Bell’s Lack of Production

The Pittsburgh Pirates decided to roll the dice with Josh Bell as their every day first baseman heading into 2017.

Judging from his 2016 bat alone, they were right to do so.

But during 2017’s opening month, Bell has not contributed much to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ run production efforts. His slashline of .194/.275/.250 is underwhelming, as is his lone RBI. RBIs, of course, tell us nearly nothing about a player’s productivity, but that slashline sure will.

But a deeper look raises questions as to how that line was compiled. Bell has struck out five times in 36 at -bats, and has drawn four walks. It is not as if Bell has completely fallen off from his excellent 2016 debut season. What has stung Bell in the early going has been an 0-for-12 stretch in which he struck out three times while grounding into two double plays.

If we hold those games aside, Bell would actually be hitting .291 with only two strikeouts.

Seeing as how this might be our easiest call of the day, let’s jump right into it. Will Bell’s lack of production continue as the season wears on?

The Case For Sustainability

  • Pitchers may have found a tiny hole in Bell’s swing, and that’s down and in when he is hitting as a left-handed bat. Of the 40 offspeed pitches that Bell has seen, 20 are down and in, yet Bell has whiffed on six of them, with a called strike thrown in for good measure. Is this the beginning of a playbook against the otherwise patient hitter?
  • Bell’s hard-hit rate has dropped nearly 11 percent to 22.6 percent on the young season; ditto with his line drive rate, which has dropped down to 12.9 percent.

The Case Against Sustainability

  • In a word, BABIP. Bell is suffering with a abysmal .225 batting average on balls in play. Much like Frazier, this is due for a drastic course correction.
  • Bell’s strikeout rate has not increased, as it has stayed static at 12.5 percent; his walk rate is down a bit – 13.8 percent in 2016 vs 10 percent thus far – but that is still exceptional for a second-year player.
  • If there is truly a hitch in Bell’s approach right now, it could be easily fixed with more patience early in the count. Bell’s F-Strike percentage (percentage of at-bats that begin with a strike) is up to 67.5 percent, from 59.9 last season.


These are but three of the Pittsburgh Pirate’s early season trends that have taken form in 2017 to date. Certainly, there are countless others, and perhaps we will explore them in our next installment of the Sustainability Index.

Featured Image Credit – Daniel Decker Photography

Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years. Jason's previous stops include, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA) When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)