Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger is the leading man of the 2019 season. Bellinger is quite literally leading the National League in batting average, OBP, OPS+, and bWAR, and he’s also emerged as the best player on the best team in the NL. The 23-year-old first baseman–outfielder was a solid and popular player in his first two seasons, if not an MVP candidate. But in his third campaign, Bellinger has taken The Leap, inspiring comparisons to Mike Trout, and not just via partisan puffery from Dodgers diehards.
For example: In late April, The Ringer’s Zach Kram feted Bellinger’s hot start, and a month later Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times wrote that “two months of pyrotechnics is not enough to override nearly a decade of brilliance from Trout. But Bellinger is playing at a level at which few can relate—even Trout.” These are measured, cautious comparisons, but it takes a hell of a season to get serious analysts to invoke The Trout at all. And “a hell of a season” hardly begins to describe what Bellinger’s continued to do through late June.
Bellinger sits atop all three major WAR leaderboards, a full win ahead of Trout on Baseball Reference, and either practically or literally tied with Trout on FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, with those two about a win ahead of all other position players by all three metrics.
A career .263 hitter heading into this season, Bellinger is now batting .354. He’s also graded out as the second-best defender in baseball by FRAA and the second-best by dWAR; even if he is benefiting statistically from being a part of the Dodgers’ excellent teamwide defense, that’s frankly an incredible number for a right fielder who as a prospect profiled as likely to end up at first base permanently. After striking out more than twice as often as he walked through his first two seasons, Bellinger has walked 51 times this season against just 49 strikeouts, and his 199 OPS+ not only leads the league, but over a full season would be the highest OPS+ by a qualified hitter since Barry Bonds hit .362/.609/.812 in 2004.
Bonds’s 2004 season stands alone in baseball history, and even Bellinger hasn’t been that good. A better comparison would be Bryce Harper’s 2015 season, in which the 22-year-old posted what was at the time the best OPS+ since Bonds, reached double digits in WAR, and walked away with the NL MVP award. Bellinger’s numbers now compare favorably to Harper’s in 2015.
2015 Bryce Harper vs. 2019 Cody Bellinger
Bellinger isn’t having a perfect season, but right now, even his flaws are fun. Through his first two seasons, Bellinger was 24-for-28 on stolen base attempts, an exceptional percentage for a big man, but in 2019 he’s been caught stealing five times, most in the National League, in just 13 attempts. That might not be great percentage baseball, but aggressive baserunners are fun to watch, even and perhaps especially when they get thrown out. I hope he tries to steal 50 bases in the second half, even if that means he gets caught a third of the time.
But fundamentally, he remains a power hitter. Bellinger has hit 27 home runs in 2019, including one while I was writing this paragraph, to top his full-season total from 2018 on June 26. As fun as these numbers are, they’re just numbers, descriptive but not evocative. What Bellinger’s done through three months deserves something more florid, more emotional. One of the few things greater than Bellinger to come out of Los Angeles is the Hollywood rom-com, so here are all 27 of Bellinger’s home runs this season, each described by a quote from a romantic comedy.
1. March 28, off Matt Koch, Arizona Diamondbacks: Love Actually
Natalie: Hello, David. I mean “sir.” Shit, I can’t believe I’ve just said that. And now I’ve gone and said “shit.” Twice. I’m so sorry, sir.
David: It’s fine, it’s fine. You could’ve said “fuck,” and then we’d have been in real trouble.
First impressions are very important in a romantic comedy.
2. March 30, off Zack Godley, Arizona Diamondbacks: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Lara: I write a letter when I have a crush so intense I don’t know what else to do.
Lara Jean Covey had only five intense crushes. According to Baseball Savant, Bellinger has hit 119 balls this season at least 95 miles per hour. I’d call that intensely crushed.
3. March 30, off John Ryan Murphy, Arizona Diamondbacks: As Good As It Gets
Simon: Thank you, Melvin. You overwhelm me. I love you.
Melvin: I tell you, buddy ... I’d be the luckiest guy alive if that did it for me.
Just as love comes from unexpected sources, home runs come from unexpected places. Through Wednesday’s action there had been 3,277 home runs hit in MLB this year, of which only 14 had come off position players. This is Bellinger’s contribution to the genre.
4. March 31, off Luke Weaver, Arizona Diamondbacks: 10 Things I Hate About You
Walter Stratford: Hello, Katarina. Make anyone cry today?
