Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Cody Bellinger had become the buzz of the game. It seems that many fans and fantasy players are under the impression that Bellinger has ascended to an elite status and is the favorite for the NL MVP. It’s a shock, considering how before this season he looked like a strikeout heavy slugger who may or may not have peaked during his outstanding debut in 2017. Bellinger is currently batting a remarkable .433/.509/.918 with 13 home runs, 33 RBI and 4 stolen bases. These are video game numbers, and unfortunately for him, they’re completely unsustainable.
Bellinger has a .397 BABIP. That by itself should be enough to bring many of his advocates down to earth. That’s more than a 100 points higher than the average BABIP, and as such is simply unsustainable. Steamer expects it to drop down all the way to .301 (which is still above average), which in turn will bring his batting line to a far less impressive (though still good) line of .275/.364/.547. It’s certainly not bad at all, but hardly one that you would expect from an MVP candidate.
Bellinger’s strikeout percentage has dropped from his career average of 23.9% down to an astounding 11.2%. That’ a remarkable improvement, yet while he certainly improved his plate discipline, it doesn’t look as if his improvements correlate with that number. His Z-Swing% has dropped from 66.9% in 2018 to just 66.5% in 2019. Yet his Z-Contact% has improved from 78% in 2018 to 87.1% in 2019. in other words, he’s just slightly more patient with pitches on the inside, but somehow hits a lot more of them than expected. He also swings at only 4.6% less pitches in general.
Bellinger seems to have turned into an elite home run hitter, but that’s a mirage. First of all, his HR/FB% is an unsustainable 43.3%, which means that half of his home runs are lucky. More so, he’s been hitting less fly balls every year: 47.2% in 2017, 40.2% in 2018 and 34.9% in 2019. in short, he’s hitting less fly balls, but a significantly larger than average amount of them end up as home runs.
Cody Bellinger is a good player, but he’s not an elite one. He improved his walk percentage, but his strikeout percentage will likely rise, his batting line will significantly decline and he might actually be hitting less home runs going forward.