Josh BellImage: Getty Images
In late October, MLB announced its finalists for the Gold Glove Awards. All MLB fans put their hands to their faces as Juan Soto was named a finalist for the NL Right Field Gold Glove. Luckily he didn’t win the award. MLB coaches and managers dodged a giant bullet with it because I don’t know how they could explain a Soto Gold Glove win and keep the integrity of the award intact.
However, the recording of Soto was only the beginning, a small dose of what was to come. On Thursday, MLB announced the recipients of its coveted Silver Slugger Award, recognizing the top players in each league at each position. All in all, I can’t agree more with most of these decisions, but one receiver is such a horribly bad decision that I couldn’t help but complain on my computer screen: National League DH receiver, Josh Bell.
If you’ve followed my work before, you know my thoughts on Josh Bell’s 2022 season. While he was great at the Nationals, he was arguably the worst hitter in baseball after being traded to the San Diego Padres — alongside teammate Juan Soto. With San Diego, Bell finished .192/.316/.271 in 53 games. That was good for 75 OPS plus, making it 25 percent worse than an average racquet with the pads. Not very good for someone who had already been named an All-Star.
Despite those terrible numbers, Bell had a solid season overall, with a 128 overall OPS plus, his highest since 2019. His 153 OPS plus as a member of the Nationals would have been the highest of his career had he kept up his pace. However, those first two-thirds of the season don’t relieve Bell of his miserable finish or lack of time as a DH.
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Bell didn’t play much as DH at all. In 32 games (31 games started) as DH in 2022, Bell amassed just 134 plate appearances. Here’s a list of all the players in the National League who played more time than DH this year:
Nelson Cruz, Daniel Vogelbach, Luke Voit, Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Charlie Blackmon, Marcell Ozuna, Albert Pujols, Justin Turner, Garrett Cooper, JD DavisWillson ContrerasKetel MarteChristian YelichTommy La StellaAnd a partridge in a damn pear tree
Well, just because these guys spent more time in the position doesn’t mean they were better DHs. let’s be honest So, out of all those names, here’s who also had a better OPS-Plus than Josh Bell (128) in 2022:
HarperPujolsContreras (connected to 128 OPS-plus)
In that sense, Bell’s selection doesn’t look that bad. Sure, Pujols probably deserved more. After all, The Machine finished ahead of Bell in home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS-plus. He did all of that at age 42 while hitting 700 career home runs. That in and of itself was supposed to represent a Silver Slugger, but I’ll look beyond that so it was close. Harper was undoubtedly a better hitter, but he’s only played in 99 games, so he’s void from the conversation. So, ultimately, yeah, Bell isn’t such a bad choice, is it? Well…until you look at Bell’s stats as a DH.
You see, Bell’s 128 OPS-plus were all season. A designated hitter, his numbers are far worse, finishing .235/.338/.339, which is good for .677 OPS and 93 OPS-plus. With that in mind, let’s look at all the players from two lists ago who had better OPS-plus as DH:
Among these players (as DH), Bell had the lowest batting average, third-lowest OBP, lowest slugging percentage, fewest plate appearances, and lowest OPS. Bell was much better offensively as a first baseman and hurt his team offensively as DH. There is no reason why the award should have been given to him in this position. It’s annoying when someone plays less than a quarter of the games at DH and still wins the award for best player at that position. There were several better candidates who played better as their team’s DH and some who played better overall. When push came to shove in the final stretch of the season, Bell disappeared too, and while he reappeared slightly in the postseason, that doesn’t mean he earned the hardware.
I could apologize when Soto was named a finalist for the Gold Glove Award for qualifying but not winning. I can’t excuse that. Bell wasn’t the best DH in the National League, far from it, and making him a Silver Slugger was a horrible, horrible decision.