Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Josh Bell deserves more recognition for his stellar 2017 campaign.
To say that Josh Bell has emerged as an impact player in his first full year in the major leagues would be a slight understatement. Though the 2017 season has been a big disappointment for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bell along with a few others have served as bright spots during a down year for the Bucs.
Pirates fans have taken notice at what Bell has brought to the team. The numbers speak for themselves. In 510 at-bats through 148 games this season, Bell is hitting .257 with 24 home runs and 83 RBIs along with a .335 on-base percentage. His 24 homers set a National League record for most by a switch hitting rookie.
Sites such as ESPN and Sporting News have also taken notice of Bell’s prowess at the plate and even his improving ability over at first base. ESPN published a story Aug. 30 titled, “Josh Bell is the best rookie you haven’t heard of,” while Sporting News acknowledged Bell’s ability to continue hitting while not many people seem to notice.
With a rookie season that has been historic in more ways than one, Bell should without question be in the conversation for NL Rookie of the Year. Amongst NL rookies, Bell ranks first in walks (61), doubles (25), hits (131), at-bats (510) and games played (148), and second in home runs (24), RBIs (83) and runs scored (69).
In my opinion, Bell should be at the top of the list when it comes to candidates for the annual award. However, there are some factors that will more than certainly keep him from winning it.
Cody Bellinger‘s monster season in LA
For anyone living under a rock, Cody Bellinger has flat out raked since making his MLB debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers in late April. Bellinger, who recently spent some time on the 10-day disabled list with an ankle sprain in late August, hasn’t just played like a rookie of the year candidate. In fact, to many people, Bellinger might be a legitimate candidate for the NL MVP award when the season comes to an end.
To put things into perspective, Bellinger’s 38 home runs rank him second in the NL behind Giancarlo Stanton and his 88 RBIs have him ranked within the top 20 in the league as well. He also ranks fifth in the NL in with a .606 slugging percentage. The 22-year old is hitting .273 through 119 games and the most important factor behind his likely victory of the Rookie of the Year award is that he plays for one of the best teams in baseball and a in front of a huge market.
Voters usually look at traditional statistics
When it comes to voting for awards such as the MVP and Rookie of the Year, voters seem to overlook some statistics. Yes, home runs and RBIs are important, but there are also some areas in which Josh Bell far surpasses Bellinger aside from walks, doubles, hits, at-bats and games played.
Voters who may value consistent play and patience at the plate more than putting the ball over the fence nearly 40 times may want to look more closely at Bell. Bell’s career strikeout percentage of 16.8 percent is impressive, especially compared to Bellinger’s percentage of 26. Bell also swings at less outside pitches, posting a 26.7 O-Swing percentage this season while Bellinger swings at outside pitches at a rate of 27.2 percent.
Bellinger does have the advantage when it comes to batting average on balls in play (BABIP) as his average sits at .299, just one point under the MLB rate and three under the NL rate. Bell’s is significantly lower, sitting at .276. In many ways, this makes what Bell has done all that more impressive.
However, Josh Bell’s impressive season does match up to Bellinger’s in more ways than one.
Another factor to look into is how Bellinger compiled his 88 RBIs. This is something that PBD Co-Founder/Editor in Chief Jason Rollison brought to my attention. It took him 38 home runs to accumulate 88 RBIs while Bell has 83 RBIs while only hitting 24 bombs.
In this day and age where there is a huge surge in home runs, is it even a surprise that Bellinger has been able to put up these numbers. I think it may be a little more impressive that Bell has been able to find a way to drive in runs without relying solely on the long ball.
Late season struggles to hinder Bell’s chances?
It is no secret that Bell has struggled as of late. In the month of September, the Pirates rookie is hitting just .214 through 16 games, his lowest batting average in a month since he hit .198 in May.
It is a small sample size and Bell still has a chance to finish out the year strong, but the fact that Bellinger hasn’t hit under .245 in a month might give the Dodgers outfielder the slight advantage when it comes time to vote.
Respect to Bell
There is no question Bellinger will win the Rookie of the Year award in the NL. His season has been remarkable and he is a fun player to watch – both offensively and defensively. Plus, his season with arguably the best team in the NL has been followed by a ton of people due to his ability to continue hitting the long ball.
However, Josh Bell deserves a ton of respect for the season he has had for the struggling Pirates in 2017. He has met and possibly has even exceeded expectations, plain and simple. Bell has given fans something to cheer about during the worst of times and he does have a stronger case to win the award than some people around baseball may think.
Photo credit – Daniel Decker Photography