There was cautious optimism after the Chicago Cubs signed center fielder Cody Bellinger that the left-handed hitter could get back to his 2019 version. Well, maybe not that good, because Bellinger was coming off back-to-back dreadful seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Cubs fans were hopeful, that healthy again, Bellinger would be a difference maker in 2023.
Well, heading into the month of May, Bellinger has exceeded even the highest of some fans’ expectations because the 27-year-old is a legit MVP candidate in the National League through the first month of the season.
On Sunday, Bellinger hit his seventh home run of the year, blasting a solo shot in the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins. It was his second long ball in as many games down in Miami and it was also his fourth home run against left-handed pitching this season.
Bellinger’s second deck homer on Saturday was also against a left-handed pitcher.
Bellinger has started 24 of the Cubs 27 games all in center field, only missing three home games this past week against the San Diego Padres, as he was away from the team on paternity leave after he and his girlfriend welcomed their second child to the world.
Not only has Bellinger been the most valuable player on the Cubs, the outfielder has been one of the best players in the entire National League. Following Sunday’s game, Bellinger has now been worth 1.3 fWAR. He was worth 1.8 fWAR in 144 games with the Dodgers all of last year. In 2021, Bellinger only played in 95 games with Los Angeles, and he had the worst season of his career, posting a -1.0 fWAR.
Cody Bellinger National League Rankings
MVP Belli. You love to see it
— Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto21) April 30, 2023
That Milwaukee Brewers series seems like ages ago. Cody Bellinger’s first three games with his new team went as poorly as it could get. The Cubs opened the year at Wrigley Field and they faced a tough Milwaukee pitching staff, going up against Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Eric Lauer. Bellinger went 0-for-11, with one RBI, four strikeouts and one walk.
However, ever since then, Bellinger has been on fire and after his 1-for-3 game on Sunday, he’s now slashing .297/.371/.604.
1.3 fWAR: tied for 6th
7 HR: tied for 6th
22 R: 2nd most, tied with 3 other players
.604 SLG: 5th highest
One other thing stands out the most when you look at different stat leaders and it’s the strikeout rate. Back in 2019, when Bellinger won National League MVP, he had a 16.4 strikeout rate. That was fantastic because not only was Bellinger striking out fewer times than the average hitter, he was still hitting for a lot of power, crushing 47 home runs that year with a .629 slugging percentage.
Well, through his first 24 games with the Cubs in 2023, Bellinger has a 16.2 strikeout rate, the 16th lowest among 96 qualified players in the National League, while also hitting seven home runs and posting a .604 slugging percentage.
We are seeing 2019 MVP Cody Bellinger so far with the 2023 Chicago Cubs.