Indeed, Eleven, just whom the fuck is that guy? Once a week I’ll be breaking down a player who is surprising the league – for better or for worse. This will range from stars we’ve grown to expect greatness from all the way to obscure players who have appeared out of nowhere. In each case it will beg the question: Whom the fuck is that guy?!
Cody Bellinger – 1B, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
I’ll preface this by betting most fans of baseball are familiar with Cody Bellinger. After all, he plays on one of the best teams in the National League, was Rookie of the Year a mere two seasons ago, and has been perhaps the best hitter in baseball on the young season. So, why am I writing about Bellinger? Well because sandwiched in between his two godly seasons, Bellinger was good —but not great — and as a result he took a step-back. His sophomore campaign led many to believe his sensational rookie season was a combination of a stroke of good luck ands opposing pitchers figuring out how to pitch to him. Bellinger’s power numbers took a concerning, if not predictable hit. His above-average home run/fly ball rate was cut nearly in half.
Compared to last year, Bellinger’s HR/FB rate has more than doubled and his hard contact has taken a sharp rise as well. Over 52% of Bellinger’s contact has been hard-hit as well as a 33%-line drive rate. This coupled with Bellinger’s .405 batting average is elite. So elite in fact, that he is on pace right now to finish the season with an almost other-worldly batting line of .407/.486/.772. Cody Bellinger is for all intents and purposes, that player you create in MLB The Show and simulate until you’ve accrued enough training points to turn him into God. What Bellinger is doing right now is the equivalent to playing said video game on Rookie difficulty, but he’s doing it in real life – these are video game numbers and Bellinger is Neo to MLB’s Matrix. For reference, the last player to eclipse the fabled .400 mark was Ted Williamsin 1941, so it’s been a few years. Now mind you, I wasn’twatching Ted Williams in 1941 as it was 50 years prior to me being born, but the internet is a decent tool to leverage when getting some insight as to where Bellinger stacks up to Williams today.
The sample size is small, and Williams’ numbers were better at this stage in his career when compared to Bellinger, but it is important to point out that the level of play has drastically evolved. Though it’s not readily available, it’s a plausible estimation that it’s much tougher to hit today’s pitching than the pitching of Williams’ era. That’s not discounting any of the numbers Williams or his peers put up but it’s also worth noting that sports science and medicine have come a long way. Babe Ruth could probably qualify for the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest and he still is revered as one of, if not, the best hitter of all time, so imagine what the stars of today’s game would have done to yesteryear’s pitching? It’s entirely possible that Bellinger keeps up his pace. His numbers certainly back it up and perhaps one of the key indicators is that his BABIP is identical to his BA at .405. It also helps that Bellinger hits in a Los Angeles lineup that is oozing with star power and Bellinger should continue to see his fair-share of good pitches to hit. One last anecdotal plug — Bellinger looks exactly like Ted Williams.