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Cody Bellinger To Tender or to Non-Tender

And yet one more post on Cody Bellinger.  This could be the last one I write with Cody as a LAD.  If that happens I will not be surprised, but I will be saddened.

I admit my affinity for Cody Bellinger has me waffling more about any player that I can remember.  I mentioned earlier this week that I thought that maybe not only could LAD tender Belli a contract, but perhaps they should.  If this were any of the low contract teams, it would be a no-brainer.  But this is the LA Dodgers.  Money should not be the #1 concern, but finally putting a team together than can actually finish.  Is Belli part of that team?

I have always been an advocate for strong defense up the middle.  While Belli has not been a GG CF, he is a plus defender.  I do not like the balls that drop in front of him, but he goes back on a ball very well.  And he is very good in the gap.  So I will take the singles in front vs the doubles and triples over his head.

We know he has speed, and is a plus base runner.

But his offense has been horrendous over the last three years, especially the last two, thus eliminating any positives on defense and base running.

I subscribe to MLBTR and receive twice weekly newsletters and weekly exclusive chats, amongst other perks.  One of the primary writers, Anthony Franco, penned the last newsletter I received in anticipation of Friday’s non tender day.  Specifically he addressed why MLBTR believes that Belli will be non-tendered.  I did not intend to write another post on Cody, but Franco’s newsletter got me to thinking.  Franco wrote:

“Bellinger’s cumulative line over the past two seasons is .193/.256/.355 in an even 900 PA. Of the 186 players with 750+ plate appearances in that time, only Jackie Bradley Jr. and Maikel Franco have a worse on-base percentage. Martín Maldonado, Bradley and Joey Gallo are the only players with a lower batting average, while Bellinger ranks in the bottom 15 in slugging. Bellinger has been among the worst offensive regulars two years running.”

“Bellinger’s successive strikeout rates these past two seasons — 26.9% and 27.3% — have been the highest marks of his career. He’s paired that with his worst two walk percentages –8.9% and 6.9%, respectively. That’s an alarming combination on its own, made worse by the fact he’s popping the ball up as much as he ever has.”

Franco goes on to say that because of his recent propensity for strikeouts and popups, any benefit from banning the shift specifically for Belli should be tempered, because pop-ups and strikeouts are outs no matter the defensive alignment.

We have all read those numbers before, and every Dodger fan has experienced the angst watching him.  But what is the reason?  Franco does conclude that part of the problem could be the lingering shoulder injury.

“His respective 34.4% and 38.1% hard contact rates the last two seasons are the two lowest marks of his career. Bellinger hasn’t hit a single ball in play with an exit velocity at or above 108 MPH since the start of the 2021 season; he’d had 48 such batted balls through his first four years.”

Okay, that makes sense that the injury could still be hampering his hard hit balls, but it is not clear how that manifests itself into the increased strikeout and decreased walks.

Franco goes on to discuss his increased aggressiveness at the plate.

“Bellinger has swung more often on 0-0 counts over the last three seasons, but it hasn’t been the kind of focused aggressiveness one would want from a hitter. He’s not swinging dramatically more often at first-pitch meatballs; he’s increasingly going after balls on the edges or just off the strike zone. He’s finding himself in disadvantageous counts as a result, leaving pitchers more opportunity to put him away with breaking stuff later in an at-bat.”

I thought that I would take a little deeper dive into Cody’s numbers.  Below are Belli’s 2022 batting line metrics for each count when he makes contact.

 

After PA BA OBP SLG OPS
0-0 51 .286 .275 .571 .846
1-0 219 .228 .333 .419 .752
2-0 84 .267 .464 .483 .946
3-0 33 .105 .485 .316 .801
0-1 279 .185 .212 .337 .549
1-1 222 .192 .239 .341 .580
2-1 121 .272 .372 .476 .848
3-1 60 .297 .567 .568 1.134
0-2 118 .139 .161 .252 413
1-2 177 .142 .181 .237 .418
2-2 144 .135 .194 .203 .397
3-2 85 .265 .412 .353 .765

 

Belli did very well when making contact on the first pitch.  He had more HRs on an 0-0 pitch than on any other count.  This is where I differ from Franco. It is not necessarily the aggressiveness, but more accurately the increased chase for Strike One. Why did he chase?  Maybe this is a condition developed from pressing.  Trying to do too much.  He would not be an anomaly in this regard.  Psychological impediments disrupt a lot of careers.  It is those who can overcome those impediments that can go on to have long productive careers.  Is this Cody’s problem?  I have no basis for making any kind of speculative diagnosis here.  I have been in a lot of therapy sessions, but only as the patient, not the therapist.

