Team MVP. 

Current MLB RBI leader.

Current MLB extra base hit leader.

On pace for 43 home runs and 137 RBI.

There is plenty to love about what Josh Bell has done in 2019, but his June and July performance leaves plenty to be desired and raises serious questions about whether he really has turned the corner and become a legitimate star.

Following a May (an obviously unsustainable May) where Bell had 14 multi-hit games, only 2 of 27 games without a hit, 31 RBI, 12 home runs and 31 extra base hits – a crazy month of statistical anomalies – Bell has not just slid back to reality, he has fallen off of a cliff.

June was bad but still productive. Bell hit .208 for the month, but drove in 18 runs (or 112 in a 162-game season), so the dip in average just looked like the typical cooling off of a red-hot hitter, or, in Hurdle-speak, the league punching back.

July has been abysmal, though, and combined, June and July paint a portrait of a badly flawed hitter whose bad habits (swinging at balls, impatience, inability to square up fastballs) are overwhelming all the good things Bell was doing to make Pirates fans believe he was the next coming of Willie Stargell.

Just for fun, take out the July 1 game against the Cubs when Bell was 4 for 6 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI – e is batting .178 with 2 home runs and 9 RBI in 19 games in July. That’s good for about 16 home runs and 72 RBI in a full season. Hardly four-hitter numbers.

To say Bell has been more bad than good in 2019 would be accurate. His good has been so good that it has propelled him to an elite level, but can Bell sustain anything close? Is the really bad Josh Bell of June and July closer to the version of Josh Bell that Pirates fans can expect to see?

Sadly – probably.

Hopefully Bell figures out some formula that gets him closer to where he was in May than where he is now. If not, the Pirates have no real threat in the middle of their lineup and will continue to be mired in mediocrity or worse.

 

Other MoioMusings:

  • I was asked to “get a clue,” by an astute reader of the Musings last week when I suggested the Pirates should sell (or, “buy for the future,” as Neal Huntington so eloquently euphemised). How clueless do I look now?
  • The time is now to trade Starling Marte – playing the best baseball of his career – and Felipe Vasquez. Corey Dickerson has some trade value, Gregory Polanco might fetch a bag of shag balls, Melky Cabrera can help somebody and Jordan Lyles should be shipped off for absolutely anything. The Pirates need to rebuild with whatever young talent they have which means moving players like Kang and Polanco and Archer – aging players whose ceilings are unattainable or reached long ago. Time for the Jason Martins, Ke’Bryan Hayeses and Mitch Kellers of the world to get used to life in the Majors. Bold steps which seal the Pirates fate in 2019, but could also set up a bolder future. Remember the McCutchen, Walker, Alvarez movement of 2010 and 2011? The Pirates should not waste this opportunity.
  • Steelers training camp has begun and this is one of the most intriguing pre-seasons in years for the team. With so much change and so many unanswered questions, 2019 has the potential to be one of the most surprisingly good (or disappointing) seasons in years, and is really one of the only years in the Tomlin era where so much uncertainty about the team’s prospects exists. My main concern: outside linebacker, but there are many other questions to be answered. Let the fun begin.  Here what I have to say about that in the most recent episode of the Pittsburgh Beautiful podcast below:

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