STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Josh Bell put on a display for the Pirates faithful -- and a substantial selection of Cubs fans -- on Monday night. His three-home-run show put him at 25 for the year to date. That extrapolates to a theoretical 50-plus dinger pace. While he may or may not maintain that level of production, the nonstop thrill ride that is Bell's 2019 thus far has certainly provided plenty of entertainment.
In fact, now might be a good time to break out the highlight reel. Here are all of Bell's 2019 round trippers thus far:
River shots, dead center blasts, a few random squeakers ... Bell has hit homers of all shapes and sizes. Here now is a look at some of the data behind the blasts.
NOT CHEAP AND ON TREND
The first thing I noticed about Bell's collective dinger data is that none has come cheap.
Collectively, there is a 106.5 mph average exit velocity. The length is there too, with an average of 415.2 feet in distance. The shots come from an average launch angle of 26.28 degrees.
Aside from the obvious, here's why those figures are important: They are fairly predictive in terms of what makes a homer, a homer.
Across all of MLB, a 27-degree launch angle or greater gives a batted ball the highest degree of probability of a being home run with a 12.5 percent chance. While that might seem low at first blush, remember: This is across all batted balls in MLB this season. If we couple that with the fact that balls with an exit velocity of 94 mph or greater provide the de facto demarcation point for a home run, this becomes amplified. At 94 mph off the bat, a ball has a 1.7 percent chance of going out of the yard. This is the first exit velocity in which the probability is above one percent. At 93 mph? You're looking at just a 0.7 percent rate.
Oh, and Bell? His 106.5 mph average on his home runs pushes him above the 20 percent mark at a 20.3 percent chance of being a home run (which, of course, they were). In fact, only one of Bell's dingers came in below 94 MPH in exit velocity ... and that was a 93.9 mph floater.
The larger point we're making here is that every single one of Bell's homers has been well earned.
ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK
If we take a look at Bell's home runs by strike zone, we can see a simple plan of attack:
Yes, Bell is pounding those pitchers foolish enough to float a meatball in the heart of the plate. That's what all good hitters do. But Bell has formulated a plan of attack to get to those pitches. DK reviewed some of this in his gamer from Bell's three-homer contest, but let's go a bit deeper.
Of those four pitches in the middle of the plate -- the eight that were middle-middle, plus the four on each side, 16 in total -- 11 of those came from either behind or even in the count. One came on the first pitch.
On the surface, this would appear that Bell is on the hunt for these pitches but also has a plan to work toward getting those pitches to hit in the first place.
COUNTS AND PITCH TYPES
Speaking of pitch counts, let's paint the full picture here:
These pitches are all of Bell's overall home runs labeled by type and count. Here we see Bell refusing to let pitchers off the hook when they try to sneak a fastball by him to get past him early -- at 0-1 and 0-2, he carries a .478 xwOBA overall -- and doesn't fall for the offspeed stuff at all when he's ahead or even, as evidenced by a .567 xwOBA on the slow stuff overall.
As far as the pitch types he's homered off, they are a varied lot:
Bell can barrel anything -- he carries barrel rates above 17 percent on both fastballs and breaking balls and a 9.3 percent rate on offspeed -- which amplifies the dilemma pitchers face when Bell steps into the box.
He can hit any pitch at any count anywhere in the zone. If he decides to lay off a pitch, he can work to make you throw him the pitch he wants. He's happy enough taking a walk if he must, but his intelligent aggression always puts him in a position to do damage.
And we haven't even talked about his other hits — namely his league-leading 29 doubles. He had 31 all of last season.
Josh Bell is an absolute weapon in the heart of the Pirates lineup. And a sharpened one at that.
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