Josh Bell, the first baseman of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is not a well-known player across baseball. If you do know who he is, you probably don’t think much of him. You wouldn’t expect him to be leading the league in RBIs. You wouldn’t expect him to be only one of four players to ever hit a ball into the Allegheny River on the fly. He’s done it twice now in just this season. You wouldn’t expect him to have the fourth-best batting average in all of baseball. But here we are, Josh Bell is really good at baseball.
For Pirates fans, the ones who do know who Josh Bell is, I don’t think that they expected this kind of performance out of him this year. Before I go any further, don’t think that I am trying to hate on Josh Bell for saying that I don’t think many people know who he is. I just don’t believe that a casual fan who isn’t a fan of the Pirates or a team in the National League Central probably doesn’t know who he is. However, that is definitely going to change because if he continues to put up these numbers, he’ll be known by more than just the casual fan.
When comparing his Statcast numbers from each year, this year has taken a huge jump. You can compare each year below and take notice as to how he ranks in the top 3% of so many categories throughout the entire league. The red indicates the high ranking. He is in the top percentile in a few of those categories which are average exit velocity and hard hit%.
Certainly, a 58.9 hard hit% won’t be sustainable over the entire course of the season however he could still finish with one of the best hard hit% in the league. This could be true across the board because he is hitting the ball as hard as anyone.
There is one attribute though that stands out about his success. Usually, when a player finds this type of newfound success his strikeout percentage takes a dip and his base on balls percentage sees a jump. However, this is not the case with Bell. His strikeout% has actually gone up and by a good bit too. His walk% has gone down by a bit, but it’s not as much of a change as his strikeout% saw. This is a very odd change but I do think that the meaning behind it may be good.
Josh Bell isn’t hitting better as a result of drawing more walks or an increased plate discipline. That reason can be a cause of newfound success in a lot of players but not for Bell. He’s not even hitting the ball more often as he strikes out more often than in years past. He is succeeding simply because he’s gotten better. He is hitting the ball harder and it’s because he has become a better hitter. You might be thinking, well obviously he’s become a better hitter you’re not really providing any analysis to his success. However, by the method that he is finding success, is sustainable. He’s not reliant on any other factors like walks or lack of strikeouts to succeed. He succeeds by hitting the ball hard. He hits the ball hard often too since he has one of the highest if not the best hard hit% in the league. So, know that this is not a fluke and that Josh Bell is going to be good for a while. Probably not at the rate that he is currently playing at but at a rate where he can be compared to some of the best players in the league.