Or is his poor pitch and location recognition more of who Cody is now?

One other 2022 metric deserves some comment.  On 3-0 counts, again perhaps being too aggressive, Belli was .105/.485/.316/.801.  But when the count is 3-1, Belli hit .297/.567/.568/1.134.  Maybe he needs to take a strike at 3-0.  Simply reading something into a stat.  Not coaching.

Actually, except for the last two years, Belli has been extremely successful hitting the first pitch.

 

Year PA BA OBP SLG OPS
2022 33 .105 .485 .316 .801
2021 32 .167 .188 .167 .354
2020 31 .355 .355 .645 1.000
2019 59 .357 .356 .839 1.195
2018 49 .388 .388 .857 1.245
2017 51 .388 .392 .735 1.127

 

To me, it appears that the problem with his aggressiveness, as Anthony Franco refers to it, is more a reflection of poor pitch and location recognition than attacking first pitch.

Pitch type and location recognition could get his strikeouts back in line, but it probably has nothing to do with the increased popups.  But how pervasive are his popups?

 

Season GB% FB% PU%
2017 37.4 30 9.5
2018 41.3 25.2 11.2
2019 32.3 30.3 7.5
2020 39.8 29.2 8.2
2021 31.7 33.9 11.2
2022 35.6 32.8 9.4
Player Avg 36.2 30 9.5
MLB Avg 44.9 23.1 7.1

 

Yes, his popup percentages are up the last two years, but are in line with this 1st two years.  His fly ball percentage is up quite a bit, and his ground ball rate is down.  I think his lack of production is more indicative of his lack of exit velocity and hard hit balls.  Balls that used to go for HRs are now dying on the warning track.  His ground ball percentage was increased last year, and that could portend for better numbers without the shift.  But the best medicine seems to be a stronger shoulder.

Where is his contact?

 

Year Weak % Topped % Under % Flare/Burner % Solid % Barrel % Barrel/PA
2017 6.2 23.4 28.5 20.5 8.3 12.2 7.5
2018 2.4 30.6 29.1 20.8 6.8 8.6 5.5
2019 2.0 22.6 27.5 27.3 6.8 12.7 8.8
2020 2.9 24.0 28.1 26.9 7.0 9.4 6.6
2021 2.2 23.2 36.6 21.9 8.5 7.1 4.6
2022 1.1 23.3 35.8 25.3 5.8 8.3 5.5
Player Avg 2.8 24.7 30.6 23.7 7.1 10.0 6.6
MLB Avg 3.8 33.0 24.6 24.4 5.7 6.7 4.6

 

This seems to indicate that when Belli does make contact, he is getting more solid vs weak contact.  He is not topping the ball more than before, and less than MLB average.  His under % does indicate that his swing could probably use some leveling, especially with 2 strikes.  What might be discerned from above is that Belli is making good barrel contact, but he is not driving the ball as much as hitting underneath and not getting the carry he used to.  His decreased exit velo would impact the results here.

Maybe the most telling chart as to where Belli is struggling is below:

 

Year Exit Velo Max EV Launch Angle Sweet Spot %
2017 90.8 112.8 17.5 35.3
2018 89.8 112.9 16.2 32.0
2019 91.1 110.6 17.9 39.6
2020 89.3 110.6 16.6 29.2
2021 89.3 107.4 22.2 33.5
2022 89.4 107.4 20.3 34.4
Player Avg 90.1 112.9 18.3 34.7
MLB Avg 88.4 122.4 12.1 33.0

 

Belli’s velo is way down and his launch angle is way up.  He is still getting as much sweet spot as before (except 2019), but not the results.  Seems to be a warning track power issue.

Below is Belli’s Statcast chart for 2022.

 

Not that I am a better analyst, but I have a different reasoning for Belli’s struggles than does Anthony Franco.  He is swinging at more first pitches, but I do not see that in and of itself as a problem.  Is he chasing more?  Almost certainly.  He is in the bottom third percentile for whiff and chase.

