Chicago Cubs News: Is Cody Bellinger's recent stretch a sign of hope?
It was a tough opening series for Chicago Cubs center fielder Cody Bellinger back on March 30 - April 2nd. In the series against the Milwaukee Brewers, he went 0-11 with one walk and four strikeouts. The rough first few games made it easy for fans to already wonder if Bellinger was going to bring any sort of offensive production, considering he had struggled over the past few seasons with the Dodgers.
Since the first series, his bat has woken up. In his past eight games, Bellinger is slashing .323/.371/.548 with two home runs, 140 wRC+, .390 wOBA, three walks, and eight RBI. His strikeout rate over that stretch is at 8.6% with an 86.8% contact rate. The contact has resulted in a .296 BABIP, 31% of batted balls were on the ground, 55.2% in the air and 13.8% were line drives.
His total season slash went from .000/.083/.000 in the first three games to .238/.298/.405 with an 86 wRC+ in 11 games.
The .235 BABIP on the season and .296 BABIP over the past eight games are also noteworthy. Per Statcast, three of the four balls Bellinger has hit with an exit velocity over 100 MPH have been outs. It's not expected for him to have a massively high BABIP seeing as he is a pull-heavy hitter, but we can see his putting the ball in play has at least climbed in terms of batted balls finding grass.
This sample size is obviously small and there is a lot of season left to be played. It seems incredibly unlikely that he will find his All-Star/MVP form, but getting an improved and decently productive Bellinger will be a plus for the Cubs. Being able to continue to cut down on the strikeouts over this season (K rate was over 26% in 2021 and 2022) will help. Continuing to put together solid at-bats goes along with that. The ban on the shift can also help with some of those pulled smashes to the right side.
Steamer projections currently have Bellinger at .236/.310/.414 with a 104 wRC+, 17 home runs, and a 24.2% strikeout rate on the year. If this is around what he gives us, at this point in his career, Cubs will take that. It would be his first wRC+ over 100 and slugging over .400 since 2020 with a slight cut down on strikeouts from 2021-2022.