Kat: Sadly, no. But it’s only 4:30.
Bellinger hit four home runs in the Dodgers’ first four games of the season, which puts the lie to Kat Stratford’s assertion that it’s ever too early to make people cry.
5. April 2, off Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants: Clueless
Tai: Why should I listen to you, anyway? You’re a virgin who can’t drive.
Cher: That was way harsh, Tai.
Also harsh: Madison Bumgarner having to listen to Dodgers fans’ cheers as he gave up a grand slam. Hearing tens of thousands cheer one’s failure is upsetting in the best of circumstances, but all five of the runs Bumgarner gave up this inning were unearned: Russell Martin reached on an error to start the frame, then came around to score before Bellinger added four more with this two-out grand slam.
6. April 5, off Tyler Anderson, Colorado Rockies: Definitely, Maybe
April: Oh, God! They have fresh mint tea. I love fresh mint tea.
Will: I love … beer.
Definitely, Maybe came and went, and was for the most part forgotten, but it’s one of my favorite rom-coms, and this is my favorite line from the film. Will (Ryan Reynolds) is about to tell April (Isla Fisher) that he loves her, but before he can, she casually mentions that she’s started seeing someone since the last time they spoke. “I love beer” is delivered with such hilarious resignation, the kind of resignation Tyler Anderson must have felt after Bellinger casually flicked this pitch 413 feet.
7. April 7, off Bryan Shaw, Colorado Rockies: The American President
President Andrew Shepherd: Listen, I feel terrible about this, but I’m going to have to cancel our date tonight.
Sydney: Another woman?
Andrew: No, I’ve got to go to St. Louis to avert a massive airline strike.
If President Shepherd had failed to avert the airline strike, perhaps some passengers could’ve been booked on this 428-foot moon shot, the longest Bellinger has hit this season.
8. April 12, off Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers: Four Weddings and a Funeral
Tom: Unlike you, I never expected “the thunderbolt.” I always just hoped that I’d meet some nice friendly girl, like the look of her, hope the look of me didn’t make her physically sick, then pop the question and, um, settle down and be happy. It worked for my parents. Well, apart from the divorce and all that.
Later in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Tom does experience the thunderbolt, which in his case means love at first sight. Corbin Burnes ended up surrendering a different kind of thunderbolt to Bellinger here, despite his own expectations to the contrary.
9. April 13, off Zach Davies, Milwaukee Brewers: Always Be My Maybe
Keanu Reeves: May I ask, do you have any dishes that play with time? The concept of time?
This ball stayed in the air forever.
10. April 18, off Matt Albers, Milwaukee Brewers: Jerry Maguire
Jerry: Jump right into my nightmare. The water is warm.
Matt Albers entered a scoreless game and gave up a home run to the second batter he faced. Not what you want.
11. April 21, off Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers: 500 Days of Summer
Rachel: Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do doesn’t mean she’s your soulmate.
Just because you bring in one of the toughest left-handed relievers in baseball to face Bellinger doesn’t mean he won’t hit a game-winning home run anyway.
12. April 24, off Cole Hamels, Chicago Cubs: Music and Lyrics
Alex: But you’ve given me a reason / To take another chance / Now I need you / Despite the fact that you’ve killed all my plants.
Bellinger just missed killing some plants with this home run at Wrigley Field.
13. April 26, off Chris Archer, Pittsburgh Pirates: Fever Pitch
Sarah: I don’t think that Arsenal’s home form is a sturdy enough basis for marriage and parenthood, do you?
Paul: No. Not even this season.
Of Bellinger’s 27 home runs, 17 have come at Dodger Stadium.
14. April 28, off Trevor Williams, Pittsburgh Pirates: The Ugly Truth
Abby: I am not desperate! ... Why, did you think I sounded desperate?
Mike: Listen to you, desperately asking me if you sounded desperate.
I’m not sure how you stop this guy if he’s hitting home runs off his shoelaces.
15. May 14, off Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres: The Big Sick
Emily: I have to take a shit, OK? I have to take a huge fucking dookie. I can’t take a poo in your bathroom because you don’t have any matches and you don’t have any air freshener. What kind of person doesn’t have any matches or air freshener in the bathroom? The walls are so thin!
Bellinger went more than two weeks between home runs before touching Paddack up. Sometimes you can only hold it in so long.
