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The complete Cody Bellinger: A 2021 #SaveEli postmortem

Or “Cody and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad...Year” or “He’s only Mostly-Dead.”

Cody Bellinger up to bat in Pittsburgh. June 9, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

As #JuniorCircuit has a signature GIF, whenever I return to the past of #SaveEli, I shall draw upon the meme I’ve adopted for my own. I feel that it’s important to lean into your eccentricities. Plus, the GIF really does sum up that first trip.

“Cody and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad...Year”

From the Adventures of Edwin Rios...

After Game 2, which was [Edwin Rios’] final game of the year, he was batting .078. A statline that would make former-Max Scherzer green with envy, as he went 0 for the season, and current Dodger Cody Bellinger green with empathy, probably in a “thank God, I wasn’t that bad” manner (he’ll have his turn in the barrel…oh stories to tell as to that one.)

Cody Bellinger moving back to his position in Los Angeles on September 15, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

It was rough to watch Cody Bellinger in 2021. Every time you thought “that’s got to be bottom, right?” - it just kept getting worse. It’s worth supplementing what Eric wrote:

In just the fifth game of the season, with the Dodgers leading by seven runs in the ninth inning, Bellinger beat out an infield dribbler, only to get spiked by covering pitcher Reymin Guadan at first base. Initially, Bellinger was thought to have left calf contusions, but after he didn’t improve, further testing showed a fractured left fibula that knocked him out for 46 games.

Don’t even have a vista shot for this stadium.
April 5, 2021 was a fun night in Oakland until you know - CRUNCH.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

As previously discussed, the night Bellinger broke his leg, Dustin May looked like a cocky demi-god. Moreover, the Dodgers’ offense looked unstoppable. As such, they were romping on a chilly night in Oakland. That game was a special night, as it was the first time I had seen my colleague and friend from law school since the pandemic began. In fact, that night there was only one entrance to that decrepit hole, which is otherwise known as the Oakland Coliseum. This oddity was because all the other entrances were devoted to administering COVID vaccinations.

We happily showed our cards, as we were just trying to get to the game. And we had a ball, as the Dodgers were up 10-3. Then, Cody Bellinger hit a ground ball single into the shift which looked normal until, well - CRUNCH. We all figured he had just been spiked, by accident, of course. But it was worse than that. As a result, I didn’t see Cody Bellinger again until June 5, 2021, in Atlanta. The irony is that the infield hit was Bellinger’s only hit of the night. He went 0 for 5 otherwise with 2K. Eric went into the stats with aplomb. I can only add what I personally saw.

Michael Elizondo

I saw Bellinger in person 18 times in 2021, even with all the injuries. Per Baseball-Reference, Bellinger had a -1.5 WAR for the year.

Cody Bellinger in 2021 #SaveEli Games

Games (out of 30) 18
Games (out of 30) 18
AB 67
H 9
BA 0.134
R 6
HR 1
2B 1
3B 0
BB 3
K 14
SF 1
OBP 0.169
SLG 0.194
Decent statline if one is a pitcher, but Cody Bellinger is not a pitcher. Michael Elizondo

The above statline is an ugly stat line for a regular who isn’t a pitcher. In a quirk, typical of 2021, I was present for Bellinger’s only sacrifice fly of the year. It was in Miami and in prior years, it probably should have been a home run, but c’est la vie.

There was one stretch in May/June, where I went to Atlanta and Pittsburgh, where Bellinger resembled a major league hitter. He went 5 for 20 (.250) in five games in Atlanta and Pittsburgh, with 2 R, a BB, and 2 Ks.

Cody Bellinger at bat in Pittsburgh on June 10, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

However, that means he went 4 for 47 (.085) throughout the rest of the regular season when I was around!

Cody Bellinger struck out against the Diamondbacks on September 13, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

When diving into the statistics, a single question rose to mind: Was there anyone in baseball with a similar stat line under the same or similar conditions?

And to my surprise, there was such a player, as this player went 2 for 39 (.051) with 19K. (Antonio Senzatela of the Colorado Rockies.) To compound insult to injury, even when Bellinger was helping in the regular season, it did not look right.

Considering Bellinger’s offensive futility, apart from the salary, the main reason to keep him in the Dodgers’ lineup in 2021 was his defense. But even at the end of the year, he was the clear fourth outfielder, especially once AJ Pollock injured himself on the worst slide I had seen in a long time, in San Francisco.

Cody Bellinger warming up prior to the Dodgers’ loss in Atlanta on June 6, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

I suppose if I truly wanted to share the quintessential Cody Bellinger regular season at-bat of 2021, the first at-bat that comes to mind is from Game 4 of the series in St. Louis on September 9, 2011. To some, Dave Roberts essentially sent out a Triple-AAA lineup. Personally, I did not mind as I figured that the reserves of both sides would somehow crank out an 11-9 game because…baseball! (That outcome did not happen in any conceivable form. If you like pop-ups and strikeouts, then this game in St. Louis was for you...weirdo.)

The at-bat in question is from the top of the third inning. The Dodgers have the bases loaded and seemed poised to punch the Cardinals in the mouth and amp up the pressure on the Giants in the NL West race. Up comes…Cody Bellinger…who was at bat for about the length of a literal sneeze. Bellinger hit a first pitch pop-up out. MVP Bellinger would have knocked that pitch to the moon. 2021 Bellinger maybe hit the ball 200-250 feet.

The Dodgers went meekly for the rest of the game and I consoled myself by looking at an arch and drinking seven-dollar Amaretto Sours nearby until I didn’t much mind what I had seen. (Spoiler alert for the St. Louis page of the Guide.)

If I truly wanted to depress myself, I would go through all the Bellinger games I was there in person for and count how many times Cody Bellinger grounded out into the shift. (It was a lot, but Eric doesn’t pay me enough to design hair shirts.) Bellinger’s offensive ineptitude got to the point where I would literally shout encouragement and plead for Bellinger to literally hit it anywhere else away from the shift. It did not help. If I had a dollar for every time I saw him hit into the shift, I’d likely have enough to pay for a day’s worth of expenses on a trip. If I also included the strikeouts, I could literally fund a day trip right there.

But unlike the McKinstry postmortem, that’s not all there is to this Postmortem as there was another act to Bellinger in 2021.

He’s only Mostly-Dead.

In order to make the following point, I recall one of my favorite moments from The Princess Bride. We return to Game 2 of the NLDS – or my first live postseason game ever.

It’s fair to point out that while Bellinger broke the game open, he did end up going for 1 for 4 with 3Ks. At the start of the game, it was more of the same. The below at-bat demonstrates my point. As you can see, that swing is the same bad swing I had previously seen from coast to coast.

So imagine my genuine surprise when the following happened, with an opportunity to do some damage, later in the game:

The Dodgers never looked back in that game. It seemed like Bellinger had finally turned a corner.

And if we’re lucky, Bellinger makes some semblance of a return to form in 2022. It would be quite disheartening if he were to follow the Yasiel Puig arc. It seems pretty clear that Bellinger can function and grind in the clubhouse with everything stacked against him.

Before I conclude this trip down memory lane, it’s worth pointing out two moments to supplement the official recap. When I went to the White House in 2014, I did not have the presence of mind to spin around like Bellinger and call a buddy a “paper chaser.”

(For the record, the following trailer is the only Paper Chase that I acknowledge but we’ll get to that during Chris Taylor’s Postmortem. (spoiler alert))

But if we’re going to relive Game 3 of the NLCS we might as well do it right.

That pitch was at his literal eyeballs

To this day, I still can’t believe it. I only wish that I saw it live, but the only playoff game I saw in 2021, the Dodgers won.