Even with a slump during the second half of the season, Cody Bellinger put together an MVP-caliber campaign as he helped lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to a franchise-best 106 wins. He began to emerge from the rut as the regular season wound to a close but has struggled thus far in the playoffs.
Although Bellinger worked two walks and scored a run against the Washington Nationals in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, he additionally struck out twice. He followed that with two more strikeouts in Game 2 and is a combined 0-for-6 in the NLDS.
“I don’t think fatigue’s a part of it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after a 4-2 loss to the Nationals. “I think he’s in a really good place, the way his body’s moving. I think right now you’re looking at two games, where the [Thursday’s] game I thought he took really good at-bats and had two good walks and obviously punched twice.
“[Friday] I just think Strasburg, he was good against everybody. So I think that right now for Cody, I think he’s seeing the baseball well. For me, it’s too small of a sample.”
Bellinger’s struggles are reminiscent of the trouble he had last October. A Rookie of the Year effort in 2017 was followed with some regression that spilled into the postseason.
Bellinger was just 6-for-52 with a .385 on-base plus slugging percentage last October. He nonetheless earned 2018 NLCS MVP honors behind a walk-off single in Game 4 and key home run in winner-take-all Game 7.
Reduced to a platoon role in the World Series, Bellinger had only one hit and six strikeouts in five games (two starts).
As the Dodgers were in the final stretch of this season, Roberts readily admitted the team needed Bellinger to revert back to his early 2019 form. However, not necessarily in terms of actual production.
“I will say that we need him to be the guy that took walks, that when they threw the ball over the plate, he put the barrel to it. That’s what we need from him,” Roberts explained. “To say he’s going to slug ‘X’ or whatever, we don’t need that from him.
“I’ll bet on the result if he’s doing the process that he was doing in the first half of the season. I think there was a three-week or month’s stretch where he got away from it a little bit in August.”