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How Bellinger becomes first to hit 40 homers in the season

How Bellinger becomes first to hit 40 homers in the season

Posted August. 17, 2019 07:28,   

Updated August. 17, 2019 07:28


Outfielder Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a powerful teammate of Ryu Hyun-jin, hit a new milestone of his 40th home run of the season. His outstanding performance is drawing attention as Bellinger has joined the list of power hitters despite his relatively small physique.

On Sunday, the Dodgers’ outfielder hit a three-run homer over the right fence when the Dodgers was behind the Miami Marlins 4-13 with runners in the first and second bases and a two strikeout count in the seventh inning. Although the Dodgers lost to the Marlins 7-13, Bellinger set his new record by hitting one more homer than his previous record at 39 home runs per season back in 2017. Center fielder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels also hit his 40th homer as well on the same day. The two players currently have the highest number of home runs for this season in the Major League Baseball, with potential to reach 53 homers continuing the current pace.

Bellinger is tall with a height of 193 centimeters but weighed less than 70 kilograms until his high school years, which prevented him from being a power hitter. It was Gabe Kapler, then-Director of Player Development at the Dodgers and now the manager for the Philadelphia Phillies, who ordered Bellinger to build a strong physique. The outfielder began the diet of drinking one gallon of milk every day to successfully increase his weight close to 100 kilograms, and made it known that he could hit hard with 39 home runs in his first season in the majors.

Bellinger who only managed to earn 25 home runs last year is once again showcasing outstanding performance this season. One of the reasons behind his increased number of homers and highest batting average since his debut at 0.317 is a return to a hitting posture better suited for him. He held a bat parallel to the ground with his right leg slightly open to the first base during his first year in the majors but changed to a posture where he held a bat standing upwards with both of his feet parallel to each other and his upper body slightly bending forward. This year, the 24-year-old outfielder switched back to his old posture.

“Bellinger went back to his posture in 2017, which produced a lot of extra-base hits, and learned how to better deal with the balls that are high and close to the batter, which was pointed out as his weakness back then,” said MBC Sports Plus Commentator Song Jae-woo. “Pitchers often throw balls towards the outer section of the strike zone due to the hitting style of Bellinger to swing inwardly. Bellinger is even making improvements with this type of pitches as well. He is still very young and has huge potential to become a better player so it will become more difficult for pitchers to find his weak spots.”

With Bellinger’s great performance as a hitter, his teammate Ryu Hyun-jin’s chance to win the Cy Young Award, which is given annually to the best pitchers in Major League Baseball, is increasing. As most teams are struggling with high performance by pitchers and low performance by hitters, the local media are picking Ryu as a strong candidate to win both the Cy Young Award and the MVP Award for his remarkable 1.45 ERA, the lowest in the league.

The South Korea pitcher will seek his 13th win of the season against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. Mike Foltynewicz will be the first pitcher to step on the mound against the Dodgers. Ryu led his team to a win by decision against Foltynewicz by not allowing a single run and earning eight strikeouts for seven innings at the first round of the National League Division Series last year. Foltynewicz, who conceded four runs for two innings then, is not showcasing his best performance with four wins and five losses and a 6.24 ERA this season.

Pitcher Mike Soroka of the Atlanta Braves with the second-lowest ERA of 2.32 will step on the mound as the first pitcher on Saturday against the Dodgers. Soroka will not go head-to-head against Ryu, but it will be interesting to see a performance by pitchers with the No. 1 and No. 2 ERA records back-to-back.

Bae-Jung Kim wanted@donga.com