Not long ago, the game of baseball was in the hands of young superstars Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. “Yeli vs Belli” was a debate for two years. The Los Angeles Dodger and Milwaukee Brewer, respectively, were lighting the league on fire and ushering in what appeared to be the next generation of dueling sluggers that would contend for the National League MVP on a yearly basis. As we approach the All-Star break in a few weeks, the two “sluggers” have combined for eight home runs in 233 at bats — one home run per 29.2 ABs.
Let’s take a trip back to 2018. At season’s end, the two tallied 61 long balls in a combined 1131 at bats — one every 18.5. In 2019, the duo continued to grow into premier power hitters, logging 91 bombas in 1047 at bats — one every 11.5.
They’re hitting home runs roughly 61 percent less frequently at the heights of their careers. What the hell happened?
The problem doesn’t only lie in their home run numbers — both outfielders are significantly struggling in all aspects of hitting. Let’s start with Yelich.
In 2019, when Yelich hit 44 home runs, he was dominant at the plate in every way. He had a slash line of .329/.429/.671, for an OPS of 1.100. All four numbers led the league. Compare that to his slash line this year, and you would think they’re different players. .247/.403/.396, and a .799 OPS.
It’s been a similar battle for Bellinger. Granted that this year started with a leg injury, but when in the lineup, his inefficiency has been dramatic. Compare his .305/.406/.629 line and 1.035 OPS in 2019 to this year’s .215/.344/.367 and .711 OPS, and he’s fallen from grace.
What happened to these feared batters? The two young former-stars are now afterthoughts when listing the faces of the game. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuńa have stolen that mantle in the National League.
One interesting nugget to the Yelich equation — he’s swinging less, but seeing more strikes. Yelich went from a dominant, aggressive hitter to a passive one. He looks confused at the plate, and his approach is broken.
For Bellinger, it’s been a season that started with a hairline fracture in his leg in April. He returned on May 29, but still hasn’t been his former self. There was a flash of his old self for two games last week; he went 1-2 with a home run on June 26, and 1-2 with a walk-off the next night.
“He’s back!” Dodgers fans yell from Southern California.
Except for the part where he went 0-6 with four strikeouts over the next two games.
Yeli and Beli are struggling, in a massive way. 2019 feels like an eternity ago, both from a “remember the world before the pandemic?” and a “remember when those two guys were really good?” sense.