I went back to www.TexasLeaguers.com to scope out Bell's 2010 stuff to get an idea about how he'd fair in today's game. I'm doing this, sadly, because I can't actually watch the game in real time due to MLB TV blackout restrictions. Here's the scouting report:
- His fastball looks exactly like it did last year, averaging 92.5 mph with minimal run and average vertical movement. On the other hand, he's hit 96 mph this year, up .5 mph from his peak velocity last year.
- He's throwing his cutter 22% of the time, a little more than last year, and according to the pitch F/X data it's a full tick faster -- averaging 92.1 mph -- and features almost an inch more "cut" than the 2009 version. Opposing MLB hitters are swinging and missing at that pitch 13% of the time, making it his most effective "whiff" pitch.
- Last year, Bell's slider averaged an impressive 85.5 mph, but too often failed to break sufficiently... So far this year, the pitch's velocity is down about 1-2 mph, but there's more spin, the spin is at a different angle, and the result is more defined break, both down and away. The Texas Leaguer's pitch identification algorithm is classifying nearly half of his breaking pitches as curveballs, but I think we're just seeing Bell sacrifice some velocity for additional movement, possibly with a new grip. The result is a slurvy pitch that he can add and subtract from. So far the whiff rate is same as last year - around 5.5% - but he's achieving much weaker contact. According to fangraphs, his slider has been worth +1.7 runs more than average so far this season, his best pitch by that metric.
- The differential between Bell's fastball and change is about half of what O'Sullivan's is, but he makes up for it partly with superior sink and fade. The pitch looks the same as it did last year, with comparable whiff rates and run values (according to fangraphs). It has been effective against minor league lefties for two years running, but he has yet to spot it well enough in the majors to be effective. It should be a usable pitch for him if he can keep it down.