was hitting the ball harder with more consistency back on July 23 against the Rockies.
Of course, relying on a tiny sample size to gauge whether improvement being made is always iffy, more so when it’s just a slash line. However, the underlying metrics show improvement as well, with both xwOBA and xwOBA CON (on contact) showing significant jumps from before, and he’s hitting the ball harder more frequently as well.
|xwOBA CON||xwOBA||Hard Hit %|
Combine that with those hard-hit balls being hit on a line or in the air more frequently instead of directly into the ground, and there’s a recipe for sustainable improvement.
Of course, Bellinger’s injuries is another reason to be optimistic about his recent run, as it was always expected that he would take time to build strength after shoulder surgery and he then had his year derailed by a fractured leg. Expectations have been high for him, so it’s easy to forget that his struggles span just 2/3rds of a season of plate appearances across two partial seasons, with a .911 OPS in the playoffs sandwiched between them (up until the aforementioned shoulder tear). It’s also easy to forget that in 2020, despite his sub-par performance, he was still on pace for a 4+ WAR season and was an above-average hitter.
That’s a long way of saying that it strikes me as premature to give up on him when he’s never really been this bad before, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s been so unproductive immediately after two serious injuries, including one that is notorious for sapping power. Now he’s showing some positive signs of snapping out of it, and while he’s always been a bit inconsistent as a hitter with holes in his swing, Bellinger now appears to be on the right trajectory to be productive down the stretch.