During the season’s earliest stages, Cody Bellinger has been one of the hottest hitters. So, let’s breakdown his early season surge.
Overreactions and early-season success in the MLB go together like peanut butter and jelly. More often than not, we will see ‘surprise’ teams and players play well to start the new campaign, only to falter and come back down to earth as the season progresses.
However, this may not apply to the red-hot, slugging Cody Bellinger. Without a doubt, the lengthy outfielder/first baseman has been one of hottest hitters in baseball so far.
Bellinger’s seven home runs tie him with Seattle Mariners outfielder Jay Bruce for the league-lead. He also leads the MLB in hits (22) and slugging percentage (.960). He is second in batting average (.440) and ops (1.460).
Yes, Bellinger has been tearing the cover off of the ball. This is a great sign for a player that struggled mightily at times last season after he took the world by storm as a rookie in 2017.
Disclaimer: yes, it is very early, and anything can happen. But Bellinger has shown changes in approach at the plate that may translate into sustained success for 2019.
Not only has Bellinger cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walks, he has been barreling the ball more frequently and much harder.
He is posting a career-high in line-drive percentage (36.4), while cutting down on his fly ball (36.4) and ground ball (27.3) percentages.
Last year, just about 80 percent of the balls Bellinger hit were either grounders are fly balls. Those results aren’t too crazy, as they reflect the current trend that many players have bought into in today’s brand of baseball.
In response to that, while everyone is infatuated with launch angle and lifting the ball into the air, that approach can often result in soft contact.
This was the case for Bellinger last season. Yes, he hit a ton of balls in the air, but he posted a soft contact percentage of 18.1 percent, which the highest percentage of his brief career.
This year, Bellinger’s soft contact percentage is 11.4 and his hard contact percentage is through the roof at 54.5. Translation: he is hitting the ball harder, which has resulted in more line drives over soft-contact pop ups or ground balls.
In correlation to those numbers, Bellinger’s launch angle has dropped to 11.9 and his barrel percentage (15.9) and exit velocity (95.7) are both at a career-best.
Summed up, Bellinger is squaring the ball up and ripping it. However, at the same time, he has still been able to hit the ball out of the ballpark and for extra base hits.
Again, yes, it is early, but these are trends that make you believe Bellinger has turned a corner as a hitter. Also, for a team that came up short in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, he can make that Dodgers’ lineup that much scarier with his consistency.