At the end of October, MLB announced their finalists for the Gold Glove awards. Every MLB fan collectively put palm to face at the sight of Juan Soto being named a finalist for the NL right field Gold Glove. Thankfully, he didn’t win the award. MLB coaches and managers dodged a huge bullet with that, because I don’t know how they could’ve explained a Soto Gold Glove win and kept the integrity of the award intact.
However, Soto’s inclusion was just the beginning, a small dose of what was to come. On Thursday, MLB announced the recipients of its coveted Silver Slugger Award, naming the best hitters in both leagues at every position. All in all, I couldn’t agree more with most of these decisions, but one recipient is such an abhorrently bad decision, I couldn’t help but complain through my computer screen: National League DH recipient, Josh Bell.
If you’ve followed my work before, you know my thoughts on Josh Bell’s 2022 season. While he was great with 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 slashed .192/.316/.271 across 53 games. That was good for a 75 OPS-plus, making him 25 percent worse than an average hitter with the Pads. Not very good for someone who’d already been named an All-Star.
Despite those horrid numbers, Bell still had a solid season overall, posting a total OPS-plus of 128, his highest since 2019. His 153 OPS-plus as a member of the Nationals would’ve been the highest of his career had he maintained his pace. However, that first two-thirds of the season does not absolve Bell of his abysmal final stretch, or his lack of time as a DH.
Bell didn’t play as a DH much at all. Across 32 games (31 games started) as a DH in 2022, Bell accrued only 134 plate appearances. Here’s a list of every player in the National League with more time spent as a DH this year:
- Nelson Cruz
- Daniel Vogelbach
- Luke Voit
- Bryce Harper
- Andrew McCutchen
- Charlie Blackmon
- Marcell Ozuna
- Albert Pujols
- Justin Turner
- Garrett Cooper
- J.D. Davis
- Willson Contreras
- Ketel Marte
- Christian Yelich
- Tommy La Stella
- And a partridge in a fucking pear tree
Now, just because these guys spent more time at the position doesn’t mean they were better DHs. Let’s be honest. So, of all these names, here’s who also had a better OPS-plus in 2022 than Josh Bell (128):
- Contreras (tied with a 128 OPS-plus)
Now, when you look at it like that, Bell’s selection doesn’t look that bad. Sure, Pujols probably deserved it more. After all, The Machine finished ahead of Bell in home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS-plus. He did all that at 42 years old while reaching 700 career home runs. That in and of itself should constitute a Silver Slugger, but I’ll look beyond that for the sake that it was close. Harper was undoubtedly a better hitter, but he only played in 99 games, so he’s void from the conversation. So, ultimately, yeah, Bell isn’t that bad a choice, right? Well...until you look at Bell’s stats as a DH.
See, Bell’s 128 OPS-plus was on the season as a whole. As a designated hitter, his numbers are far worse, slashing .235/.338./.339, good for a .677 OPS and 93 OPS-plus. With that in mind, let’s look at all the players from two lists ago who had a better OPS-plus as a DH:
Amongst these players (as a DH), Bell had the lowest batting average, the third-lowest OBP, the lowest slugging percentage, the fewest plate appearances, and the lowest OPS. Bell was much better offensively as a first baseman and hurt his team offensively as a DH. There is no reason why he should’ve been given the award at that position. For someone to play less than a quarter of games at DH, yet win the award for the best player at that position, is infuriating. There were several better candidates who played better as their team’s DH, and a few who played better overall. When push came to shove in the final stretch of the season, Bell also disappeared, and although he re-emerged slightly in the postseason, that still doesn’t mean he deserved the hardware.
I could excuse when Soto was named a finalist for the Gold Glove Award, because he qualified but didn’t win. I can’t excuse this. Bell was not the best DH in the National League, not by a long shot, and naming him a Silver Slugger was an awful, awful decision.