16. May 17, off Zach Duke, Cincinnati Reds: Set It Up
Harper: Guys think that they like girls who like sports. What they actually like is a girl in a very tight sports jersey serving them wings and getting the terminology wrong. Guys like girls who like guys who like sports.
Cody Bellinger sure liked this tepid inside sinker.
17. May 19, off Wandy Peralta, Cincinnati Reds: 27 Dresses
Kevin: Oh my God, what the hell is that?
Jane: Theme wedding!
Kevin: What was the theme, humiliation?
In this scene, serial bridesmaid Jane (Katherine Heigl) is showing off her 27 bridesmaid’s dresses to Kevin (James Marsden, who after being spurned in The Notebook and X-Men finally gets the girl). Many of these dresses turn out to be ugly, just like the Reds throwbacks Peralta was wearing when he gave up this home run.
18. May 24, off Geoff Hartlieb, Pittsburgh Pirates: Never Been Kissed
Josie: Let me tell you something, I don’t care about being your stupid prom queen. I’m 25 years old. I’m an undercover reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and I’ve been beating my brains out trying to impress you people.
Bellinger is sort of like Josie Geller, except he’s only 23 years old and he’s been beating baseballs’ brains out trying to impress you people.
19. May 27, off Jacob deGrom, New York Mets: Groundhog Day
Phil: I’m a god.
Rita: You’re God?
Phil: I’m a god. I’m not the God ... I don’t think.
Cody Bellinger is a Trout. He’s not the Trout.
20. May 28, off Steven Matz, New York Mets: Much Ado About Nothing
Don Pedro: Well, as time shall try. In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.
Benedick: The savage bull may, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull’s horns and set them in my forehead, and let me be vilely painted, and in such great letters as they write “Here is good horse to hire” let them signify under my sign “Here you may see Benedick, the married man.”
Many great romantic leads are men who, at least in the beginning, don’t believe in marriage and don’t want to be tied down in a monogamous relationship. Bellinger is similar: His 27 home runs this year have come against 27 different pitchers.
21. June 13, off Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Peter: Is she coming this way?
Peter: I wish I wasn’t wearing this fucking shirt.
Bellinger might have homered off 27 different pitchers, but he has hit two different opposite-field wall-scrapers over a frustrated-looking Kyle Schwarber.
22. June 13, off Tim Collins, Chicago Cubs: Long Shot
Charlotte (looking at the Northern Lights): Are you crying?
Fred: It’s pretty.
This is not a long shot—in fact it’s the shortest home run Bellinger’s hit all year.
23. June 16, off José Quintana, Chicago Cubs: When Harry Met Sally
Harry: We started out like this, Helen and I. We had blank walls, we hung things, picked out tiles together. Then you know what happens? Six years later you find yourself singing “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” in front of Ira!
I love pitcher reactions after they’ve just given up huge home runs, and this one from Quintana is good. No dancing around or throwing his glove, just one deep squat, wishing he’d never gone into that Sharper Image.
24. June 19, off Dereck Rodríguez, San Francisco Giants: Crazy, Stupid, Love
Hannah: Can you just take off your shirt?
Jacob: OK, OK, OK.
Hannah: FUCK! Seriously? It’s like you’re Photoshopped.
Sometimes you can’t believe your eyes.
25. June 21, off German Márquez, Colorado Rockies: Crazy Rich Asians
Kerry Chu: Now this, this symbolizes good fortune and fertility.
Rachel: Great, I was really going for that lucky baby-maker vibe.
Blue and white: bad for meeting your boyfriend’s family, good for smacking dingers.
26. June 26, off Taylor Clarke, Arizona Diamondbacks: Hitch
Albert: Do the Q-tip! Q-tip! Now throw it away! Now what am I doing? I’m making a pizza!
Bellinger has not, to my knowledge, celebrated a home run by throwing away the Q-tip or making a pizza. Any home run celebration a dating guru would approve of is too conservative.
27. June 27, off Peter Lambert, Colorado Rockies: Broadcast News
Tom: What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?
Aaron: Keep it to yourself.
Much to Aaron Altman’s chagrin, Bellinger is exceeding his wildest dreams on national television. But it’s OK, with the season he’s having he’s earned the right to be indiscreet about his success.
Aside from Bellinger’s 27th homer, all stats are current through Wednesday’s games.