Unfortunately, the National League does not have the designated hitter. However, this needs to change. And Josh Bell is a fine example of why.
In 1973 the American League changed forever. In fact, it changed for the better. Why you may ask? That is because 1973 was the first year in which the American League featured the designated hitter.
As a result of this the American League and National League have played with separate rules for the past 43 seasons. It is time for this to change, however. It is time for the National League to adopt the designated hitter. Actually, it is beyond time for this to happen.
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The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Josh Bell in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. As soon as Bell was drafted he immediately became one of the Pirates’ top prospects. In fact, Bell would eventually become a top-50 prospect in all of baseball.
This happened to Josh Bell because he possesses all the tools needed to become an elite Major League hitters. Bell hits for average, he has great patience at the plate and on-base skills, he does not strikeout very often, and he has the raw power to become a consistent 25+ home run hitter. However, there has always been one major flaw in Bell’s game.
This major flaw is his defense. Josh Bell started his professional career as an outfielder. Then he moved to first base in 2014, and since debuting in the Major Leagues Bell has played both right field and first base.
During his Minor League career Bell was an average at best outfielder. Meanwhile, he was a below average first baseman. Josh Bell’s defensive struggles were the biggest reason why he did not become a full time Major League player until this past August. In terms of his hitting skills, Bell had become Major League ready long before that.
Josh Bell has now played in 39 Major League games for the Pirates. In these 39 games he has logged 148 1/3 innings at first base and 76 innings in right field. And Bell’s defense has been a complete train wreck at both positions.
Due to the Pirates’ outfield consisting of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco, with Austin Meadows waiting in the wings, Josh Bell’s future is at first base. At first base this season Bell has been horrible. He has committed three errors at first base, he owns a -32.8 UZR/150, and he has negative three defensive runs saved.
Believe it or not Bell’s work in right field has been even worse. While Josh Bell has committed just one error in right field, he owns a -50.9 UZR/150 and he has negative five defensive runs saved. This includes Bell’s abysmal right field defense leading to two Washington National runs in the Pirates’ 10-7 loss on Sunday afternoon.
Aug 30, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell (55) cannot catch a double hit by Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (not pictured) during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Despite his defensive struggles Josh Bell has been incredible at the plate in the Major Leagues. In 132 plate appearances he owns a .282/.386/.436/.842 slash line, 15.2 percent walk rate, 11.4 percent strikeout rate, a .155 ISO, .359 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 127. However, the defensive struggles of Bell still looms.
Josh Bell’s best chance to succeed in the Major Leagues is as a designated hitter. The only way this can happen, however, is if he is traded to the American League. No Pirate fan wants to see that happen. Therefore, the National League needs to adopt the designated hitter.
Now, I am not saying the National League should adopt the designated hitter simply due to Josh Bell. I have been a proponent of the National League adding the designated hitter for years. I am just simply saying that due to Bell the Pirates would benefit greatly if the National League were to add the designated hitter. If the National League had the designated hitter the Pirates could benefit from Bell’s elite offensive skills, while not having to deal with all of his defensive struggles.
While some people will argue that the designated hitter lessens the quality of baseball on the field, I completely disagree. Personally, watching pitchers hit sickens me. Pitchers are paid to pitch, not hit, and they suck at hitting. But, they should never have to hit.
Also, can you imagine where players such as Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz would have wound up without the designated hitter? Yeah, me neither. It is time for the National League to join the 20th, let alone the 21st, Century.
The National League needs to adopt the designated hitter. And for Josh Bell’s sake, the Pittsburgh Pirates need this to happen. Bell should be hoping for it, too.