How Cody Bellinger’s 2019 season stacks up in Dodger history & past greats

Cody Bellinger‘s 2019 season was remarkable. He was the anchor of the Dodgers’ lineup and did things — on both sides of the ball — we as fans haven’t seen in a long time.

His numbers all went in a positive direction. His strikeout rate dipped by 7.5 points, his isolated slugging went up more than 110 points, his contact rate improved by almost 6 points and his swinging strike rate dropped by almost 3 points. All of those led to him hitting .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs and a 162 wRC+.

He had a 7.8 fWAR — tied with Christian Yelich for best in the National League. His wRC+ led the NL and his 47 homers were third in the NL behind Pete Alonso (53) and Eugenio Suarez (49). All this adds up to an NL MVP, right? Probably — Anthony Rendon made a late-season push and Yelich probably would have repeated if he didn’t play in 26 fewer games than Bellinger.

Recency bias would say Bellinger had an amazing season, but when you look at it in terms of Dodgers’ history, it’s not as impressive.

Here are the Top 10 single-season fWAR Dodger seasons since 1947:

  1. Adrian Beltre, 2004: 9.7
  2. Jackie Robinson, 1949: 9.6
  3. Mike Piazza, 1997: 9.1
  4. Jackie Robinson, 1951: 9.0
  5. Duke Snider, 1953: 8.8
  6. Duke Snider, 1954: 8.3
  7. Matt Kemp, 2011: 8.3
  8. Russell Martin, 2008: 7.9
  9. Jackie Robinson, 1952: 7.8
  10. Cody Bellinger, 2019: 7.8

First, let’s address Martin’s 2008. He didn’t hit at an impressive rate — .280/.385/.396, 112 wRC+ — but FanGraphs adjusted its framing numbers before the start of the 2019 season, so Martin got an incredible boost. If you’re curious, No. 11 on the list is Pedro Guerrero‘s 1985, when he also posted a 7.8 fWAR.

It’s crazy to think that what we just witnessed Bellinger do this season is barely a Top 10 mark in Dodger history. And I think we also forget just how incredible Beltre’s 2004 was.

But in terms of the MVP discussion, let’s see where each of these guys finished in their respective MVP races:

  1. Adrian Beltre, 2004: 2nd (Barry Bonds)
  2. Jackie Robinson, 1949: 1st
  3. Mike Piazza, 1997: 2nd (Larry Walker)
  4. Jackie Robinson, 1951: 6th (Roy Campanella)
  5. Duke Snider, 1953: 3rd (Campanella)
  6. Duke Snider, 1954: 4th (Willie Mays)
  7. Matt Kemp, 2011: 2nd (Ryan Braun)
  8. Russell Martin, 2008: No votes (Albert Pujols)
  9. Jackie Robinson, 1952: 7th (Hank Sauer)
  10. Cody Bellinger, 2019: TBD
  11. Pedro Guerrero, 1985: 3rd (Willie McGee)

Only Robinson’s 1949 earned him the MVP award. It’s impressive that Campanella won two MVPs when he wasn’t even the most valuable (by WAR) player on his team, but there is also no way to adjust for framing, so there’s a chance Campy would have found himself on this list.

I’m sticking to just hitters here, since the last Dodger MVP was Clayton Kershaw in 2015. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1988 when Kirk Gibson won the honor.

The NL MVP will be announced on Nov. 14. Here’s hoping Bellinger can add the trophy to his Rookie of the Year honor. Now, about that World Series trophy.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. 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.