Dodgers Dugout: Is it time to send Cody Bellinger to the minors?
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I know the exact reason why “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is failing at the box office: The guy playing young Han Solo acts nothing like a young Han Solo.
What’s wrong with Cody?
We could ignore it at first, since it seemed the entire offense was mired in a slump to begin the season. But now, as the Dodgers emerge from their slumber to once again look like the 2017 team, it is impossible to ignore the Bellinger in the room: What’s wrong with Cody?
Let’s look at some numbers.
2017: .267/.352/.581/143 OPS+/4.2 WAR
2018: .225/.298/.413/95 OPS+/0.4 WAR
April 2017: .286/.375/.571
May 2017: .245/.316/.566
June 2017: .286/.361/.743
July 2017: .263/.372/.463
Aug. 2017: .292/.370/.615
Sept. 2017: .252/.350/.505
April 2018: .280/.339/.458
May 2018: .180/.265/.390
Projected 2018 numbers over 548 plate appearances, the same he had last season (2017 numbers)
Hits: 111 (128)
Doubles: 23 (26)
Homers: 18 (39)
RBIs: 58 (97)
Walks: 51 (64)
Strikeouts: 136 (146)
Bellinger has a 14.5% swinging strike percentage, compared to 13.2% last season, and he makes contact with pitches he swings at in the strike zone 71.6% of the time, compared to 77% last season.
So, Bellinger is in a terrible slump. It started in the World Series, and really hasn’t stopped this season. While his average was OK in April, his home run power has all but disappeared. He looks lost at the plate, constantly talking to himself, and he still hasn’t figured out he should not swing at low and inside breaking balls.
Pitchers are throwing him more curveballs this season and more fastballs, and he looks unprepared for either of those pitches, with his swing going through the strike zone about the same time the catcher is returning the ball to the pitcher (at least that’s what it seems like).
So, what’s the problem? Could be any number of things. Pitchers could have discovered a hole in his swing and are taking advantage of it. Bulking up in the off-season could have slowed his swing enough that he can’t catch up to fastballs. He stands up too straight in the box. He played over his head last season and isn’t as brilliant a hitter as he seemed. The World Series slump hurt his confidence. And the list goes on.
Which is it? I have been trying to figure it out when I suddenly realized that I don’t need to figure it out. Bellinger and the Dodgers do. But I do know that the Dodgers need to do at least one of three things:
1. Move him back to first base. Since moving to center, Bellinger is hitting .133/.220/.311. As a first baseman he hit .250/.317/.445. If Max Muncy is ready to play second, you could put him there and Bellinger back at first.
2. Move him lower in the lineup. He is slugging .517 when hitting sixth or lower, .397 when batting fifth or higher. Moving Yasiel Puig to eighth took all the pressure off him last season, and he responded with a great season. Why not try it with Bellinger for a couple of weeks?
3. Send him to the minors to figure things out. Sending the defending Rookie of the Year to the minors would be a huge move. Some fans are already calling for that to happen. But I’d rather see them drop him in the lineup first. It’s easy to say “send him down” from the comfort of my living room, but I have no idea how that would impact Bellinger mentally. Maybe he is fragile and sending him down would just destroy him. Maybe it would light a fire under him. I don’t know. It worked with Puig, but Puig also had a couple of seasons of poor play before they sent him down. Same thing with Joc Pederson. I think Bellinger deserves a little more time in the majors, especially now that the rest of the lineup is hitting better and they can tuck him down low.
When asked about Bellinger and sending him to the minors, here’s what Dave Roberts had to say on Sunday:
“We’re not there yet. I think whatever we decide for Cody — whether it’s to keep running him out there, giving him days off — entertaining that option, obviously, we’d have to really think through it. It’d have to be in his best interest, in our opinion. We haven’t got to that point yet. But you can see that it’s been tough sledding for him for the first two months of the season.”
Q&A with Dodgers in-game host Emily Haydel
If you go to Dodger Stadium, you are familiar with the Dodger in-game hosts. They try to keep the crowd involved before the game and try to keep them pumped up during the game. Some people love them, some hate them, but it’s a thankless job. One of the in-game hosts, Emily Haydel, answered some questions recently about the job.
Q: What is your official job title and how did you get your job with the Dodgers?