But I see the problem more of exit velocity.  Is that a problem with his shoulder or mechanics or both?  Is his increase in launch angle due to his shoulder injury?

It is being reported that he is at Camelback working his tail off trying to work through his mechanics.  I know there are dozens of eyes on him as he works out, and I am sure that AF/BG are getting daily reports.  I am not there, so I have no clue as to whether there is a change in approach.

There is no issue in his defense or sprint speed.  He is elite in OAA, but well above average with OF jump and arm strength. His sprint speed is also above.

The above also seems to be pointing that 2019 was the anomaly. But if Cody can get back to even his 2018 numbers, he would be worth the $18.1MM projected investment.   In 2018, Cody batted .260/.343/.420/.814, with 28 doubles and 25 HRs.  Can he do that again?  That is what the Dodgers need to determine before Friday 4:00 PM (PST).

 

 

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Saxfan3

There was a recent article from prospectslive.com theorizing the leg fracture is the real culprit behind his current struggles. I thought it had some merit. Power is generated from the lower half and Bellinger’s lower and upper halves don’t always seem in sync. His stance has changed so often over his career, I really can’t recall if he consistently had a narrower stance prior to 2020, but I can see where it would result in a more balanced swing. If there’s something to it, I’d be surprised if the Dodgers haven’t recognized it by now. Also, if there’s something to it, then perhaps by getting his lower half to contribute more power, he won’t have to over-compensate with the launch angle and improve his barrel%/line drive rate. Should see increased velocity if that happens.

He might need a psychiatrist for the approach issues because it’s probably very much in his head with the forced pressing. That or a very hot streak to start the season. He hasn’t had a hot month since August 2020 and experiencing success has a way of curing things. That’s encouraging he’s already working out at the facility, hopefully not reinforcing existing bad mechanics, but corrective ones. I’ll be very surprised if they don’t tender him. Losing Trea Turner will be a big blow to the offense. Unless Friedman has an ace card up his sleeve, Dodgers will need someone to step up if we’re to get anywhere near last year’s production. I don’t see a lot of candidates in the lineup, and Cody might be the best bet. As currently constructed, I think they’ll need the good version of Cody to be a legit contender next year.

Badger

“He might need a psychiatrist for the approach issues”

I was about to suggest the same thing Saxfan. I’d even look into hypnosis.

We’ll know today what the work in Arizona has revealed. Like every Dodger fan I would like to see Cody get his mojo back, but I would also support “enough is enough”, if the Dodgers have arrived at that consensus. He may need a new environment with coaching that could actually help.

Bumsrap

Is Bellinger a great song sung blue that just needs a tuneup? We have an inhouse expert. What say STB? Arizona just obtained one of your favorites from the Mariners. Lewis is now a Diamondback. Does that mean AZ will listen to a huge package from LA for Corbin? If so, and Corbin becomes a Dodger, do you want to roll the dice with Bellinger?

Singing the Blue

As of now Lewis is not anywhere near the player that Corbin Carroll is. I’m thinking they probably got him in order to trade Thomas or McCarthy.

Lewis may yet turn into the player everyone hoped he’d be but he’s not that guy right now.

Badger

Kyle Lewis and Cody Bellinger have similar statistical curves. Looking at their projections it’s difficult to know where bottom is.

Bumsrap

Just Corbin Burns for me. That would keep Lux for 2nd if not SS. I don’t know who will pitch more innings over the next few years between Gonsolin or May so either one plus Muncy works for me. Friedman can figure out who else would be included.

Non-tendering Cody, trading Muncy and Taylor, and not getting Adames would reduce a lot of Ks. Who replaces them is the question and would they K less.

Just for fun let’s get Burns, Bieber and Rogers.
Gonsolin, Muncy, and ? for Burns.
May, Vargas, and ? for Bieber.
Rios, Taylor, and ? for Rogers

Bieber, Urias, Burns, Kershaw, Rodgers.

Last edited 13 days ago by Bumsrap
Bumsrap

Then Taylor, $$, and Rios?

bluto

According to Yahoo Sports Taiwan, multiple MLB organisations are eyeing university pitcher 沙子宸 (Sha Tzu-Chen).

The Dodgers, Pirates and Athletics are showing interest in the 19-year-old Taiwanese right-hander.

