In last night’s 5-3 loss for the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Atlanta Braves, Cody Bellinger smashed the 30th home run of his season. According to Joe Davis in the broadcast, this matches the NL rookie home run record for a left-handed hitter. This also puts Bellinger on a list of 27 other MLB players ever to hit at least 30 home runs in their rookie season.
Bellinger is the first hitter to hit 30 home runs in his rookie season going all the way back to…Aaron Judge on July 7th of this season. Other players in the 2000s to hit 30 or more home runs as a rookie are Jose Abreu in 2014, Mike Trout in 2012, Chris Young and Ryan Braun in 2007, and Albert Pujols in 2001.
Despite there only being 28 players to ever accomplish this feat, Bellinger and Judge are far from the only pair to ever do it in the same season.
2007 – Chris Young (32 HR) and Ryan Braun (34 HR)
1993 – Mike Piazza (35 HR) and Tim Salmon (31 HR)
1987 – Mark McGwire (49 HR) and Matt Nokes (32 HR)
1986 – Jose Canseco (33 HR) and Pete Incaviglia (30 HR)
1971 – Earl Williams (33 HR) and Willie Montanez (30 HR)
1964 – Tony Oliva (32 HR) and Jim Ray Hart (31 HR)
1950 – Al Rosen (37 HR) and Walt Dropo (34 HR)
Before 1950, there were only four players to ever hit 30 or more home runs as a rookie. Those took place in 1930 (Wally Berger), 1934 (Hal Trosky), 1937 (Rudy York), and 1939 (Ted Williams). It took until that 1950 season before two were ever able to hit 30-plus in the same season.
Interestingly enough, from that point on this has happened at least once in every decade with the 50s, 60s, 70s, twice in the 80s, 90s, 00s, and now 10s. 16 of the 28 times a player has accomplished this, another player has done the same thing.
Of course, the games played for the majority of players on this list were done in nearly full seasons. All but four of the players on this list hit their 30-plus home runs in 135 or more games played. Below are the four that have not:
Ryan Braun – 113 Games, 34 Home Runs
Rudy York – 104 Games, 35 Home Runs
Aaron Judge – 103 Games, 34 Home Runs
Cody Bellinger – 87 Games, 30 Home Runs
Bellinger and Judge are not yet finished and are likely to climb out of the bottom of it. The Dodgers have 55 games remaining and the Yankees have 56. While neither player is likely to play every single one of these games, if they are healthy, they will play most of them. This gives Bellinger the potential to play 142 games total, and Judge 159.
If Bellinger ends up playing something like 50 of those 55 games, accounting for rest days, he will finish with 137 games, which would be just below Mike Trout in 2012 and still 6th lowest on the list. At his current pace, Bellinger is hitting a home run every 2.9 games. Continuing on this pace for 50 more games would give him 17 more home runs, and 47 for his season, 2 shy of Big Mac’s rookie record of 49.
As great as that would be, that kind of pace is unlikely to continue. However, with 55 games remaining, there is no reason not to expect anywhere from 8-10 more before the season is over. If we split the difference, this would give Bellinger 39 home runs overall. Mark McGwire holds the rookie record with 49, and he holds that by a very wide margin of 11 over Rank Robinson and Wally Berger. Bellinger has some good potential to end up with not only the most home runs from a rookie in Dodgers history (Mike Piazza – 35), but the second most of any rookie in MLB history.
Not only are there a few Hall of Fame talents in the way of Bellinger reaching some pretty historic rookie home run totals (Mike Piazza – 35, Albert Pujols – 37, Frank Robinson – 38), but he is still four home runs behind the extremely powerful Aaron Judge.
As I previously mentioned, Judge has 34 home runs in 103 games, with 56 potential games remaining. Going off of similar math with Bellinger, let’s say that Judge plays about 50 or so more games. This would put him near the top of the pack, right around Jimmie Hall and Al Rosen in the mid 150s. He has hit a home run this season once every 3 games, giving him the pace of 17 more home runs the rest of the way playing 51 games. This would put Judge 2 ahead of Big Mac’s rookie record with 51 hit.
Much like Bellinger, it’s fairly unlikely to see Judge smash 17 more home runs, especially since he’s been struggling a bit more the last month or so. However, I’m sure we could see anywhere from 8-12 home runs the rest of the way from Judge. I am giving Judge a bit higher of a power ceiling because even if he struggles with the bat, he is still smashing home runs. As well Bellinger’s power had slowed down a bit going back to 6/26, with just 6 home runs in that time span, though he’s certainly heating up the last week and a half. Judge has 8 in that same time frame.
Let’s say Judge hits 10 home runs the rest of the way. This gives him 44 home runs in his rookie season, which would easily be the second most hit ever by a rookie. To pass Robinson and Berger, Judge actually only has to hit just 5 more home runs. This is something that he could knock out of the park before the end of August.
Bellinger’s Spot by the End of the Season
If things go like I mapped out above, here is where things would stand:
Mark McGwire – 49 HR
Aaron Judge – 44 HR
Cody Bellinger – 39 HR
To have one rookie get this high up the rookie home run list would be great. But to see two rookies in the same season break into the top three would be historic.
Bellinger and the Dodgers
By hitting his 30th home run, Bellinger has become the first Dodger to hit 30 home runs since Matt Kemp did so in 2011. If Bellinger hits the 39 home run mark that I set for him, it would tie the amount of home runs that Kemp hit, but in far fewer games. However, if Bellinger exceeds my expectations and hits 40-plus, he would be the first Dodger to hit that many since Adrian Beltre hit 48 in 2004.
The power that Cody Bellinger is showing is something that the Dodgers have not been used to for a while. Outside of the 39 home runs hit by Kemp in 2011, the only other 30-plus home run season for the Dodgers going back to 2005 was Andre Ethier with 31 in 2009. In that time the Dodgers have had some good hitters, but no one all that powerful outside of Kemp and then Ethier for one career year, power-wise.
Cody Bellinger is the future for the Dodgers at 1B. He is someone that will play very good defense from the scouting reports and just what we have seen. He is also someone who may be a threat to hit 30-plus home runs every year for a long time, with a shot at some 40-plus home runs seasons if we are lucky. A consistent year-to-year power threat in the lineup is not something the Dodgers have had since the days of Gary Sheffield and Shawn Green in the early 2000s, and it seems like they finally have that in Bellinger.
With some home run milestones still coming up, there may still be a lot to write about when it comes to Cody Bellinger in 2017.