A: My official title is in-game host. I also host the Facebook Live Dodger Insider before home games during the week as well. I basically got my job through networking. I interned as a field producer for the Mets last season, and when we didn’t have games, I reached out to all MLB teams to understand what they did for their in-game entertainment, and after gathering the info and interviewing each team over the phone, I compiled the info into a packet and resent it out to the teams across the MLB for everyone to compare and contrast what works well for other teams etc. One of the teams I reached out and spoke with was the Dodgers, and in January, after a few months of taking time to travel after the Mets season ended, I traveled to L.A. to get some leads on a job. I reached out again and met with the Dodgers and learned about this position. The rest is history.
Q: What’s a typical day at Dodger Stadium? You get there at what time? Take us through your day.
A: I get to the stadium about 3½ hours before game time. I’ve already received the script for the day and what I’m talking about pre-game and in-game in an email. When I arrive, if it’s a weekday home game, I also receive the rundown for the Facebook Live show. When I arrive, I sit down with our director and producer of Facebook Live and go over the rundown in more detail. Around 4, we go down to listen to Dave Roberts’ news conference in the dugout, and once that’s over, the director and I pick out quotes we want to use in the FB Live show.
We then go over to the seats/camera behind the first- or third-base field entrance and wait for the show. We film the show, and we go back upstairs and go over what we’re doing for in-game with the game producer and the field producers and the coordinator. I write down everything on note cards, so I can rehearse and refer to it if I forget. Then we have about an hour or so to kill before pre-game starts. I usually am still writing on the note cards because I’m just slow, and everyone else is talking in the office. Then I rehearse with the other in-game host about 10 minutes before we go live in stadium, usually on field or in the left- or right-field plaza. Once pregame ends, we usually go eat or just hang out in the office until our first in-game feature. I get to the feature location about an inning before. Recently, I was the only host, so I was running back and forth all game. And we just repeat that. And once we’re finished, we leave.
Q: Do you ever pick out a fan to take part in something and they just don't want to do it, or, when the camera gets on them, they turn into stone and have no personality? How do you save that situation?
A: . I usually don’t pick out the fan unless it’s a friend who’s at the game. Blue Crew picks out the fans before each feature. I meet the fan about a half inning before the feature. I’ve never had a fan that turns to stone because they don’t have to do anything but say what number the cap is under or which song it is. Recently, a fan tried to mess with me on an answer and that threw me off, but it was fun.
Q: What is the toughest part about your job, and what part do you look forward to the most?
A: The toughest part is that we don’t have in-ear monitors to stop the feedback we hear within the stadium, especially when we’re on the field. So, when I’m talking, I’m hearing what I’m saying back two seconds later, and it’s very distracting. I’m still getting used to it, but eventually, you just have to ignore it. This is my first on-camera job ever. I’ve usually been behind the camera producing whether it was with the Mets, or when I was at Michigan (I graduated from there last year), so curating, if you will, my on-air presence has been quite the journey. Getting comfortable and showing my personality in front of the camera as well is a process.
Q: I know this is beyond your control, but are the people who control the volume of the music and audio at Dodger Stadium deaf? Because they seem to think the stadium volume needs to be like we are all at a convention for the hard of hearing.
A. Ha ha, no they are not. I think the music level is great.
Q: Last question, is there anywhere else we can hear or listen to you outside of Dodger Stadium?
A: I have a podcast called The Ball Out with E&K where a longtime friend and I talk about pop culture, sports, and life in general. We’ve had guests such as Giancarlo Stanton and Olympic bobsledder Elana Meyers-Taylor. You can find it on the Podcasts app or SoundCloud, and our Twitter handle is @TheBallOutWEK . I also run an account/am the reporter/voice for an online network for the fandom of the K-Pop group BTS. It’s called “21st century army.” We have a twitter (@21centarmy), instagram (@twentyfirstcenturyarmy), and YouTube (21st century ARMY). This is something I’ve started to dedicate a lot of time too and hopefully we can get BTS to throw out the first pitch on Korea night (Sept. 4) before their world tour starts on Sept. 5. I’m gonna get the fans and hopefully Dodgers twitter to trend it.
Tuesday, 4 p.m.: Dodgers (Ross Stripling, 3-1, 1.68 ERA) at Pittsburgh (Joe Musgrove, 2-0, 0.64 ERA).
Wednesday, 4 p.m.: Dodgers (TBD) at Pittsburgh (Trevor Williams, 5-3, 3.84 ERA).
Thursday, 9:30 a.m.: Dodgers (Dennis Santana, 1-0, 12.27 ERA) at Pittsburgh (Jameson Taillon, 3-4, 3.97 ERA).
You can read Andy McCullough’s article on Ross Stripling by clicking here.