Cody Bellinger collected a pair of hits in the Cubs’ win over Seattle Wednesday and he looked a lot like his old self while doing it. I mean that literally, as the new swing he worked on this winter more closely resembles the one he rode to the 2019 NL MVP than those we’ve seen in recent seasons. Part of that is simply being healthy and maybe ditching some bad habits that had developed over the years, either due to his shoulder and leg issues or just organic creep.
Danny Vietti of CBS Sports and the Wake and Rake podcast spliced together a great comparison of Bellinger’s swing from the last four non-COVID seasons that allows us to see the changes. We have to make some allowances for factors like timing, pitch type/location, and count, so the following analysis is far from perfect. Since it’s not easy to track four swings at once, even in slow motion, let’s break down a few stills once you’ve gotten a look at the video.
Cody Bellinger pic.twitter.com/yjRkm2xhGJ
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) March 1, 2023
The first thing that becomes evident is Bellinger’s posture, which is much more upright on the far left and far right. His 2021 stance featured both a deeper knee bend and a lower, tighter hand position that appears to have created a little more loop in his swing. That may have been a way to get his hands going sooner in order to compensate for decreased shoulder strength.
It also appears that his feet are in the same position now as they were in ’19, just slightly open. He was actually closed in ’21, which may have been another way to prime the pump. The ’22 swing featured an even more open stance, though his hands are in a similar place.
As Bellinger strides and loads, a lot of the previous differences melt away. He is coming open just a bit more on the far right and he’s deeper in the middle shots, though some of that could have to do with the timing and location of the pitch and/or clip. That said, it does appear as though he’s getting more counter-rotation in his shoulders in the middle while getting the hips closed more in the outer shots.
Once he gets to contact, the differences become just a little bit more difficult to discern, though I believe his front foot is landing more open in each of the older clips. While that certainly wasn’t an issue in ’19, there’s potential for the front leg to get “soft” and leak power if the foot comes too far open. It looks like that’s happening in the ’21 image, and maybe ’22 as well.
One other difference I see is that Bellinger appears to have cleared his hips better in the most recent image.
While there are all kinds of differences we can spot in the follow-through, the most noticeable to me is that Bellinger is staying quieter rather than selling out for power in the earliest shot. That is probably more about trying to ride an outside pitch rather than looking to pull something on the inner third, so I don’t really want to make much of this.
Caveats abound with stuff like this and we’ll need to see more swings to say anything definitive, but Bellinger does look quieter and more athletic now than he was in the last two seasons. That’s what the Cubs were hoping would be the case as they more or less let him work through his mechanics on his own this winter with a little gentle guidance from hitting coach Dustin Kelly.
The biggest change might just be feeling confident in his health and strength, as I tend to believe a lot of his issues stemmed from the loss of muscle memory following injuries. Bellinger hired a personal trainer for the first time ever this offseason and even tried Pilates to improve his flexibility and core strength. I’m a believer in his ability to bounce back in a big way this season and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do through the rest of spring training and the regular season.