Much has already been written about Cody Bellinger over the past few months, but until we did some of the math for ourselves, it was difficult to perceive where the Dodgers would be in the standings of the National League West without the presence of the 21-year-old slugger.
For each article composed about Bellinger, a long list of impressive stats almost always accompanies his prospective accolades for 2017. Perhaps the most striking of all is that he became the fastest player ever in baseball to hit 21 longs balls, taking him only 51 games to do so. During Monday evening’s radio broadcast, Charley Steiner likened Bellinger’s 2017 season to Fred Lynn‘s rookie campaign in 1975, when the Red Sox phenom hit .331/.401/.566 with 47 doubles, seven triples, 21 home runs, 101 RBI and 10 stolen bases. To go a stretch farther than Charley, we discovered that Hal Trosky put together an insane rookie year for the Indians in 1934, hitting .330 with 206 hits, 45 doubles, 9 triples and 35 homers, while scoring 117 runs and amassing 142 RBI. Just the thought that Bellinger is even drawing comparisons to these great baseball legends speaks volumes.
Yet putting all of these personal achievements aside, the most important result from the presence of Bellinger is the overall performance of the Dodgers. Since his MLB debut on April 25, the Dodgers have gone an outstanding 36-15, a record that has vaulted the club to the top of the division. Before the arrival of Bellinger on April 25, Los Angeles was strolling along at 10-12, and were a full four games behind the Rockies for the division lead.
With Bellinger still launching bombs at Triple-A Oklahoma City, it’s probably safe to say that veteran Adrian Gonzalez would have found a way to suffer through some of his injury problems and push through at least his first stint on the disabled list. Gonzo has been notoriously known as an iron man over the years, but with Bellinger around, Adrian is now afforded the time he needs to heal properly and perhaps return for a productive run during the home stretch of the 2017 regular season.
And beyond the numbers, there’s a handful of other ways that Cody has made Los Angeles a better squad. The spark from the very first day of his arrival is still there, and that spark has had its own positive effects on a daily basis. Many of the players on the roster have stepped up their own games while creating a higher level of player competition, if only for providing a peak effort in the hopes of not getting demoted to the depths of Triple-A.
In addition, his presence has created more chemistry, most specifically in the batting order. Bellinger’s skills make the lineup more complimentary in the sense that his skill set provides key facets that the squad was missing. Oftentimes, the Dodgers’ offense can be borderline streaky, but with Bellinger in the middle of the order, the production has become quite a bit more consistent.
When Justin Turner recently missed a total of 19 games resulting from a strained hamstring, Bellinger was one of the few pieces which kept the Dodgers’ offensive machine chugging along.
And while both Turner and Chris Taylor are having career seasons and are not to be overlooked, the perfect definition of “lineup protection” is illustrated when Bellinger, JT and CT3 are firing on all cyliners in the three, four and five holes, mainly because opposing pitchers can often ill afford to pitch around either one. If opposing pitchers are dreading the middle of the order now, just wait until Corey Seager gets cooking.
In the end, without Bellinger, the Dodgers would likely be holding steady in third place in the NL West, but instead of being within a half game reach of first place, Los Angeles very well could have been approaching a double digit deficit heading into the All-Star break, with the hopes of a fifth consecutive division title starting to slip away.
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