Josh Bell, Nationals are leading MLB in double plays grounded into

Josh Bell, Nationals are leading MLB in double plays grounded into

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Josh Bell was one of the bright spots for the Nationals in the first half of the season. The switch-hitting first baseman leads the team in batting average (.311), total bases (172), hits (106) and doubles (21). He also leads Major League Baseball in a statistic that he would rather not: double plays grounded into.

Bell, who is likely to be dealt before the Aug. 2 trade deadline, has grounded into 18 double plays, which is three more than Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and four more than teammate Maikel Franco and Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers. He is on pace to ground into 31 double plays, which would tie for the fourth most in a season all-time and set a team record.

The Nationals lead all teams with 94 double plays grounded into, which is 11 more than the Rockies and 30 more than the league average. Washington is on pace to ground into 162 double plays — one per game — and to lead the league in that category for a second consecutive year after grounding into a team record 158 in 2021. The major league record is 174, set by the 1990 Boston Red Sox. Before last year, the Nationals hadn’t grounded into at least 150 double plays in a season since they totaled 153 in 2008.

Josh Bell has seen his work pay off, even if he’s not an all-star

Bell, who grounded into a career high 22 double plays last year, fits the profile of a GIDP leader. He hits the ball hard, strikes out less than average and isn’t the most fleet of foot. He also has more opportunities to ground into double plays than most; only Pete Alonso (202) and Austin Riley (201) have more flat appearances with men on base than Bell’s 198.

While Bell would prefer to have more months like his scorching June, when he didn’t ground into a single double play, there’s impressive company at the top of the all-time single-season GIDP list. Hall of Famer and Red Sox legend Jim Rice grounded into a record 36 double plays in 1984 and another 35 the next year. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Cal Ripken Jr. and Jackie Jensen are two of the five players tied for third on the list with 32.

Bell and Franco aren’t the only Nationals with double-digit double plays this season. Nelson Cruz has grounded into 12, while Juan Soto, who led the National League with 23 last season, has 11. It’s no surprise, then, that Washington ranks last in FanGraphs’ wGDP metric, which is the number of runs above or below average a player has accumulated based on their ability to stay out of double plays. Washington’s team wGDP is -8.9; the A’s are second worst at -4. Only the Cubs hit a higher percentage of groundballs in the first half than the Nationals, who put the ball on the ground 46.9 percent of the time and are averaging the fourth fewest runs per game (3.87).

“We’re hitting into a lot of double plays,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said this month. “We got to start getting the ball up in the air in situations, got to start driving in runs with guys on third base with less than two outs.”

Ryan Zimmerman holds the Nationals’ single-season record with 26 double plays grounded into in 2007. Ivan Rodriguez grounded into 25 — in 301 fewer plate appearances than Zimmerman — in 2010, while Yunel Escobar led the league with 24 GIDP in 2015. Frank Howard owns the Washington single-season record with 29 in both 1969 and 1971. Zimmerman grounded into a Nationals record 212 double plays in his career; Howard grounded into 219.

Cardinals veteran Albert Pujols holds the career record with 421 double plays grounded into. The other names atop the list are Ripken (350), Miguel Cabrera (347), Rodriguez (337), Hank Aaron (328), Carl Yastrzemski (323), Dave Winfield (319), Eddie Murray (315) and Rice (315) ).

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