Singing the Blue

What do we know about Chen, Bluto, other than the fact that he’s 19 and obviously has talent?

bluto

So interesting.

Any “lottery tickets” in the Cubs or Toronto system you see as also viable?

Singing the Blue

When you’re done with your other research, Jeff, maybe you can explain to me why they leave Duran unprotected and then take up a roster space with Jake Reed.

Oldbear48

I am a Bellinger fan. He will be two years removed from major surgery. I think and honestly believe he gets one more shot with the Dodgers.

Singing the Blue

Kenny Rosenthal reporting the Dodgers will non-tender Cody B.

Singing the Blue

Bob Nightengale is reporting that the Dodgers have some interest in Kevin Kiermaier.

Two possibilities here:
1) Andrew has decided to build the strongest possible defensive team and will follow a Kiermaier signing by signing Dansby Swanson.
or,
2) Dodgers have decided to tank and go for a high draft choice.

I wonder what this decision means for JT? More money left to bring him back, or………………….an indication that they’re cutting loose a lot of guys.

Singing the Blue

JT will never wait until ST to see if they bring him back. They do this to him every time he’s a free agent. I wouldn’t blame him if he just walked away. He said he’s had a number of conversations with AF who told him they have to get all their ducks in a row and can then deal with him. Balderdash! JT should tell Andrew, if I’m not signed by the day before the Winter Meetings I’m going there and finding myself a deal.

You say CK will take $20MM of the CBT money. What about Bauer? I can’t believe the arbitrator is going to let that entire suspension stand without reducing it. If so, that adds to Dodger payroll.

bluto

Heyman:
Word going around now is Dodgers will make a run at Aaron Judge. Logical with $100M now off the books with Bellinger, Kimbrel, Anderson, Heaney, Price and 2 Turners off the roster. Needs include SS, 3B, SPs, RP and now OF

Singing the Blue

Alex Reyes anyone?
Cards are non-tendering him.
Still strikes out tons of guys…………………………….but he also walks way too many batters.
Maybe we can fix him.

Ray Charles

The article sounds like he might need glasses

Bluto

Rios also non-tendered

Singing the Blue

That’s just nuts. How could they not have found a trade partner for him?

Singing the Blue

Maybe we knew we weren’t going to play him, but I find it hard to believe nobody else could afford $1.4MM.

Singing the Blue

I don’t think there is any rush for him to sign and this gives them an extra spot to play with going into the Winter Meetings.

Bluto

Have we forgotten the Keith Law message?

Don’t worry. Best front office, arguably best team and farm system.

Friedman says they may entertain Bellinger at a lower price.

Read this on Twitter, it’s interesting:

Just sitting here thinking how Urias, Buehler, Joc, Seager, and Bellinger started and how it is all very possible that the Dodgers don’t sign any of them to second contracts.

Last edited 12 days ago by Bluto
bluto

Really good stuff from Friedman:

Was getting the payroll under CBT a factor in the decision to non-tender Cody Bellinger? Dodgers Andrew Friedman: “I think payroll considerations factor into every decision that every team makes. If you look back over the last 7, 8 years it’s probably factored in less for us than it has for the other 29 teams. But it’s still a factor and there’s still things that we always have to balance and juggle and try to put ourselves in position to have the best team possible when we get to Glendale.

Friedman said the Dodgers had conversations with Cody Bellinger’s agent Scott Boras, as well as “other teams” for a possible trade, leading up to today’s deadline, obviously, the non-tender meant we didn’t line up on anything. Also said the decision to non-tender Edwin Rios was based on a lack of “fit” on #Dodgers roster with left-handed hitters James Outman and Michael Busch having emerged on the 40-man roster

bluto

More good stuff, this via Plunkett:
Interesting answer when #Dodgers Andrew Friedman was asked if he is confident Cody Bellinger can “figure it out” and turn around his career: “I’m not sure how to answer that. Last offseason, I was very confident and it didn’t prove out in ‘22. I remain confident.
I don’t know how to answer it any more directly than that. There are very few knowns in what we do. It’s all kind of on that … a percentage scale of how likely something is. … We still really believe in the talent of Cody and feel like he is as committed as ever to figure it out. That coupled with the talent that we have in our weight room, on our coaching staff, we feel like we collectively with him, could figure it out. But again, I felt that way coming into ‘22. But feel that way again kind of heading into ‘23.

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