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Josh Bell Can Benefit From More Early Aggression

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One of the key cogs in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup can benefit from more early aggression

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell’s aggression at the plate could swing the club’s offense one way or the other.

Josh Bell could make or break the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense.

Okay, perhaps that is a little outlandish to utter in a lineup that includes bats such as Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and Francisco Cervelli. But the simple fact is that Bell will be counted on to get closer to his 2017 output while maintaining the plate discipline that has become his hallmark.

Josh Bell Career Plate Discipline

Peripheral K% BB% Chase % Whiff %
Peripheral K% BB% Chase % Whiff %
Bell - Career 17.7 12.1 23.7 23.3
2018 MLB Rate 22.3 8.5 28.2 24

Those are impressive numbers, yet Bell’s overall season in 2018 might have been limited by his dogmatic approach at the plate. Bell swung at fastballs early in the count (defined here as all fastball types seen at 0-0, 1-0, and 0-1 counts) at just a 30.3 percent clip. That was good for second-to last on the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates, ahead of just Elias Diaz who clocked at 28.9 percent.

The rest of MLB swung at these fastballs at a 36.5 percent rate, carrying a .378 wOBA against them. Bell easily outpaces that, with a .439 wOBA seen when he does swing at these early offerings.

In terms of raw numbers and location, Bell sees a fair share of heat that he can do something with early on.

While there are some zones that Bell can do more work in than others, the overall point is the same: if Bell were a bit more aggressive early, the results might help him find a certain level of consistency. And, to be clear, the consistency Bell would gain would be strictly from a run-production standpoint, and could help him avoid the valleys seen in his overall game-to-game, week-to-week, month-to-month production:

It’s a small part of a large puzzle, but if Bell is more aggressive at hunting fastballs early, he could open up the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense in a substantial way.