In 2019, the Los Angeles Dodgers looked like they had baseball's best young player. Their answer to Mike Trout was a 24-year-old, multi-positional slugger who won a Gold Glove and the NL MVP Award in only his third big league season. Since then, Cody Bellinger has been an absolute mess and no one seems to know why.
In 2019, Bellinger hit .305, with 47 home runs, 115 RBI, an OPS of 1.035 and posted career-bests in fWAR (7.8) and wRC+ (162). After a terrible 2020 campaign that could have been chalked up to the weirdness of the shortened season, Bellinger has again been awful in 2021. So far this year in 40 games, Bellinger is hitting .156, with four home runs, 19 RBIs, an OPS of .538, an fWAR of -0.1 and a wRC+ of 56. He's been positively brutal.
Again, we had signs of this in 2020. Bellinger hit .239 in the shortened season with a .789 OPS, a 1.2 fWAR and a wRC+ of 114 in 56 games. He wasn't good, but he's gotten much, much worse.
So, what gives? How did one of MLB's best players just fall completely off the map? Some of it might be health, after he suffered a hairline fracture in his leg early in the season and missed two months. But he's supposedly healthy now and hasn't bounced back.
The advanced numbers aren't good. His K% is up to 26.9 percent from 16.4 percent in 2019. His ISO (isolated power) has dropped from .324 in 2019 to .106 this year, and his batting average on balls in play has plummeted from .302 in 2019 to .191 this season. Additionally, he's simply not hitting the ball as hard as he used to. He's also only hitting home runs on 9.1 percent of the flyballs he hits this season, compared to 24.6 percent in 2019.
Perhaps most concerning for the Dodgers, Bellinger's hard contact percentage has dropped from 45.7 percent in 2019 to 30.6 percent in 2021. His average exit velocity of 88.9 is also a career low.
Bellinger is really having issues turning fastballs around this season. He's hitting .134 and slugging .317 against them. He's also whiffing on 27.5 percent of the fastballs he swings, while league average is around 21.2 percent.
So the answer to what's wrong with Bellinger is, well, a lot. He's been attempting to fix his batting stance for a few weeks but nothing has worked. Given the tight NL West race the Dodgers find themselves in, they're going to need him playing at an All-Star level.
The franchise needs to figure this out and fix whatever is ailing Bellinger.