Bell bolstering All-Star case with torrid June

June 29th, 2022

WASHINGTON -- Two doubles. Two walks. Two runs. 

Wednesday’s performance was a snapshot into the production Josh Bell has been delivering far beyond his ability to swing for power. The first baseman boosted his batting average to .319 by going 3-for-3 in the Nationals’ 8-7 loss to the Pirates at Nationals Park.

The series finale was the first game in which Bell reached base safely in all of his plate appearances (minimum of five) dating back to May 12, 2019, against St. Louis as a member of the Pirates. 

“He’s had some really good at-bats, and [he’s] playing really well and running every ball out,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s been awesome.”

Bell is looking like a different player than the one who hit .261 his first season with the Nationals in 2021. 

In fact, he’s looking more like the standout who earned his first and only All-Star selection in 2019, when he slashed .277/.367/.569 with a .936 OPS with Pittsburgh. Bell, who is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak, is slashing .319/.402/.507 with a .909 OPS in his first 77 games of his seventh season.

“Having the year that he’s having on the field, he definitely deserves to be an All-Star,” said Martinez, who was named to the National League coaching staff by Braves manager Brian Snitker. “I view him as an All-Star -- that’s how good he is, that’s what he means to us here in D.C.”

Bell entered Wednesday ranked in the top 10 among NL players in multi-hit games, on-base percentage, OPS, strikeout percentage, hits, weighted on-base average (wOBA), batting average, weight runs created plus (wRC+) and RBIs. A month of June in which he has collected seven doubles, two triples, seven homers, 15 runs scored, 34 hits and 18 RBIs adds to that.

Martinez attributed Bell’s surge to staying on the ball, having success with breaking balls, limiting chases and “not trying to do too much” with two strikes. Bell particularly has noticed an improvement with sliders. He is hitting .268 off fastballs, .375 off breaking balls and .407 off offspeed pitches in June compared to .300 off fastballs, .226 off breaking balls and .192 off offspeed pitches in May. 

“It seems like I’m on time,” Bell said. “Maybe [the] second month of the season, I couldn’t hit sliders, and now I’m on time for them, too. It seems like I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I don’t know what pitchers are going to attack me with. But they were getting me out with sliders for a while, and then they didn’t this past series. So that means I’m in a good place, and we’ll see what the Marlins do.”

For all the statistics that can point to Bell’s standout year, Martinez also likes to note the 29-year-old’s intangible contributions. 

“What he brings to our team, you can’t put value to that, really,” Martinez said. “He’s unbelievable. Just his daily presence, the positivity he brings, the way he goes about his business, the stuff he does off the field, all that stuff, he’s a professional.”