Column: Dodgers must figure out what to do with Cody Bellinger

The query used to be the similar at the first day of the common season because it used to be after Game 2 of the National League Division Series: What are the Dodgers going to do about Cody Bellinger?

Now that their wonderful season may just come to an abrupt finish this weekend, the Dodgers have a distinct solution.

When the Dodgers take the sphere for Game 3 Friday, with the collection now a best-of-three, the onetime most dear participant might be at the bench, supervisor Dave Roberts mentioned.

In the pre-analytics generation, the label “good field, no hit” used to be a praise. Not such a lot now. However, because the 2022 season dawned, the Dodgers believed so strongly in Bellinger’s glove that they performed him each day on a workforce that expects to win the World Series.

“He’s going to have a runway, which he has earned,” Roberts mentioned after the season opener. “I think it’s deserved. And, with what he does in center field, that alone warrants him being in the lineup for a team [with this offense].”

In the primary two video games of this collection, he batted 9th. In the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, Bellinger struck out two times and poked an opposite-field unmarried. In six at-bats on this collection, he has struck out 4 instances.

The Dodgers didn’t have the funds for him a 7th at-bat, no less than no longer Wednesday. With the possible tying runs on base within the 8th inning, they batted for Bellinger. The pinch-hitter used to be a backup catcher with a profession .225 batting moderate.

But within the 6th inning, Bellinger stored two runs through making essentially the most tricky play a middle fielder could make. On a ball hit without delay towards him and over his head, Bellinger twisted and became and twisted and became, chickening out after which jumping to grasp the ball out of the air as he hit the caution observe.

“He made a heck of a play,” Roberts mentioned.

“I know he is doing the best he can, and he snuck in a knock tonight. He still is working through some things, but yeah, I mean, at some point we’re going to need that offense, certainly.”

On Friday, Trayce Thompson will transfer from left area to heart, with Chris Taylor beginning in left, Roberts mentioned.

The Dodgers don’t seem to be burying Bellinger. In the 2021 postseason, the Dodgers didn’t get started him two times, each instances towards left-handers: Alex Wood of the San Francisco Giants and Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves. The Padres’ scheduled beginning pitcher Friday: left-hander Blake Snell, towards whom Bellinger has batted 10 instances, struck out 4, and gotten one hit.

While the Dodgers glance ahead and hope for a grasp hit or two from him this weekend, a glance again is a look at a exceptional descent.

Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger catches a fly ball hit by San Diego Padres' Austin Nola.

Dodgers heart fielder Cody Bellinger catches a fly ball hit through San Diego Padres’ Austin Nola all through the 6th inning in Game 2 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

In 2019, Bellinger used to be the league’s most dear participant, and its chief in WAR, with a 1.035 OPS. In the postseason, he batted cleanup.

In 2021, he batted .165, with a .542 OPS. Of the 132 NL gamers with no less than 300 plate appearances that season, he ranked 131st. He struck out greater than ever. When he hit the ball, he hit it exhausting not up to ever.

The Dodgers had explanation why to hope Bellinger’s 2021 used to be an aberration.

He began the season past due as he recovered from shoulder surgical operation, then hung out at the injured checklist on account of calf, hamstring and rib accidents.

The calendar became to 2022, and to spring coaching. The video games didn’t depend, however the indicators weren’t just right. Bellinger batted .139 remaining spring, with no extra-base hits and 18 strikeouts in 36 at-bats.

In the common season, the Dodgers gave 500 at-bats to 5 gamers. The different 4 — Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and Trea Turner — every had been no less than 20% above league moderate, in accordance to the OPS+ statistic. Bellinger used to be 20% underneath league moderate. He struck out much more continuously than he had in 2021.

He batted .210, with a .654 OPS. Of the 63 NL gamers that certified for the batting identify, Bellinger ranked sixtieth in OPS.

The Dodgers hope to push off communicate of the longer term, no less than during the finish of the month. At some level, the Dodgers can have to make a decision whether or not to retain Bellinger — his wage subsequent season is estimated at $18.1 million, in accordance to the MLB Trade Rumors projections — or believe tactics to get extra manufacturing out of the location.

In the remaining postseason recreation through which he didn’t get started — Game 1 of remaining yr’s NL championship collection — he got here off the bench and were given a unmarried.

We be mindful ideal what came about remaining, and one candy hit in October may just blur the reminiscence of every other bitter summer time.

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